After only being open to essential workers and essential travelers since March, the Bay Area city’s hotels can now welcome tourists again.

By Rachel Chang
September 14, 2020

Tourists can once again leave their hearts in San Francisco, as the California city’s hotels reopen to leisure travelers starting today.

“I’m so glad we can move forward earlier than expected to reopen more businesses that have been closed since March,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said on Thursday. “These businesses have been struggling, and starting Monday, they’ll finally be able to serve customers again, with the necessary safety precautions and modifications in place.”

While hotels had been previously given a mid-September reopening goal, the announcement solidified the Sept. 14 start day.

“It’s a date we’ve been waiting for, and now the question is: How soon will hotels be able to open and welcome back guests?” Kevin Carroll of the Hotel Council of San Francisco told the San Francisco Examiner. He notes that hotels that had been housing essential workers and essential visitors may have an easier time reopening to tourists, as they have already put COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Credit: Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images

As part of the “low risk outdoor and indoor activities” categories, in addition to hotels “and other lodging, including short-term rentals,” outdoor tour buses, open-air boats, drive-in movies, indoor salons, and outdoor family entertainment (including mini-golf and go-carts), can also open with limited capacity.

The road to reopening San Francisco to leisure tourists also includes allowing indoor museums and galleries the opportunity to submit their health and safety plans this week. If approved, they can open as soon as Sept. 21.

Jumpstarting the city’s hotel industry — which had an 82.9 percent average occupancy rate last year and dropped to below five percent at its lowest during lockdown — won’t be as easy as simply reopening its doors. The city put a Healthy Building Ordinance into effect in July, requiring strict cleaning requirements, but local hotel organizations sued the city, citing that it could endanger workers and increase layoffs.

Some hotels are already taking matters into their own hands, as Michael Pace of Intercontinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco on Nob Hill told local TV station, KRON, that they’ve removed amenities, such as magazines and slippers. “The whole idea is that once you check into a room, you know that it’s been sanitized and disinfected at the highest standards possible and we’re trying to reduce the amount of interaction you’ll have inside the room,” he explained.

The California wildfires also appeared to pose a potential threat to San Francisco with dark orange skies above the city last week, but according to the San Francisco Travel Association, the city itself is not in danger and the fires haven't impacted the reopening plans.