SAN FRANCISCO - Street closures usually are not welcome in downtown San Francisco, but the closure of Howard Street in front of the Moscone Convention Center this week is seen by many nearby businesses as a welcome sign with the return of Dreamforce, the second convention since the center reopened.
Crews are working around the clock to construct elaborate outdoor tents, trees, green turf, and stages for the three day event from September 21-23rd.
The 2019 Salesforce convention brought 171,000 attendees before the pandemic. This year will be much smaller, with a hybrid model including both in-person events and online appearances by Will Smith, Jane Fonda, and top business leaders on the new Salesforce plus streaming service. Howard Street is closed from September 14th through the 26th for preparation and cleanup after the event.
"It's not the size of Dreamforce in the past, but really what's important is that they are meeting here and they're really live in San Francisco," said Joe D'Alessandro, President and CEO of SF Travel.
D'Alessandro says it's the second convention to return after the pandemic and it is a hopeful sign.
"The convention calendar right now for next year looks really good. It's almost as healthy as it was in 2019," said D'Alessandro.
A block away, chef and restaurant owner Kathy Fang is excited. Her downtown restaurant was closed most of last year. Now, she plans to open her restaurant for an extra day Tuesday when Dreamforce begins. A photo of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is framed in the restaurant with his past Twitter post that complimented her family's restaurants.
"We're very happy he's bringing Dreamforce back this year," said Fang, "We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and it's looking like it's possible, so we're super stoked and happy."
"We're back open thank god and hopefully we can recoup some of that business," said Eric Jones, Assistant General Manager at the Tabletop Tap House.
Jones says they too are staffing up for the convention.
"It's just nice to see people back downtown again, you know. It's been ghost town the past 14 months so it's just having people down and walking around and hotels filling up and all that kind of stuff has just been great," said Forest French, Tabletop Tap House's General Manager.
Dreamforce is also bringing in an army of convention workers who are glad to be back with money to spend.
"I'm an event video engineer so live events are my bread and butter," said Kevin Hilgeman who came to San Francisco from San Diego to work on the Dreamforce convention.
"When the pandemic hit we were the first ones out and I didn't have my first event until July of this year," said Hilgeman, "I'm up here staying in a hotel. I'm up here for ten days and it's great to be back."
Mikhail Hunzeker is an event production manager from Murrieta in southern California.
"Last year because of COVID and all the stuff that went on I lost about 65-70% of my income from it. So, it was pretty hard," said Hunzeker, "Work with a lot of people from all over the country. We fly out and do specialty events, large events and it's just meant a lot to get back to work."
"We're up in a hotel, getting Uber eats from a lot of restaurants. Going to probably be eating out every night so hopefully it helps," said Hunzeker.
Kelly Powers with the Hotel Council of San Francisco hosted a webinar Thursday on the "Future of Hospitality" in San Francisco.
"We're seeing the uptick in occupancy and reservations," said Powers, adding that the recovery is expected to be gradual and slow.
Powers says San Francisco's high COVID vaccination rate with 80% of eligible people fully vaccinated, is turning out to be selling point for meeting planners.
"People check the vaccination rate meeting planners are checking to see that, you know what is what are the numbers looking like? Is it safe? And of course, we can proudly say that San Francisco is probably one of the best, most safest cities that you can travel to when it comes to COVID," said Powers.
"People are trying to be safe. I know for this convention I think people are getting tested every day so they're coming back but just at their own pace," said French at the Tabletop Tap House.
SF Travel CEO Joe D'Alessandro says it could take until 2025 for the city to fully recover.
"We are lagging behind other major cities in the United States, simply because we really depend on international visitors. In 2019, 63% of all visitor spending in San Francisco was by international visitors whether it came from conventions or tourism, and most international visitors cannot come into the United States right now," said D'Alessandro.
Still, many businesses near the Moscone Center see every convention as a step in the right direction.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.