San Francisco plays host to more than 16 million visitors a year, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, our official tourism promotional agency founded just over 101 years ago. Even the tourism office changed their name recently, having been formerly known as the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau.
However, one name mustn’t be changed. That’s the name of our beloved 49 square miles, the City by the Bay, “Everyone’s Favorite City”, where you’re welcome to leave your heart. But, please don’t call us “Frisco”, we prefer “San Francisco”.
Wow, we counted 16.3 million visitors in 2011. Folks came from far and wide on business and for pleasure. They stayed with friends and relatives or checked into hotels or bed and breakfast inns or drove in for the day. They spent an estimated $8.5 billion which supported 71,403 jobs at sightseeing attractions, theaters, shops, restaurants, museums, hotels, festivals, concerts, sporting events and more. Those dollars flowed right through San Francisco’s local economy, generating $526 million in tax revenues.
More to come
In fact, readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted San Francisco as the number one visitor destination in the U.S. for an unprecendented 18 consecutive years. (True, Charleston, S.C. pipped us to the post in 2011, but never mind.) We’ll win that number one spot back with the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge and the 34th America’s Cup headlining the events agenda as upcoming blockbuster draws.
So, what’s the problem?
That’s all great news. The only problem is, we want our visitors to know that we’re just not called “Frisco”. Ever. It’s a question of respect. Herb Caen (1916-1997), Pulitzer Prize-winning legendary San Francisco-based columnist wrote, “One day if I do go to heaven…I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.'” On the other hand, Otis Redding left his town in Georgia, headed for the “Frisco Bay”. And therein lies the problem.
Herb Caen’s 1953 book, “Don’t Call it Frisco”, set the benchmark. He went on to be considered the ultimate authority on all things San Francisco for the next 44 years. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Herb Caen wrote, “Caress each Spanish syllable, salute our Italian saint. Don’t say Frisco…” Another writer compared that kind of assumed familiarity to a lack of respect, akin to shortening the name of the famous composer Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff to Rocky.
When you get here, it’s quite okay to just say “the city”. We use SF when writing, but less so when spoken aloud. It’s not a big deal, perhaps, but some people prefer knowing the local preferences. After all, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So, there we are. In any case, you’re most welcome to our beautiful, friendly city. Enjoy and see you in San Francisco!