San Francisco Hires New Tourism Boss Who Says He’ll Change ‘Ongoing Narrative’ As City Battles Drug Use, Homelessness

San Francisco has hired a new tourism chief who says will change the “ongoing narrative” about San Francisco as the city struggles to combat the stubborn issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime.

The San Francisco Travel Association, the city’s tourism and marketing organization, announced that Scott Beck will take over as president and CEO later this fall.

Beck currently has a similar role leading Destination Toronto, the Canadian city’s official tourism marketer. Before his Toronto stint, Beck was head of Visit Salt Lake, Salt Lake City’s tourism bureau for 14 years.

Beck told the San Francisco Chronicle that his biggest challenge will be the “ongoing narrative about San Francisco as a monolithic experience, when it’s clearly not.”

Beck added that media coverage of San Francisco’s safety is “not 100% accurate.”

“Urban cities across the country are struggling with a lot of the same issues,” he said, adding that he is “committed to expressing a spectrum of experiences.”

San Francisco has been in the throes of a homelessness and drug crisis that has come with rampant crime for years now. The city by the bay consistently struggles to make a dent in the humanitarian crisis unfolding every day on the streets.

Homelessness has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night. That’s up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.

Crime and open-air drug use often accompanies the homeless issue, causing businesses to flee San Francisco’s downtown, where foot traffic has thinned. A string of brands have abandoned their locations downtown recently including Whole Foods, AT&T, Nordstrom, and mall company Westfield.

While overall crime in San Francisco is slightly down this year, certain types of violent crime are up, according to police data.

Murder is up 15% to 38 murders so far this year. Robberies are up 17% to 1,855 robberies so far. Car thefts are up 12% to 4,617 thefts.

Meanwhile, the drug crisis is still raging, although overdose deaths have dropped from their all-time high in 2020 during the thick of the pandemic.

In 2022, San Francisco saw 620 fatal drug overdoses, down from 640 overdose deaths in 2021. In 2020, overdose deaths spiked to 725 deaths.

Tourism has dropped significantly from the record levels San Francisco saw in 2019 just before the pandemic, and is not expected to recover fully for several years.

Nearly half of Americans, 48%, now view San Francisco as unsafe, up from just 30% back in 2006, according to Gallup. Views are starkly split down political lines, with 74% of Democrats believing that the city is safe, while only 32% of Republicans feel it is safe.

The San Francisco Travel Association has an annual budget of $33 million, and the group is currently running a $6 million global tourism campaign, their biggest campaign ever.

“A strong tourism industry is vital to the city’s economy, local businesses and neighborhoods, and I am passionately committed to helping steward San Francisco’s ongoing tourism recovery,” Beck said in a statement.

Beck will take his position on October 30 and replace 18-year veteran Joe D’Alessandro, who is retiring.

1 comment:

  1. I have the perfect solution to California's decline in tourism- new travel brochures extolling the many health benefits of human excrement. It''ll give new meaning to 'mud bath'.


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