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Vendor Spotlight: San Francisco Travel Association

Why Chicago Meeting Planners Still Choose San Francisco


San Francisco is a premier meeting destination famous for fostering new ideas and drawing record-breaking attendance. The city is always changing, and now The Moscone Center has also changed, too. Its expansion, which created more than 500,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, is mindful of the environment, responsive to clients, and respectful of a legacy that includes moments of history and transformation.

It’s no secret that these accomplishments were reached while other challenges developed. Like most other major U.S. cities, San Francisco is faced with difficult issues on its streets. True to its character as a compassionate and innovative city, San Francisco has undertaken several new, high-impact approaches to these problems.

We spoke with two major, Chicago-based citywide meeting planners about their recent San Francisco meetings, the success they had, and why the City by the Bay remains on their short list no matter the headlines.

Robert Hope, Director, Convention and Meetings, American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons recently held our annual Clinical Congress in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.  The flexible, high-tech center’s increased space allowed us to significantly grow our educational programming.  The support we received from the City of San Francisco, The Moscone Center, and San Francisco Travel in addressing our varied needs and concerns contributed greatly to producing a successful Clinical Congress.

San Francisco has always been a favorite destination for our attendees. Our meeting attendance this year was up compared to our last meeting in San Francisco in 2014, despite the city’s challenges. The City is instituting effective, long-term solutions to address planners’ concerns. During our meeting, we experienced the positive results of their efforts first-hand.

City programs designed to assist event organizers include the Downtown Streets initiative whereby homeless are provided stipends for food and shelter in exchange for joining an organized team that cleans the city streets surrounding Moscone daily before dawn each morning.  Additionally, San Francisco Travel has hired a retired police officer to serve as Director of Safety and Security.  He leads a team of off-duty policemen that can be immediately deployed to work closely with event organizers when alerted via “WhatsApp” mobile app.  This was a very effective program that assists planners with immediate action to address all types of non-emergency situations that arise on the streets near the convention center.

While much work still needs to be done, the City’s and San Francisco Travel’s proactive programs had a positive impact on the success of the American College of Surgeons 2019 Clinical Congress. We look forward to returning to beautiful San Francisco in the future.

David Cantalupo, Director, Annual Meeting & Committee on Annual Meetings, Division of Conferences & Continuing Education, American Dental Association

ADA was excited to be in The Moscone Center this year to experience the newly renovated space. The expanded lobbies and the new, flexible meeting space increased opportunities for us to elevate the meeting experience for our attendees.  The expansive monitors in the lobbies are a unique and major plus for the center, in that they allowed ADA branding and impact options that we have not had at any of our past meetings in any city. 

San Francisco Travel was consistent and thorough in all communications leading up to and during the meeting.  This was especially important to ADA as renovation details and timing had major impacts on our planning.  San Francisco Travel was transparent regarding street conditions in the city. As we travelled to San Francisco for various site visits, we learned of many city programs in place to address certain issues and were able to see progress being made.  A new program at the outset, was one where ADA had the ability to work directly with a SF Travel’s safety consultant who worked as a liaison between ADA and SFPD, Department of Public Works, Moscone Security, the SF Hotel Council and other agencies in coordinating efforts to address issues.  Onsite at the meeting we had 24/7 communications flow and a relatively seamless experience as compared to past meetings.  The city is working hard to continue moving in the right direction and we look forward to seeing its progress when we return to San Francisco in the future.

Joe D’Alessandro, President & CEO, San Francisco Travel Association

It is important that San Francisco stay competitive with expanded and upgraded convention facilities. Our two main goals were to create contiguous space and flexibility for The Moscone Center.  Now we have a brand-new center with state-of-the-art everything. In fact, The Moscone Center is currently the only convention center in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status.

In the past year, the City of San Francisco has increased its budget for street cleaning, increased the number of public restrooms in highly visited neighborhoods, and increased the amount of shelter beds for our unhoused residents. We’ve also seen fewer instances of violent crimes and strengthened laws that allow city services to more easily help those who cannot help themselves.

San Francisco Travel represents the voice of the visitor and we have advocated for these improvements, as well as others. Our staff is proud of our city and regularly engages with local service organizations for beautification projects and charitable initiatives. For example, we now partner with Downtown Streets, a group dedicated to cleaning up our city and providing our unsheltered neighbors with jobs and purpose.

We’re always striving to ensure that your San Francisco experience is a positive, memorable, and inspiring one. San Francisco Travel will continue to work closely with city departments and our hospitality community to improve our streets and provide a clean and safe environment for all our visitors.

Whether it be a small board meeting or a major citywide event, San Francisco has all the necessary ingredients to deliver record-breaking attendance and a highly successful meeting: exquisite hotels, adaptable venues, and iconic experiences. For more information, please contact Brenda Holland, Director, Citywide Accounts ([email protected]) or Rick Hud, Senior Manager, Convention Sales ([email protected])

Jena VonderhaarVendor Spotlight: San Francisco Travel Association