Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
San Antonio’s revamped tourism body, Visit San Antonio, announced its inaugural 21-member board of directors Wednesday, a major milestone in its transition from being a City-run entity to a public-private nonprofit.
Selected from more than 60 applicants, the board includes members from City government and those in the hotel and lodging, restaurant, culinary, and arts and culture industries.
“The great diversity of attractions in San Antonio, growing almost by the day, makes our city one of the top tourism destinations in the world,” Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), a major proponent of the organization’s transition, stated in a news release. “By putting together this talented and similarly diverse board, we have given Visit San Antonio a wonderful foundation to be the strong and proactive organization we need.”
Serving one-to-three-year terms, the board includes tourism influencers and public representatives from all parts of the city: 41% from downtown, 18% from the Northside and Westside each, 9% from the Eastside and Southside each, and 5% from the Broadway corridor.
Formed on Sept. 29 out of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) through a 7-2 City Council vote, Visit San Antonio will continue its predecessor’s mission of enhancing and diversifying the city’s tourism industry with the increased marketing flexibility and revenue opportunities of a 501(c)(6), officials said.
“Visit San Antonio is positioned today to be one of the stronger destination management organizations in the country,” Board Chairman Frank Miceli stated in a news release. “This is a great lineup of thinkers and doers and will provide positive and entrepreneurial input in how we go about things.”
Forty-six percent of the board includes representatives from large businesses, 27% from small businesses, and 27% from the City of San Antonio. Trustees were chosen by the board’s original five-person Nominating Committee, appointed by Mayor Ivy Taylor and Visit San Antonio’s President and CEO Casandra Matej, who was executive director of the former San Antonio CVB.
The committee included Miceli, Spurs Sports & Entertainment senior vice president of sales and franchise business operations; Marise McDermott, The Witte Museum president and CEO; Rusty Wallace, Omni Hotels regional vice president and general manager; and Tim Sullivan, Marriott Rivercenter/Riverwalk Hotels general manager.
Over the next year, Visit San Antonio will transition into a more autonomous entity, detaching fully from direct City supervision in October 2017. As part of its five-year, $23 million contract, funded by 35% of the City’s hotel occupancy tax, Visit San Antonio will continue to submit quarterly and annual reports, performance targets, and a revenue enhancement plan.
Director of Communications Richard Oliver says the nonprofit will continue to support “family-fun” attractions like the River Walk and the Alamo, which draw the vast majority of visitors, 70% of whom come from within the state. Visit San Antonio, however, will place a greater emphasis on taking advantage of an upsurge in authentic culinary experiences, the arts and culture scene, and World Heritage Sites.
Visit San Antonio estimates tourism and hospitality – one of the city’s top five industries – brings $13.4 billion into the city annually and employs 122,500 people, one-eighth of the city’s total workforce. It also attracts 32.5 million visitors per year, and 20 million of those stay overnight, a critical source of revenue for the city.
Board responsibilities will include budget review and approval, contributing to the marketing strategies, advocating, and generally advising and assisting the president and CEO.
“We look forward to working with these innovative and influential San Antonio leaders,” Matej stated. “This group will help us drive strategy, as well as become our biggest advocates and ambassadors for San Antonio and the travel industry.”
List of board members:
- Mayor Appointments: Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3); Councilman Alan Warrick (D2)
- City Manager Appointment: Sheryl Sculley, City of San Antonio
- Hotel and Lodging: Dan King, Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa; Rusty Wallace, Omni Hotels and Resorts; Tim Sullivan, Marriot River Center/ River Walk
- Leisure Attractions: Carl Lum, SeaWorld San Antonio; Marise McDermott, The Witte Museum
- Restaurant Culinary Industry: Ruben Sepulveda, Don Pedro’s / San Antonio Restaurant Association
- Heritage and Preservation: Michael Cortez, La Familia Cortez Restaurants
- Arts, Culture, and Music: Henry Brun, Richport Enterprises
- Transportation: Jeff Arndt, VIA Metropolitan Transit
- Chamber: Denise Rodriguez-Hernandez, True Flavors Catering
- At Large: Pat Frost, Frost Bank; Frank Miceli, Spurs, Sports & Entertainment; Cristina Aldrete, North San Antonio Chamber
- President/ CEO: Casandra Matej, Visit San Antonio
- Ex-Officio Voting: Mike Sawaya, Convention and Sports Facilities; Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation
- Ex-Officio Non-Voting: Tom Jones, City of San Antonio, Aviation Department; Major General Juan Ayala, City of San Antonio, Office of Military Affairs