Canceled conventions could cost San Francisco over $1 billion

The massive Consumer Electronics Show—one of the world's biggest conventions, has announced it will be all online when it convenes in January. 

That's a huge hit for the Las Vegas Convention Center and that may also be felt across the Bay Area as events are canceled over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The San Jose Convention Center has been closed indefinitely since mid-March. San Francisco's mega Moscone Center has been repurposed. Moscone Center is a big part of the city's $11 billion, 90,000 employee convention and tourist industry.

Tom David, senior vice president and chief sales officer at San Francisco Travel said Moscone has taken an enormous hit. 

"To date, we've had about 40 groups cancel off the books between 2020 and 2021," he said. 

From July through next year, there were 18 events scheduled for Moscone Center plus 65 more at hotel venues.

"Every citywide convention that was on the books has pretty much had to cancel, David said. That represents a loss of $1.3 billion. 

The city has developed socially distanced protocols for future conventions, but normal operations will not return until at least the latter part of next year and only if a vaccine comes about. 

Tech analyst Larry Magid, who has attended hundreds of tech conventions around the world, said online conventions are far different. 

"For certain things, it actually works. But sure, I'd much rather be at the event if I had a choice.  I do give them credit for thinking about safety and having it virtually instead," said Magid. 

But, it's nowhere near the same as a face to face, hands-on conventions. 

"Really impossible to have it in the way, the rich way that it happens when you're gathered together, in this case with literally hundreds of thousands of people of many who you may know," said Mr. Magid. 

San Francisco has taken over Moscone West to provide homeless housing. Moscone North and South are now the city's emergency operations center until the pandemic has passed.

"So that space is absolutely being used and being used well by the city," said David. 

As to the always popular San Francisco International Auto Show that happens over the Thanksgiving weekend, it' is still scheduled. But city and state officials will decide based on conditions at the end of August.