A view of La Antorcha de la Amistad, located in the traffic rotary of Losoya, Commerce, Market and Alamo streets in downtown San Antonio, one if the busiest spots for tourism. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

According to a new study, the annual economic impact of San Antonio’s hospitality industry, one of the local economy’s largest sectors, continues to increase from $8.1 billion in 2003 to $13.4 billion in 2013, a 66% increase.

From the Trinity University study presentation.
From the Trinity University study presentation.

One out of eight San Antonians work in the tourism industry that hosts 31 million visitors annually. These visitors contributed $183 million in taxes and fees to the City of San Antonio last year.

The study, conducted by Trinity University Professors Richard Butler and Mary Stefl, was presented at the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau‘s annual meeting Tuesday at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

The report estimates that $348 million went to local governments combined. The funds are reinvested into the city’s tourism infrastructure by supporting projects including $125 million for San Antonio River Walk improvements, $100 million for community sports facilities, and $110 million for cultural arts and the Tobin Center, among other venues and institutions frequented by visitors and residents.

From the Trinity University study presentation.
From the Trinity University study presentation.

“Travel and tourism mean big business – the more visitors we can have, the more we build new infrastructure for all to enjoy and give back to,” said Casandra Matej, executive director of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Cassandra Matej, CVB executive director
Cassandra Matej, CVB executive director

San Antonio’s military, manufacturing, and medical sectors also benefit from increased tourism. For example, the recent influx of dentists to the city for the American Dental Association’s annual meeting and the success in “backyard marketing”– creating partnerships with other organizations, such as Biomed SA, to bring the World Stem Cell Summit to the city to gain national exposure, Matej said.

“Visitor spending impacts virtually every corner of the local economy – sports, food service, transportation, cultural events, healthcare and much more,” said John Clamp, executive director of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association. “Many of the amenities and attractions San Antonians enjoy on a daily basis are available to them only because these attractions are also supported by millions of visitors.”

The editor of Texas Highways was on hand to make another announcement during the meeting: San Antonio is the No. 1 travel destination among the magazine’s readers.

“Texas Highways turns 40 in 2014, and we wanted readers to be part of the year-long celebration as we showcase travel destinations around the state through interesting articles,” said Jill Lawless, editor of Texas Highways. “Last year, we invited them to send us their favorite destinations, which they shared with us by Facebook, phone, email, the web, and through so many amazingly detailed letters in general about San Antonio being very high on their list.

Texas Highways Editor Jill Lawless
Texas Highways Editor Jill Lawless

“It really speaks to the travel tradition of San Antonio for so many of our readers,” she said. “What distinguished San Antonio and the feedback is the number of readers who mentioned return trips, family reunions, trips at Christmas, and more. San Antonio, to so many, is a Texas hometown.”

In the past two years, the hospitality industry has seen an increase of more than 10,000 local jobs, bringing the total to 122,513.

Restaurant and catering make the largest contribution to San Antonio’s local economy, accounting for 45.2% of the total economic impact, or $6.1 billion. Transportation and lodging sectors contributed 20.1% and 20.9% to the overall economic impact of the city’s hospitality industry in 2013, respectively, the study showed.

The City’s 7% Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) provided $56.6 million in 2013 to support services that both visitors and residents enjoy. Funds were dedicated to maintaining and improving convention, sports and entertainment facilities, to support the key efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and for cultural and arts programs and historic preservation.

“Many hoteliers are reinvesting in their hotels, and I think consistently, year after year, they are experiencing a higher, greater occupancy that is hopefully spread out over the year with more conventions,” Clamp said, noting major renovations taking place at several San Antonio’s prominent hotels including St. Anthony Hotel and Hotel Emma at the Pearl.

The renovated St. Anthony Hotel lobby. Photo by Robert Rivard.
The renovated St. Anthony Hotel lobby. Photo by Robert Rivard.

San Antonio’s thriving tourism industry also will challenge members of the Texas Transportation Commission to create multiple modes of transport in and around the city beyond the connections of the River Walk, said TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin III.

“There’s no doubt San Antonio is growing – people want to get here as fast as they can,” he said. “We’ve got good systems in place. People look you in the eye when they shake your hand. It’s a great place to live and to work, and we will continue to focus on finding new ways and funds for people to travel here.”

The City will welcome another powerful tourism and hospitality opportunity through the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, slated for Dec. 9-13 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. As the largest breast cancer meeting in the world, it is expected to draw attendees from more than 90 countries who will make use of the Convention Center and hotels, said Steve Clanton, vice president of sales and services for the SACVB.

*Set/featured image: A view of the Torch of Friendship, located in the traffic rotary of Losoya, Commerce, Market and Alamo Streets in downtown San Antonio. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Katherine Nickas

Katherine Nickas was born in San Antonio near Fort Sam Houston but grew up in southern Indiana. In 2007, she began working for Indiana AgriNews where she covered topics ranging from corn and soybean production...