Business News

Scott Beck Takes Top Job at San Francisco Travel

Skift Take

The recovery of San Francisco’s tourism and hospitality industry continues to be underscored by a narrative of lawlessness and economic demise. The San Francisco Travel Association now looks to Scott Beck to reverse that negative perception.

San Francisco Travel Association, the city’s destination marketing organization, will soon be under new leadership. Starting October 30, Scott Beck will take the reins of the organization as the president and CEO. He succeeds Joe D’Allesandro – who will retire after maintaining the position for 18 years.

Beck will step down from his role as president and CEO of Destination Toronto, which he began in 2019. He previously led Visit Salt Lake for 14 years and has extensive experience in the hotel industry.

In San Francisco, Beck will oversee a $33 million budget, one of the largest membership-based tourism promotion organizations in the U.S., to help drive $8 billion in tourism spend. These numbers are a bump up from Toronto’s $28 million budget that supports a $7.6 million visitor economy.

“San Francisco is one of the marquee cities of the world for U.S. and international travelers, and I am thrilled to be joining the team at San Francisco Travel to continue to showcase everything it has to offer,” Beck said in a press release. “A strong tourism industry is vital to the city’s economy, local businesses and neighborhoods, and I am passionately committed to helping steward San Francisco’s ongoing tourism recovery.”

San Francisco’s image as a tourist-friendly destination continues to take hits with media coverage focusing on rampant crime and the exodus of residents and businesses. Unfortunately, this has continued to negatively impact meetings and events slated to take place in the City by the Bay.

A City Investing in Recovery

Beck’s appointment, along with the post-pandemic rebound of its tourism industry, is good news considering that tourism and hospitality are San Francisco’s largest industry and a primary economic driver. Beck’s experience and knowledge of the industry are “critically important given the diverse leisure and business travel markets that fuel San Francisco’s tourism industry as well as our local economy,” said San Francisco Travel Board Chair Randy Reynoso.

“We are focused on ensuring a safe and welcoming City for our residents, workers and businesses, and visitors from around the world,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement released in August. “Tourism is a major contributor to San Francisco’s economic recovery, and we are beginning to see strong improvements with people coming back.”

The San Francisco Travel Association in mid-August reported a gain in hotel revenue of 30% when compared to 2022. It also projects hotel occupancy will increase by nearly 5% to 66.8%.

“Convention business has performed well, and the calendar is strong through mid-December with major events such as Dreamforce and APEC’s Economic Leaders’ Week and CEO Summit being held at Moscone Center. Events such as these draw tens of thousands of attendees, and APEC will place the city in the global spotlight,” D’Allesandro said. 

During his tenure as president and CEO, D’Allesandro developed the San Francisco Tourism Improvement District, a sustainable funding structure that evolved into a national model for promoting tourism.

Concerning Convention Trends

While San Francisco is on pace to see a full recovery, it continues to grapple with a tarnished image. Beck will have his work cut out for him to retain current events and capture new ones.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff voiced concerns in August ahead of Dreamforce, scheduled to kick off this week. Salesforce’s mega-conference called San Francisco home since its first edition in 2003 and attracted 180,000 attendees at its peak. He warned that the event may head elsewhere next year due to ongoing issues of open-air drug use and homelessness. However, Benioff pivoted away from that sentiment shortly after. “I’m right now at the top of Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. We’re going to bring you up here. We’ll bring you through Moscone. We’ll show you our incredible downtown,” Benioff said.

Some conventions have already opted to turn away from the city. Meta canceled its Business Group Summit slated for March 2024, leaving a hole in the city’s 2024 convention calendar. Recent news of IBM’s Red Hat Summit moving to Denver for 2024 and Orlando for 2025 was a tough blow. Currently, IBM plans to return to San Francisco for the 2026, 2028, 2030, and 2032 editions.

However, Beck may be the person to help curb the trend of canceled events in San Francisco. Beck helped Toronto attract Destination International’s 2022 annual convention. The annual gathering of destination professionals showcased the Canadian capital’s convention capabilities to 1,339 attendees from 20 countries.