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COVID Recovery: Memorial Day Weekend Brings Crowds Back To San Francisco Tourist Spots

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The big crowds in San Francisco this Memorial Day weekend signal an upward trend in the economic recovery from more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions and closures, according to local tourism experts.

For many San Francisco businesses Saturday was their best day since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a combination of the unofficial start of summer and more people feeling safe to travel because they are now vaccinated.

"Oh man, it's exploding today," said Kenny the Clown, a street performer at Fisherman's Wharf. "To be honest with you, it's even more crowded today than pre-pandemic."

After 14 months of pandemic lockdown, a lot of people were itching to leave the house.

"It makes me feel, like, happy (to travel)," said Jaden Edwards, who was visiting from Bakersfield with his family.

"It feels good, it feels good. You forget what was out there," said Tee Moua, who was visiting from Fresno.

It was hard to walk down the street at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 without bumping into people.

"More people, more money. It's almost too much to keep up with it though," said Kenny the Clown. "I rather be too busy than too slow, for sure."

From the street performers to the brick-and-mortar establishments, they needed this economic boost. Workers at the Wax Museum said they sold the most tickets on Saturday since reopening in March. And there were long waits at most restaurants.

"We maxed out our reservations for today. And we're really looking forward to Sunday and Monday, seeing how much we can do," said Vic Long, general manager at Franciscan Crab Restaurant.

Long manages two restaurants at the wharf.

"Not only are the tourists coming back, but we're seeing a lot of return business, a lot of customers were waiting for us to open," he said. "We're so lucky, so grateful to be reopened again. And it's just wonderful to see the amount of traffic we have this weekend."

The Fairmont Hotel shut down twice during the pandemic. But this Memorial Day Weekend gives the hotel a taste of what's ahead.

"This is the busiest weekend we had since last year, since the pandemic started," said Markus Treppenhauer, general manager at The Fairmont.

Treppenhauer said they have about 50 percent occupancy.

"You can see it, we have people in the lobby, the restaurant is full tonight," Treppenhauer said. "So I think it's exciting for us that there's truly life in the building, which this is not something we've seen in a long time."

And there's optimism as health officials plan to lift almost all restrictions and reopen California on June 15.

"What you're seeing today is a lot of individual travelers," Treppenhauer said. "We don't see groups, yet. We don't see business travelers, yet. So with the change in to June 15, what we are hoping is the widespread of travel."


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