San Francisco has hired a new top tourism official to try and shift the public perception of the city as it deals with surging crime and rampant drug use.
San Francisco Travel Association, the Golden Gate city’s tourism and marketing bureau, has hired Scott Beck, the current head of Toronto’s tourist organization, as its new president and CEO, the organization announced Thursday.
Beck, who will take the reins on Oct. 30, told told the San Francisco Chronicle that his biggest challenge in the role will be reversing the “ongoing narrative about San Francisco as a monolithic experience, when it’s clearly not.”
He added that media coverage about the city’s safety is “not 100% accurate.”
In recent years San Francisco has gained national reputation as a city overrun with homeless and flooded open-air drug markets and users.
The situation has grown so dire, that a street guide — who later revealed himself as a city commissioner before his resignation — attempted to start a “Doom Loop Walking Tour” last month so people could see the city’s urban decay for themselves.
About 48% of Americans view San Francisco as an unsafe city, according to a recent Gallup Poll, The Chronicle reported. Perceptions were significantly divided on partisan lines, with 74% of Democrats viewing the city as safe, while just 32% of Republicans agreed.
While FBI data shows that San Francisco has a relatively low violent crime rate, it has a considerably high overall crime rate — particularly with car thefts that target tourists’ vehicles.
Just this past week, two different groups of tourists had their belongings stolen — including their passports — from their rental cars during a broad-daylight smash-and-grab while they briefly visited the city’s Ocean Beach. They had only been there for about 10 minutes.
Also this week a California tourist claimed his French bulldog service animal was stolen “by fear and by force” during a short stay in the city.
Beck said it’s not clear what strategies the organization plans to use to turn the city around.
San Francisco Travel Association, which has an annual budget of $33 million, has launched a $6 million global tourism campaign — its biggest ever.