Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

Tourism from Asia to San Francisco is bouncing back.
Tourism from Asia has finally started coming back to San Francisco. In the last several months, arrivals at San Francisco International Airport from most Asian countries are close to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to international non-stop air passenger traffic data from International Trade Administration (ITA).
The uptick appears to be mostly due to eased travel restrictions from a number of countries.
South Korea started lifting travel restrictions in April, dropping the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers, and lifted all COVID travel restrictions starting October 1. As a result, the number of passengers from South Korea more than doubled from September 2021 to September 2022, and just 14% below where they were in September 2019.
In June, Taiwan reduced the isolation requirement from seven days to three, and in October, lifted the requirement completely. The number of passengers from Taiwan shot up from a little over 2,000 in September 2021 to almost 10,000 in September 2022.
Arrivals from India and Vietnam were actually higher this September than in 2019. Vietnam Airlines became a new carrier for SFO at the end of last year, and the first airline to connect Vietnam and the United States nonstop. Between November 2021 and June 2022, Vietnam Airlines flew 14,000 people from Vietnam to San Francisco.
SFO expects weekly round-trip flights to Asia to rise from 108 today to 123 by December 2022 and marketing campaigns in Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong to increase tourism in 2023.
Tourism from China is expected to increase next year
Before the pandemic, more visitors arrived from Asia to SFO than any other region, with more than 1.2 million people arriving between January and September 2019, compared to about 900,000 from Europe over the same period. From January to September 2022, 623,000 visitors came from Europe, over 200,000 more than from Asia.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was second to only Canada in the number of travelers arriving at SFO annually. Companies such as Air China, China Southern, and China Western would each fly from 110,000 to 130,000 passengers yearly to SFO, according to air travel passenger statistics.
Currently, United Airlines is the only company in the U.S. allowed by China to travel to SFO from China.
A spokesperson for United said that the company restarted service to Shanghai with a stopover in Seoul, South Korea in July 2020. Before March 2020, United operated flights to Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.
Richard Champley, an analyst at the ITA, which publishes the air travel passenger statistics used for this story, told the Chronicle that their data only monitors nonstop flights from foreign airports to U.S. airports. As a result, the number of passengers flying from Shanghai are counted as if they were coming from Seoul because of the stopover in Seoul. Since December 2020, ITA data shows almost no passengers coming directly from China. Still, even counting flights with stopovers, SFO is receiving a small fraction of the travellers from China it did before the pandemic.
A spokesperson for SFO told The Chronicle that they expect to see passenger service return from all pre-pandemic Chinese carriers when China’s COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased and hopeful service increases will happen next year.
Currently, China only allows travelers to leave the country for specific situations such as work or medical situations.
Implications for the economy
Tourism from China represented more than a 10th of the $10.3 billion spent in San Francisco in 2019 by overnight international visitors, according to Hubertus Funke, San Francisco Travel executive vice president and chief tourism officer.
San Francisco has a large Chinese American population that attracts tourists visiting family members, and business travelers coming to conventions or for individual business, according to Gregory Miller Vice President of Lodging and Experiential Leisure Equity Research for Truist Securities.
“They spend a lot of money when they visit. It’s not just on hotels. They spend a lot of money shopping, eating and going to attractions. There’s a lot of implications to the city’s economy and the Bay Area economy with the loss of Chinese travelers,” said Miller.
Yuri Avila (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:
Yuri Avila is a journalist from Mexico City who has lived in the Bay Area since 2019. She worked at The New York Times, tracking covid data throughout the country, and was part of the team that received the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. In Mexico, she was a reporter for Animal Politico, and BuzzFeed News covering elections, digital disinformation, and reproductive rights. She received her master’s degree from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism where she focused on data and multimedia reporting.


By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *