The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB), in partnership with San Francisco International Airport (SFO), has opened a representation office in South Korea. By the year 2009, the Republic of Korea will be included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and Korean travelers will be able to visit the United States without a visa. As a result of the VWP, Korean tourism is expected to increase by 100 percent from 900,000 currently to 1.8 million after the waiver.
“Seoul and San Francisco have had a sister city relationship since 1975, so we’re expecting more visitors since the Korean won is so strong against the U.S. dollar,” said Deborah Reinow, vice president of tourism for the SFCVB.
The San Francisco representative, based in Seoul, will work to promote San Francisco to the professional travel trade, consumers, media and airlines. Importantly, they will work with airlines to encourage new service to SFO, generate press coverage of the region and assist the travel trade with information to help generate increased bookings to San Francisco. This includes business travel, technical visits and convention attendance as well as the rapidly growing leisure travel market.
“Having representation in South Korea will heighten the awareness of San Francisco’s many attractions and the state-of-the-art facilities at SFO to further develop business and leisure travel and develop new airline service,” Reinow said. “Additionally, many Chinese travelers come to California via Korea. With the new Approved Destination Status between the United States and China, opening an office in Korea is another avenue to reach Chinese visitors.”
Many conventions in San Francisco have a very high percentage of international attendees, particularly in the medical, high-tech, and finance sectors. This segment presents a great opportunity to expand the delegations that come from India for meetings, incentives and conference travel.
SFO currently has four daily flights from Seoul, on Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines, with a total of approximately 1,400 seats.
In 2006 visitor spending in San Francisco reached an all-time high of $7.76 billion. The number of visitors to San Francisco in 2006 was 15.8 million, up 40 percent over 2005.