Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2022

Two years after the pandemic shattered San Francisco’s hotel industry, wiping out leisure travel and business conferences, the crucial cog of the city’s economy is seeing a comeback.

April hotel occupancy reached a pandemic era high of 67.2% in April and the average daily room rate was $226.59, also the highest of the pandemic, according to San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau. Occupancy is almost double 2021’s 35.5% level but lags 2019’s record high of 82.9%.

The 1,024-room Parc 55, the city’s last major hotel still closed by COVID, reopened Thursday. Three new and renovated hotels — 1 Hotel, Luma Hotel and Beacon Grand, formerly Sir Francis Drake — are set to open in June, followed by the Line SF later in the summer.

Parc 55’s reopening “is perfectly timed to meet the steady increase in demand and occupancy we’re seeing heading into summer,” Terry Lewis, general manager of the Hilton-operated hotel, said in a statement. “This is just the latest sign of San Francisco’s resilience over the last two years.”

Hotel demand was up 118% in the first quarter of 2022 compared with 2021, though it was only half of 2019 levels. However, a swell in local COVID casescould discourage travel and dampen demand during the summer.

During the second quarter, 72,500 conference attendees in San Francisco are expected to spend an estimated $117.2 million. Major events include RIMS Riskworld and the return of the RSA Security Conference, which was the last major convention held in March 2020 before shelter-in-place orders.

San Francisco International Airport expects 12 million travelers from Memorial Day to Labor Day, around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.

In March, Mayor London Breed visited European cities to promote tourism to San Francisco. Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of San Francisco Travel, joined the trip and felt encouraged by the reception.

“Internationally, people do look at San Francisco as an aspirational destination,” in contrast to some of the negative domestic media coverage around crime and homelessness, he said.

Major summer events like June’s Pride Parade and the San Francisco Jazz Festival are expected to bolster visitor numbers, he said.

San Francisco’s reliance on international and corporate travel means it’s had one of the slowest recoveries in the country, D’Alessandro said. More leisure-focused destinations such as Miami and Las Vegas, which also had fewer health restrictions, have seen swifter rebounds.

International travelers are a key source of revenue for the city, accounting for only 11% overnight visitors last year, but 44% of all overnight visitor spending, according to San Francisco Travel. The biggest sources of international tourists in 2021 were Mexico, India, Canada, Netherlands and Taiwan.

Though most countries have reopened their borders, China, the top market for San Francisco tourists before the pandemic, has banned nonessential travel overseas. “Asia’s still a challenge for us,” D’Alessandro said.

Soaring gas prices could also discourage local travelers, and nationally, airfare spiked 18.6% in April, the highest jump on record, according to federal data.

Total business and leisure tourism spending is expected to nearly double to $6.1 billion this year from $3.1 billion last year. The record year of 2019 saw $10.3 billion in spending.

San Francisco Travel expects visitor volume and spending to fully recover by 2024.

Roland Li is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: roland.li@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rolandlisf