PopulationMetro: 4,727,357
Record-breaking visitor numbers, award-winning restaurants, new attractions and an expanded conference center pave the way in San Francisco, as the world continues to rush in.

San Francisco has embraced people of different backgrounds, circumstances and beliefs since the Gold Rush days, when seemingly overnight people came from Asia and Europe, from across the continent and from the other side of the world for their shot at the California Dream. “The world rushed in,” noted historian J.S. Holliday, and they’ve been rushing in ever since.

Along the way, they’ve been sowing the seeds for the city’s open-minded attitude toward, well, everything. The result is a city that doesn’t just welcome differences, but encourages and celebrates them. No wonder it ranks #1 in our People category, with its amalgam of foreign-born residents and post-secondary education.

The promise of high salaries means a torrent of global workers fuel the city’s ambition and ideas, with the fifth-most foreign-born residents and third-best educated workforce in America. The Bay Area’s entrepreneurialism is uniquely connected to the local world-renowned universities, with Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, able to accommodate local knowledge and skills gaps and broker funding for nascent start-ups. Education and capital are rarely an issue for the right idea.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 67
Product
Product 32
Programming
Programming 34
People
People 100
Prosperity
Prosperity 80
Promotion
Promotion 29

The inflow of people into San Francisco is why SFO, the city’s airport, is a hive of renovation, build-out and innovation that will welcome new talent and their families. The all-time record of 57.8 million passengers in 2018 will continue to be bested in the coming years, particularly from fast-growing markets including Brazil, France, India and Taiwan.

The city is gearing up for a stellar year of conventions and meetings at the newly expanded Moscone Center, which is walking distance to hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions and public transit and now features more than 170,000 gross square feet of meeting space, as well as an enclosed pedestrian bridge above Howard Street. “This state-of-the-art facility exemplifies our commitment to sustainability, creates new flexible-use convention and tourism spaces and supports the neighborhood with a host of new design and open-space improvements,” says Mayor London Breed.

Indeed, the City requires that budgets for new public buildings and civic improvements set aside 2% of gross construction costs for the procurement and installation of public art in their spaces. At the Moscone Center, this has resulted in four new art installations, including PointCloud, a light installation by Bay Bridge light designer Leo Villareal. His installation has been incorporated into the new East Bridge, which connects Moscone North and South. San Francisco ranks #14 in our Convention subcategory and #18 for Connectivity.

The Beat Generation, San Francisco’s most celebrated literary and cultural movement of the 20th century, inspired millions to live boldly and uncensored. Residents and visitors alike continue to do so all these years later, more often than not sharing ideas, thoughts and inspirations on social media channels, and thus helping propel the city to the seventh spot in our Promotion category.

In response to skepticism about visiting the United States, in 2017 the Destination Marketing Organization launched a tourism campaign called “You’re Always Welcome Here” to announce to the world that “whatever else might be happening, whatever other people’s attitudes and opinions might be, you’re always welcome in San Francisco.” The DMO followed that up in 2018 with “I Am San Francisco,” a second phase featuring an online series that shared stories of both natives of the city and those who came to visit and found a home.

The first nine profiles cover a diverse human landscape of race, gender, age, economics and orientation, including a cable car grip man, a Summer of Love historian, a Muslim tech worker, female entrepreneurs/pop-up chefs, executives, artists and a transgender person. Told through photos, video, text and audio, each ends with the person telling the viewer, “I am San Francisco and you are always welcome.”

The modus operandi at Hotel Emblem, a bold new boutique hotel located where Nob Hill meets Union Square in the heart of the Theater District, takes that #AlwaysWelcome idea and invites guests to think as boldly as they live. As the website proudly states: “Get ready, rebels. This is where every good story begins.” Every corner of the hotel, which was created for wannabe Kerouacs and Ginsbergs, is designed to spark creativity: you can tap your thoughts on the lobby typewriter, lend your voice at the weekly poetry slam or get lost in the flow of live jazz in the bar.

In the race to becoming the fine dining capital of America, San Francisco is devouring the competition, with eight three-star restaurants and a total 80 stars among the 58 venues listed in the 2019 Michelin Guide—and a #5 spot in our Restaurants subcategory. The city is also home to Dominique Crenn, at Atelier Crenn, who was the first female chef in the U.S. to achieve three Michelin stars. Meanwhile, Joshua Skenes’ Angler took Best New in the James Beard Awards.

“I am so proud of San Francisco’s incredible culinary scene,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “Best new restaurant in the U.S.: check. More Michelin three-star restaurants than anywhere else in the Americas: check. First female chef in the U.S. to achieve three Michelin stars: check. And it’s only just the beginning.”

A survey conducted in 2017 revealed that San Francisco residents named tourism the city’s most important industry. The study also found that 79% of residents agree there is a “healthy balance of tourism and resident activity” in the city.

San Francisco Travel reported a total spending of $10 billion by 26.2 million visitors to the city in 2018, which, according to Joe D’Alessandro, created 82,538 jobs and supported services for people throughout the city and the entire Bay Area.