"We offer a kind of grittiness you can’t find much anymore,” said Randy Shaw, a longtime San Francisco housing advocate and a driving force behind the idea of Tenderloin tourism. “And what is grittier than the Tenderloin?"
Actually, pretty much most of rural America west of the Mississippi thanks to methamphetamine and manufacturing's decline, but until there's trailer park meth cook and strip mall streetwalker tours in the Central Valley, we'll play along.
There is plenty of merit to the idea. The neighborhood does have significant architectural and historic significance, especially since vice has been in its perpetually diseased blood since the 19th century, where it was a whistle-stop on any seaman's tour of San Francisco. And maybe suburbanites and people from the flyover states might take home a new appreciation for how society's weakest have faced increasing failure thanks to economic and social policy.
Yes, one could just made the obvious jokes and called it a day, or we could agree that "Encouraging adventure-seeking San Franciscans to visit may be easier than selling the Tenderloin to tourists, city tourism officials say," because as the The New York Times story points out, a certain segment of San Francisco views leaving the Tenderloin to its own devices just shows our tolerance, if not compassion.