SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- More than 11,000 people are in San Francisco this week for the Photonics West 2022 conference at the Moscone Center, back after an extended pandemic-related hiatus.
"It feels pretty good to be back," said Sergey Polyakov, who was in town for the conference.
SF Travel President and CEO Joe D'Alessandro tells KPIX 5 there are currently 35 meetings on the calendar scheduled to be held at the Moscone Center this year.
"We still have a long way to go to get back to where we were before the pandemic, but this is an important first step," D'Alessandro said.
He says every convention will translate to much-needed revenue for the tourism industry, as well as other businesses throughout the city.
"Conventions generate, and the visitors who come to conventions, generate billions of dollars in our economy," he said. "About 25% of all of our tourism revenue comes in through meetings and conventions."
Joyride Pizza is a few steps away from the Moscone Center, in the heart of the Yerba Buena neighborhood. The business relies heavily on convention foot-traffic.
"They're very important. They account for about 50% of the business here," said Alastair Hannemman, the restaurant's director of operations. "It's great for us to see all of these convention goers come back out and be able to socialize and hang out at a cool spot."
Hannemman tells KPIX 5 they are optimistic about what 2022 and the convention line-up will bring.
"We believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the next few months here," he said.
Yerba Buena Community Benefit District Executive Director Cathy Maupin says she's "cautiously hopeful" about the year, as well as what the convention schedule will mean for the neighborhood.
"It's massively important for the recovery of the neighborhood, I think we had five conventions last year," she said. "I don't want to get my hopes up too high at this particular point, but I'm hopeful that 2022 will be really good for the neighborhood. Estimates are that it'll be 2024, 2025, before we get back to 2019 levels. So at this point, we just want incremental improvement every year. I think we're going to see a significant improvement in 2022."
Maupin says the pandemic proved how big a role Moscone Center plays in the neighborhood's health and vitality.
"The return of conventions will life all boats. It will lift bars, it will lift restaurants, it will lift the museums to new heights," Maupin said. "I'm hopeful that if things keep moving in the right direction that we'll see more activity in the fall, and we'll see larger numbers of people coming to the conventions that are on the books."
In 2019, there were 49 conventions at the Moscone Center, according to SF Travel.
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