Union Square hotels reeling from news of major conference going virtual

Hotels in San Francisco’s Union Square are facing mass cancellations after a premier healthcare conference decided to go virtual on Wednesday. 

The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, scheduled to take place at the Westin St. Francis Hotel from Jan. 10-13 made the call in the wake of spiking COVID-19 numbers, partly due to the omicron variant.

"It was heartbreaking, really," said Steven Viscio, general manager of the Cartwright Hotel in Union Square. "We were depending on that conference to kind of make up our entire Q1, so losing that conference was huge."

JP Morgan Chase released a statement Wednesday, saying: "The health and safety of our clients and employees is of the utmost importance and given the on-going covid-19 pandemic, we have made this decision. We were not only hopeful to meet in-person but also understand how much this conference means to the San Francisco community, which we fully support."

Meanwhile, area restaurants, like Cesario’s, which annually gets a huge bump in business from the conference, says they are now instead fielding cancellation calls. Hotels like The Cartwright, say they were just beginning to climb back from losses created by the pandemic when they received the news.

"We’re looking at probably a $300,000 dollar loss over the period of JP Morgan," said Viscio. "It’s money that’s going to be nearly impossible to make up. Impossible to make up in the first half of the year."

Viscio says they reimbursed their guests, largely made up of valued return visitors to the hotel each year during the conference.

The San Francisco Travel Association, also responded to the news Wednesday, saying: "We are very disappointed JP Morgan’s in-person healthcare conference has been canceled and moved to a virtual format. But we understand we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic and the priority is people’s health and safety. We look forward to working with JP Morgan on their conference in 2023 as they are a valued partner. Given the current environment we are in, it is going to be awhile until we see a full recovery in tourism. San Francisco is one of the safest places to meet in the U.S. Given the city has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. As a way to help accelerate the recovery, we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and receive boosters as recommended by the CDC.

Kevin Carroll, president & ceo of the Hotel Council of San Francisco echoed that statement, saying: "While we are understandably disappointed that the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan health care conference will not take place live next month due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we also support that decision. We want to thank J.P. Morgan for their continued commitment to San Francisco and its support of our workforce. We look forward to welcoming the conference back to San Francisco."