San Francisco loses 2 major conferences

News emerged Thursday that two tech companies, Meta and Red Hat, canceled 2024 conferences scheduled to be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center — marking another grim headline for SF’s downtown, which has struggled ever since COVID-19.

But while conference bookings have yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, the San Francisco Travel Association, which manages bookings at Moscone, said the industry is showing signs of recovery.

“While next year is a challenging year for conventions in San Francisco, every year after 2024 shows steady growth, with 2028 and beyond trending to be above 90% of average,” Lori Lincoln, a spokesperson for SF Travel, wrote in a e-mail.

Lincoln said that even before the pandemic, in 201[ads1]9, the agency expected conventions to be down in 2024 given that it is an off year for rotating events and the association had already received some cancellations. “The situation was then exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.

The San Francisco Business Times was the first to publicly report the cancellations on Thursday, but SF Travel said Red Hat canceled in November 2022 and Meta in February, and that this information had been shared with stakeholders.

Red Hat, a software company owned by IBM, canceled both the 2024 and 2025 events at the Moscone Center, which together were expected to generate about 40,000 hotel stays, according to the Business Times. Red Hat rebooked the 2024 event in Denver and the 2025 event in Orlando.

The canceled Meta Business Group Summit 2024 was expected to yield about 16,254 hotel stays, the Times said. SF Travel said Meta had hoped to replace the booking in early May with another event, but was unable to do so and subsequently canceled it entirely.

SF Travel said Red Hat is slated for events at Moscone in 2026, 2028, 2030 and 2032.

Conventions are a key part of the city’s tourism, generating hotel and hospitality revenue. In 2019, the Moscone Center booked a record 49 events, and accounted for 968,000 hotel room nights. 2020 and 2021 saw steep declines, with only seven and five convention bookings respectively. Bookings picked up again in 2022 with 33 events generating 338,549 hotel room stays; this year’s 36 confirmed events are expected to account for over 663,000 hotel nights.

There are 22 events confirmed at the Moscone Center in 2024, accounting for around 462,000 hotel room nights. “Our ongoing strategy for 2024 is to secure more corporate events to address the anticipated decline in hotel rooms attributable to Moscone Center events,” Lincoln said. “These have shorter lead times than city-wide conventions and are likely to take place in hotels due to their smaller size. By 2022, 75% of nights were in group spaces for events outside the Moscone Center.”

Meta and Red Hat did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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