The city’s official tourism organization, San Francisco Travel, announced last week that $100,000 has been allocated toward a new campaign to highlight the city’s diversity, and to encourage people from other countries to travel here — in spite of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric.
“San Francisco Travel knew from the first day the President’s Executive Order banning travel was announced (Jan. 27) that we had to take action,” states a press release sent by the organization. “San Francisco receives few visitors from countries listed on the travel ban, but key international markets are very sensitive to rhetoric that visitors are not welcome.”
$100,000 may seem like a lot of money — but it’s an investment that could have a big return if it works. San Francisco is expected to receive 25.6 million visitors in 2017, 2.9 million of whom come from international destinations. Yes, this means more selfie sticks at Alamo Square Park, crowds of slow-walking families on Haight Street, and a sea of tourists shivering in fleece sweaters at Fisherman’s Wharf — but altogether it’s good news. San Francisco Travel predicts that this year, tourism will bring in $9.22 billion. Despite being a small percentage of overall visitors, international travelers contribute $4.9 billion toward that number.
But tourism isn’t a guaranteed source of income. Based on initial studies done nationwide, overall visits to the States are in decline, with U.S.-bound flight searches down 17 percent. In 122 countries surveyed by research firm Hopper, interest in flights to our country have dropped in 94 of them.
The “Always Welcome” campaign has already launched, and unlike some flashy tourism commercials that look like they’re on speed, San Francisco’s is pretty poetic — literally. The soothing voice that narrates a slow-motion travel video advertises the city in short one-word sentences.
“We’re all different. We have different backgrounds. We like to do different things. And we come from different places,” it states. “San Francisco doesn’t just welcome your differences. We encourage them. We celebrate them. We even throw parties for them. It’s who we’ve always been.”
Whatever portion of the $100,000 budget that was dedicated to the video was well spent. While the Golden Gate Bridge makes a few too many appearances, Fisherman’s Wharf and other classic tourist attractions are replaced by more local activities and celebrities — Juanita MORE! walks her dog through Jane Warner Plaza in one scene, kids fly down the hill on big wheels in another. Yes, it’s cheesy, but for those who love this city, it’s hard not to melt a little when watching it.
Claiming a small space of inclusivity in a country that feels pretty intolerant these days may seem difficult, but San Francisco Travel is not new to these sorts of challenges. The tourism organization was born from the San Francisco Convention and Tourist League, a nonprofit that was founded in 1909 to draw tourists back to the city after the 1906 earthquake and fire. While the current government may be a disaster, at least our buildings are still standing.
The “Always Welcome” commercial will be screened to audiences in the United Kingdom and Canada through early July, after which it will be “reevaluated as things develop.” Let’s hope that Trump doesn’t royally screw up anything else in the meantime.