SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Business leaders said Thursday the return of Pride weekend celebrations in San Francisco has already attracted tourists from around the world, providing a needed economic boost.
"We're much improved over just a few months ago. San Francisco was slow to recover and we're still not back to where we were in 2019 but it's getting better," said Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel.
D'Alessandro says two parades in one week (the Warriors celebrated their 2022 NBA Finals win on Monday) helps to keep the spotlight on San Francisco. He also said that 96 percent of those surveyed said they would come back for another visit.
"People are having a great experience," D'Alessandro said. "That exposure is really important to us."
Small business owners in the Castro District reported seeing an uptick in business on Thursday.
"There's lot of people here. The Castro is really hopping," said Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro Community Benefit District. "A lot of merchants have told me they can see tourism is back."
She hopes that, even if Pride weekend is the peak of their year, high turnout continues in the district throughout the summer and the fall. She has higher expectations for 2023 even if the city still is rebuilding from pre-pandemic levels next year.
"Pride is kind of like Christmas in the Castro for most retailers," Aiello said. "It's really the tourists that bring us over the top to make a profit and pay ourselves so people are ready."
International tourists make up more than half of all visitors to the city and, with continuing travel restrictions imposed by China, San Francisco can't reach pre-pandemic levels yet. D'Alessandro hopes those restrictions will ease soon.
"We're telling the world that San Francisco is back."
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