12 JUN 2018: The hospitality flowed along with the wine on Thursday, June 7th, when a gracious team from San Francisco threw an indoor-outdoor cocktail party for travel agents and media in the penthouse of Vancouver’s Loden Hotel. They came to show Vancouver the love.

“Canada is a very important market for us and we don’t want to let that slip,” said Laurie Armstrong Gossy, Global PR & Media Relations for the San Francisco Travel Association, the large membership-based tourism agency that is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco.

“We love our Canadian visitors and we appreciate that the exchange rates are not in your favour.”

Tourism is San Francisco’s largest industry, hitting record-breaking numbers in 2016. And Western Canada is a hot market. With eleven flights a day from YVR to SFO, it’s easy to get to and it never gets old. The region generates new product year after year, so there are always new reasons to go.

“This summer it’s all about the rugby,” said Daniel Schwartz, Sr. manager of Tourism, “because the Rugby World Cup Sevens is coming to the USA for the very first time.” After its Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, rugby sevens (seven players playing seven-minute halves) is now the fastest growing team sport in America. The world’s top 40 international men’s and women’ teams will come together in San Francisco July 20-22, to compete at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants football team. Full disclosure: both men’s and women’s teams from Canada will be there to take on the challenge.

Next year, San Francisco’s new 18,000+ seat Chase Center sports and entertainment complex is slated to become the new home court of the Golden State Warriors, back-to-back champions of the NBA. Relocation across the bay from their Oakland base will take effect for the 2019 – 2020 basketball season.

By January 2019, construction should also be completed on the US $550 million expansion to San Francisco’s Moscone Center, bringing the total exhibit space to more than 500,000 sq. ft. The center’s size, facilities and urban location (just a few minutes’ walk from hotels, museums, shopping and world-class dining) make it a perennial draw for the meetings and convention crowd. More than 20% of San Francisco’s 25 million annual visitors pass through Moscone Center each year, and San Francisco Travel is actively booking the space for 2019 and beyond. There are 1.1 million definite room nights on the books for 2019, more than any other year in history.

Only in California

The California experience begins at SFO, an unusually chill international airport. It has a yoga room, museum installations and the Wag Patrol, a popular team of kind-hearted therapy animals wearing “Pet Me” vests. Lilou, a Juliana-breed pig who rocks tutus and pedicures, is an SFO celeb with 18,000 followers on Instagram.

Travellers can hop the BART line to get to downtown San Francisco in a half hour or less, or drive an hour or so up the I-80 for a taste of the good life in Napa Valley: Mediterranean climate, 400 + wineries, hot air ballooning, scenic trips on the wine trains and definitive dining at one of the area’s 125 restaurants.

Napa Valley boasts a total of eleven Michelin stars, including Thomas Keller’s iconic 3-starred French Laundry in Yountville, which the late Anthony Bourdain has called “the best restaurant in the world, period.”

Nature lovers can venture further north to Humboldt County to hike, bike, or otherwise wander through the legendary California redwoods at Redwood National Park State Parks. There are even drive-thru trees. “These are the tallest living beings in the world,” said April Hagans of the Eureka Humboldt Visitor’s Bureau.

West of Napa is Sonoma County, with 425 wineries, more than 20 golf courses and a huge choice of outdoor activities. Sonoma has quaint towns, great farm-to-table dining and spas galore. Sonoma County Tourism’s Deleyse Langdale told the crowd, “Canada is our number one international market,” and thanked everyone for their business.

If you have clients headed her way, she offered to answer your emails with events and things to do during their visit. Check it out: dlangdale@sonomacounty.com

For more information: www.sftravel.com

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