March 20, 2023

A report card for San Francisco’s tourism industry in 2022

This week in Get a Room, SFGATE’s roundup of hotel and accommodations news from around…

A report card for San Francisco’s tourism industry in 2022

This week in Get a Room, SFGATE’s roundup of hotel and accommodations news from around San Francisco, we take a temperature check and grade the city’s recovering tourism industry. 

There’s more blooming than dooming but the high tide of 2019 is still untouched. A damning report shows the Moscone Center is struggling to hit its booking targets for the coming years. However, hotels appear more resilient. A legacy hotel in downtown San Francisco finds a way to attract locals inside its idiosyncratic building and a proposal to bring a brand-new hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf is all but guaranteed.

A sci-fi sanctuary within a Hyatt

The end of line for the California Street cable car is nearly the front door of the recently renovated Hyatt Regency Hotel, which will commemorate its 50th year in downtown San Francisco in 2023. 

The interiors of the atrium for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency San Francisco

The colossal structure at the corner of Market and the Embarcadero — surreally designed with a brutalist touch, as though cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky were the lead architect — used the downtime in tourism over the past few years to spruce up their 821 rooms with a $50 million redecoration. The rooms are modernized and the makeover was sleek, but the fifth largest hotel in the Hyatt portfolio is seeking to lure locals into its cavernous build.

Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the Eclipse Kitchen & Bar tucked inside the commodious atrium is the best-kept secret for a downtown San Francisco worker seeking gourmet bites and bargain cocktails. 

Truffle fries are $7, and the Cable Car cocktail (rum, orange liqueur and lemon juice with a cinnamon sugar rim) runs $13. The 10 beers on tap include Bay Area staples like Anchor Steam, Lagunitas IPA and Scrimshaw Pilsner and are also $7. 

The Eclipse kitchen is run by chef Victor Litkewycz, who sources ingredients from the nearby farmers market at the Ferry Building. 

The Hyatt Regency chef Victor Litkewycz peruses the produce at the Ferry Building farmers market.

The Hyatt Regency chef Victor Litkewycz peruses the produce at the Ferry Building farmers market.

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Stuart Evans, director of sales and marketing for Hyatt, told SFGATE that the atrium once held the Guinness World Record for the largest hotel lobby — scaling 15 stories high. Accompanying this height are elevators designed like postmodern capsules that jet up and down the walls. 

The hotel opened in 1973 and has withstood earthquakes and criticisms for its “dated” design. As indicated by this multimillion dollar investment, Hyatt is going long for another half-century.

Fisherman’s Wharf hooks new hotel

The Fisherman’s Wharf Tower Complex is a tacky bazaar with a burgundy awning that was picture perfect for the tourist trap it inhabits. 

An aerial of Fisherman's Wharf in June 2021.

An aerial of Fisherman’s Wharf in June 2021.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A cannabis dispensary bordered by a Route 66-themed gift store and the Hollywood Cafe make up most of the commerce at 2629 Taylor St. today, but a proposal to demolish the building for a new hotel is making its rounds in the San Francisco Planning Commission.

In December, the commission heard plans to “demolish the existing one-story commercial building and construct a new four-story hotel reaching a height of 40 feet with approximately 136 rooms and 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail uses,” according to the commission’s documents

The hotel would include standard amenities such as a fitness center, breakfast service area, employee shower and locker facilities and a courtyard but for locals seeking an intimate bay view, there’s a push to build a roof deck.

The SF Board of Supervisors is expected to assess the project in 2023. 

The project’s sponsor is Stanton Architecture, a local firm responsible for the sharp, modernistic Hotel Via across from the Giants ballpark. 

Initial plans for the four-story hotel were announced back in 2019 but were likely reined in as the hotel industry reconsidered its future amid the pandemic. 

However, a 2020 market demand analysis commissioned by Stanton Architecture predicts a positive outlook for San Francisco’s tourism future. 

The report concludes that the “visitor industry is projected to return to pre-COVID performance levels by 2025, which coincides with the opening of the Subject hotel. As such, we are of the opinion that local demographic and economic conditions will continue to facilitate demand for the San Francisco hotel market.” 

Until investors and builders begin to bail on San Francisco, the city appears to have the strength to once again endure hardships and rise from the so-called ashes.

A short-winded Moscone Center revival

San Francisco’s largest conference center has lost one of its largest annual conferences — again. 

Moscone West in March 2020.

Moscone West in March 2020.

San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Palo Alto software maker VMware announced in December that it would not hold its annual conference in San Francisco. Instead, the company plans to return to Las Vegas where it has held alternating conferences between the two cities since 2007.

It’s another setback for the Moscone Center as the city’s central conference hub struggles to get back on its feet. The success of Dreamforce last fall was a step in a positive direction, but as the San Francisco Business Times reported in November, the convention venue is failing to meet long-term booking targets.

“The venue is pacing between 26% and 68% behind where commitments should be to meet annual room night goals each year through 2029. While analysts’ consensus forecast is that local hotels will recover in most metrics by 2025, Moscone’s advance bookings show it is hundreds of thousands of room nights short of reaching that goal,” the Business Times’ Alex Barreira reported.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and Mayor London Breed, right, ride the escalator inside the Moscone Center in February 2021.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and Mayor London Breed, right, ride the escalator inside the Moscone Center in February 2021.

San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The bottom line

The city’s tourism industry had a couple of steps forward — a legacy hotel spent millions for renovations and there are plans underway for a new hotel in a tourist hub — but suffers a step backward as its marquee conference center struggles to keep up.

San Francisco’s tourism industry grade for 2022 … B.