SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco is hosting its first major convention since COVID struck the city's visitor industry. This year, the usually massive Dreamforce convention is significantly scaled down. After going virtual last year, Dreamforce is back, but much smaller than before.
Businesses that rely on convention visitors say any visitors are welcome, even if that convention is scaled back drastically. In years past as many as 171,000 attendees flooded the South of Market area near the Moscone Center.
This year’s event is significantly smaller, with just 1,000 registered in-person attendees and with safety protocols such as regular testing in place.
Salesforce says even with a smaller number of attendees, it feels like a comeback. "This is the new world we're living in, we need to be thinking about testing and vaccinations, it's really, really important," said Senior Vice President of Global Brand Marketing for Salesforce, Colin Fleming. "So, we're one of the first to mark a big event like this. We don't think we'll be the last, we think they can be done really well in a safe environment."
Nearby businesses like Tabletop Tap House are keeping a close eye on the conference. "Conventions are a huge part of our business seeing as we're across the street from the Moscone Center," said General Manager, Forest French.
The restaurant says years' past Dreamforce has packed the house. "Absolute zoo, you know," said French. "200,000 people or something like that, it was crazy. This place was completely packed. Our occupancy is about 700 people and we were definitely pushing that."
French says he knows they won't see numbers like that, but he's hopeful that Dreamforce is the beginning of a comeback the restaurant was closed down for about 14 months, and he's hopeful that San Francisco's safety protocols could be a draw for other businesses looking to return to in-person conventions.
"San Francisco's open. You know, we're ready," said French. "San Francisco takes a lot of precautions and so as far as safety goes they should feel comfortable."
Joe D'Alessandro from Travel SF says the city is already working to brand itself as a convention location that has and continues to take the pandemic seriously, and says perhaps that will be the edge in luring back some of the conventions.
"We're able to tell the world that San Francisco is back, "said D'Alessandro. "We're open, and you can come here and meet safely. You can travel into the only airport in the Unites States that requires all of its employees to be vaccinated and you can meet in San Francisco and feel like you can do it safely."
Next year, the 2022 convention calendar is already starting to fill up, lending hope that more conventions will actually return to larger scale in-person events, with all the money they bring to the city.