Priyanka Saxena Ray
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. The city is one of the top tourism and meetings destinations in the U.S. and received 21.9 million visitors in 2022. Total tourism spending in 2022 exceeded $7.7 billion. The tourism industry is the largest generator of outside revenue into San Francisco’s economy and supports over 53,000 jobs. In 2022, India ranked third among San Francisco’s top overseas visitor markets with 158,000 visitors. This is expected to grow by 34% in 2023, with a projected spending increase of 63%, making India among the fastest-growing source markets for the destination. While we are talking about the destination, one must not forget that the very first impression of the city is formed when a tourist lands at the airport. One’s experience at the Airport forms ones’ opinion about the destination, even before they have stepped into the city and this is where San Francisco International Airport plays a major role.
“We are very well suited as the gateway to Pacific from India. From the total carrier perspective, we are No. 3 in the USA for diversity of carriers and are No. 2 in the USA with regards to flights to India, which is 17 a week right now. We have gone beyond the pandemic numbers in terms of flights from India as we have seen continued increase. We get about 1100 passengers per day each way,” said Bumen, adding, “The primary objective of our India mission is to reinforce our commitment to the market and build on our strong relationship with key stakeholders and airlines, including Air India, which has strong, increasing connectivity to SFO. Our goal is to craft a positive journey for visitors on these nonstop flights by offering them exceptional services and the unique offerings of our airport.”
Talking about the expansion strategy, Bumen was extremely hopeful of firstly solidifying more flights from the existing markets and then adding new destinations from India to the flight list to San Francisco. “We would definitely like to see more people coming into San Francisco from India through the San Francisco International Airport. We would foresee a growth pattern of bringing Delhi up to 2 flights a day and building up Mumbai and Bengaluru to daily. There are also markets in Hyderabad and Chennai that are substantial so we see opportunity there too. When we look at the demand in India for air travel – its huge! India is going to have a lot of growth in the aviation sector in future, which San Francisco is very excited about because we see this as an opportunity for more connections into India,” he added.
Talking about the highlights of the airport Bumen said, “A few notable features about the Airport includes the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which is located right at the Airport so for folks transiting or just as their initial place to stay – it’s a beautiful property, just opened a couple of years ago and located within the Terminal. Another notable property is the SFO Museum, which is located throughout the Airport. It is the only fully-accredited museum in anairport in the world. There is also the Aviation Museum, which is in the International Terminal Departures Level and is a replica of the 1920s Terminal and then there is artwork, throughout the airport, both permanent installations and rotating exhibits that are curated by our staff. Its super impressive and when you move across the airport, you do feel you are in a museum!”
Moving from the Airport to the Destination, Hubertus Funke made it abundantly clear that India is one of its most important markets currently and this sales mission is one significant step towards solidifying their relationships with the existing stakeholders in the country.
Talking about the India market Hubertus Funke shared, “SFO is the perfect arrival point for San Francisco and also the best way to get into Downtown San Francisco. India, similar to SFO, has been one of our success stories with regards to how many visitors we receive from India. Post-pandemic, in terms of recovery, India is our top market on how quickly it has recovered and is our No. 3 overseas market in visitor volume size. We are expecting 211,000 visitors from India this year. Our objective with this sales mission was to come back to the market and talk about all the exciting new things that Indians look for as we know that Indians really connect with San Francisco. India market is very diverse as we have all these various segments – Friends and Families, Students, Business, Leisure and they can all blend together. The average length of stay of an Indian traveller in California is 18 nights so we know that crosses multiple segments.”
“San Francisco will see five new hotels open this year following the nine that debuted in 2023, including standout properties like the LUMA Hotel, 1 Hotel San Francisco, The Line SF, and Beacon Grand. With its vibrant neighbourhoods, rich cultural scene, range of dining options and unbeatable natural surroundings, the city has much to offer Indian visitors.” The 2023 MICHELIN Guide California awarded 27 San Francisco restaurants with Michelin stars. Of the 87 California restaurants awarded Michelin stars, 50 are in the San Francisco Bay Area, reinforcing Northern California’s status as a leading culinary destination.
Another core focus for San Francisco is sustainability, with the city aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, across various industries. San Francisco operates the greenest public transportation fleet in North America, a leading LEED Platinum convention centre, and the first entirely LEED Platinum-certified airport globally. San Francisco also leads the autonomous vehicle revolution, with self-driving electric taxi services expanding 24/7, offering an exciting addition to the city’s transportation options. These efforts have set new industry standards and positioned San Francisco as a national leader in sustainability.