Empty streets of San Francisco: Report says tourism takes hardest hit since WWII

The pandemic will cost San Francisco $10.6 billion in unspent tourist money this year and next year, according to a report released Friday by the city's tourism industry.

That is almost the equivalent of San Francisco's entire city budget.

"So it's going to be a long slow recovery to get back to where we were just last year," says Joe D'Alessandro, CEO of San Francisco Travel, which released the report.

The number of visitors is expected to be less than half of last year.

SF Travel says tourists spent $9.6 billion in 2019. The projection this year is $3.1 billion, two-thirds less.

"It is the worst in San Francisco history in terms of decline in spending. There has been nothing in terms of modern travel that we have calculated since World War II that has experienced anything like this," said D'Alessandro.

Tourism is San Francisco's largest industry and creates the most jobs.

"A lot of countries are not allowed to come here, or can't come here or are afraid to come here. So our international visitation is just a fraction of what it was. That's the most significant," said D'Alessandro. Business at Fisherman's Wharf is down an estimated 70 percent.

"We are not having Fleet Week this year. That hurts," says Randall Scott, president of the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District But Wharf business owners say it's a good time for Northern Californians to come.

"Come on down. Enjoy the Wharf without the tourists. Next year folks, we are back in business," said Scott.

San Francisco Travel predicts tourism will increase gradually beginning next year. But full economic recovery isn't expected until 2025.