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Why This City Is Considered One Of The Worst Destinations To Visit In The U.S. This Year

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San Francisco’s problems with homelessness, overt drug use, and petty crime have been widely reported in the media.

Poverty-related crimes such as thefts and drug use have spiked in the city. Despite this, San Francisco’s violent crime rate is at a near-historic low right now.

San Francisco is in the news again this week because downtown Federal workers based in the city’s Nancy Pelosi Federal Building have been advised to work from home due to the levels of crime in the area.

But how is this impacting tourists? And why are travelers choosing not to visit San Francisco right now? Here’s what you need to know:

Why This City Is Considered One Of The Worst Destinations To Visit In The U.S. This Year

Reduced Visitor Numbers

Visitors have shied away from San Francisco this year.

Other popular tourist cities in the U.S. such as New York and Chicago have seen a rise in the number of tourists. Tourism in New York has risen by 7.5% in the last 12 months and in Chicago by 6.5%.

At the same time, San Francisco has seen visitor numbers drop. Figures from June show that the tourism market was down 19.6% compared to the same period last year. Hotel occupancy has dropped by 6%.

empty road with cable car tracks leading up a steep hill San Francisco

Much of this has been blamed on the social problems in the city, but there are other factors at play as well.  

Before the pandemic, China was San Francisco’s top international market, but border controls mean that this year the city has seen less than 100,000 arrivals from China. This will have a significant impact on overall visitor numbers.

The slow-to-recover convention market in the city is having an impact on visitor numbers too. This means that there isn’t the buzz and bustle that tourists bring to San Francisco right now.

Car Crime Rates

One of the main reasons U.S. visitors are choosing to stay away from San Francisco is because of the city’s car crime rates.

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Cars parked in North Beach San Francisco

Anyone can be affected. When CNN reporter Kyung Lah visited San Francisco to report on the crime levels in the city, her rental car’s window was smashed and her bags stolen.

This isn’t an isolated incident. According to police data, there were over 22,000 thefts from vehicles in San Francisco last year.

The tourism-friendly North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco is the area with the highest rate of car break-ins. In the year up to July 14 2023, 2,432 break-ins had occurred in the area.

Tourists driving in the city are advised to be careful about where they park and the areas of the city they visit in their vehicle as a result. You should hide any valuables to minimize the risk that your car will be targeted.

Powell Hyde cable car San Francisco

Tourists might also consider using public transit to navigate the city rather than risk any car damage or loss of property by driving in the city.  

Increased Homelessness

San Francisco’s once busy downtown area looks very different today. Since January 2022, more than 20 businesses have left the area. These include Nordstrom, Whole Foods, and Old Navy.

The CEO of long-standing San Francisco-based luxury home furnishing store Gumps wrote a letter to the city Mayor complaining that visitors didn't want to shop in the city anymore.

A homeless person on the street in San Francisco

He complained that the city was “allowing the homeless to occupy our sidewalks, to openly distribute and use illegal drugs, to harass the public, and to defile the city’s streets.”

On any given night 38,000 people in San Francisco are homeless. This is a 35% increase compared to 2019.

Drug use is a huge issue amongst the city’s homeless population. This has been widely reported in the media too.

“The Department of Public Health estimates there are 11,000 people addicted to heroin in San Francisco. The Public Works Department picks up more than 12,500 discarded needles in the city every month.”

A large percentage of these homeless people live in the Tenderloin area of the city. This is also where most violent crimes in the city occur.

Tents on the sidewalk in the Tenderloin district San Francisco

From a tourism point of view, these crimes are concentrated in limited areas and are mostly not near the tourist areas of the city.

Avoiding the most dangerous parts of the city, particularly at night or when traveling alone, is one of the best ways for tourists to stay safe in San Francisco. These include the Tenderloin District and the Mission District.

But these figures continue to act as a deterrent to many travelers.

Visiting San Francisco

The areas of San Francisco affected by these issues are comparatively small, but the perception of the city for tourists is massively impacted.

With fewer tourists in the city and some workers being advised to work at home, this also means that the homeless population in the city is more visible than ever before.  

Aerial view of San Francisco

Large parts of San Francisco are considered perfectly safe for tourists. But the world is full of opportunistic criminals, and San Francisco is no different.

If you do visit San Francisco, you are advised to:

  • Remain aware of your surroundings at all times and ensure that your valuables are out of sight.
  •  Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar areas, especially at night. This is particularly true in areas that are considered high crime spots.
  • Plan your trip using the official city website and consider booking organized tours to help you explore the city.
  • Do not intervene if you see a crime occurring but report it to the police either in person or by calling 911.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

James II

Monday 21st of August 2023

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Carley Kowalczyk

Saturday 19th of August 2023

My daughter and I just got back from San Fran the beginning of August, I wish I had known how bad it was before we had booked our vacation there. The things we saw, smelled and witnessed did not make for an enjoyable vacation. I was on edge and tense the whole time anticipating being robbed or my daughter snatched from me she is 16. To go into CVS or Walgreens and to see everything locked up and to have to ask someone to get you something behind the glass is not convenient at all deterred a person from wanting to do much shopping. There was no place we visitors that was not touched by the homeless who are aggressive and vile towards the tourists. I won’t be going back there again.


Sunday 20th of August 2023

@Carley Kowalczyk, how could you not know and why would you want to even go there in the first place?