By the numbers, The City had a record breaking year. The total number of visitors reached 16.9 million. Overnight hotel guests grew to 3.6 million, with occupancy approaching 80%, and the direct economic impact of our industry more than $5.7 billion.
This is particularly gratifying given the fact that Moscone Center is nearly filled to capacity in the near term. This means we have to grow the number of smaller in-hotel convention groups as well as individual domestic and international leisure travelers to move The City's occupancy needle.
I'm proud of our aggressive sales team in the convention and tourism areas. Believe it or not, we've already made tentative bookings for conventions past the year 2020!
Fortunately, our nation's economy remains strong; and barring the unforeseen, there is no let up in sight. Tourism to San Francisco should remain very strong.
The next major opportunity to significantly grow the marketplace will come with the opening of the Moscone Center expansion in late 2002. As you may recall, voters approved the project in 1996 by an overwhelming 66% response, but six months later Proposition 218 entered the picture, creating a technicality that will force us to go back to the ballot in November 1998 to reaffirm the previous election. Although we don't anticipate any problems with this additional step, we won't take it lightly!
With almost 2,200 members, confidence remains high in the largest membership bureau in the United States. I'm very proud of the work of our membership development and services team, not just in the growth of our membership, but in the ongoing educational programs, civic updates and networking opportunities that we continue to offer.
San Francisco's win column was also enhanced earlier in December when ground was broken for construction of the new Pacific Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants beginning in April 2000.
And, San Francisco voters said Yes to an important measure that will allow the San Francisco Forty Niners to move forward with a new stadium at Candlestick Point, scheduled to open in time for the 2001 season. This action, coupled with a great deal of effort by your Bureau, allowed the National Football League to award Super Bowl XXXVI! to our city. The game will he played January 26, 2003.
Also in the win column, the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted San Francisco the Number One Travel Destination in the United States for the ninth time, while Travel & Leisure magazine ranked us Number One for the second straight year. Refer to the November Cablegram to learn about numerous other awards and recognitions that were bestowed upon The City and the Bureau recently.
Our cooperative marketing program, Preferred Travel to San Francisco with Visa continued to grow by leaps and bounds this past year The Bureau acquired a number of new partners to join Colavita and Forest Glen Winery including Skyy Vodka, Spice Islands, Kikkoman, Fleischmann's Yeast, La Cornue stoves and Avis Rent a Car.
Additionally, our "Second Season" campaign, from November 1997 to early
May 1998, includes Amtrak,
California Academy of Sciences, Red & White Fleet, SkyDeck, PIER 39, Konica Cameras and the Official San Francisco Phone Card to our growing list of partners.
Mayor Willie Brown was a strong advocate of the tourism industry throughout the year. He welcomed numerous convention groups to our city, met with key industry decision makers, traveled with the Bureau on convention bid presentations and impressed major tour operators in Japan and Korea at Bureau-hosted functions in late-October
In an attempt to better quantify San Francisco's hospitality industry, the Bureau launched a new member publication: Travel Barometer, which investigates the results and trends of San Francisco's tourism industry.
Also, our new fax-on-demand system, San Francisco FastFax, debuted early in the year and is already receiving close to 2,000 requests per month for information.
Yet another win for the Bureau was the creation of our own hotel leisure reservation system which now facilitates access to more than 70 of our lodging establishments.
The opening of our Chicago sales office operated jointly with the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau is truly a first and cutting edge in partnering.
As we look to 1998, the year is getting off to a big start as we launch our new site on the World Wide Web. This major marketing and membership tool -- which promotes San Francisco and provides added visibility to each of our members -- has been in development for the last 18 months.
In closing, let me thank all of you -- our members and friends, volunteer leaders and professional staff -- for all of your support and participation during 1997. 1 particularly want to thank those talented people that our members don't see on a daily basis -- our support staff finance and administration, MIS, mailroom and distribution -- without whom the Bureau couldn't continue to enjoy the number of wins that are expected of us.
Best wishes for the new year!
John Marks, President
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau