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Comment: City grows, prospers as tourism flourishes

Web Posted: 02/24/2007 12:00 PM CST

Marco A. Barros
Special to the Express-News

Tourism has changed San Antonio many times. It all started in 1968 with HemisFair and the new hotels and improvements on the River Walk caused by this great international event.

Today, the hotel inventory has reached more than 33,000 rooms, enough to accommodate large conventions and even multiple meetings with the expansion of the Convention Center.

The next impact was felt in 1988 with the opening of Rivercenter mall and SeaWorld San Antonio. These two major projects brought new jobs and more development to downtown and northwest San Antonio.

Both areas today are expanding and attracting new jobs and economic development. Just take a drive around SeaWorld and see what has become of the Westover Hills development with numerous corporate headquarters and more corporate expansions. SeaWorld was the spark that brought the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and the Radisson Resort. Rivercenter mall sparked interest in more retail and restaurants coming to downtown since 1988.

The skyline will change with the additions of Staybridge Hotel at Sunset Station and the new Grand Hyatt Convention Center Hotel. These two developments will have a significant impact on the gateway to East San Antonio that will spark more development of limited service hotels in that area and more restaurants and housing for downtown.

The Grand Hyatt will allow San Antonio to grow its convention and meeting business by allowing multiple meetings at the same time. The Convention & Visitors Bureau will be able to book meetings at the Convention Center, while large meetings are held at both the Grand Hyatt and Marriott Rivercenter, which have large ballrooms.

The projected opening for Staybridge is June, and the Grand Hyatt Convention Center is expected to open in January 2008.

2008 will be another significant year. San Antonio will receive a lot of attention from national publications as a meeting and convention destination as these new hotels are opened. Hopefully, the PGA Tour development and J.W. Marriott Resort will be under way as San Antonio becomes a new golf national and international destination.

San Antonio continues to define itself as a great place to meet and bring corporate business while we are becoming better known as a golf destination and cuisine destination.

Watch for other development, with new condominiums and apartments in the downtown area near Sunset Station and across from Market Square.

Major improvements around the city include a renovation and expansion of the San Antonio International Airport, expected to be completed by 2011, with new gates and a new terminal, plus additional parking spaces with a new garage. This development will generate more interest from major airlines to offer and continue nonstop service, which is vital to the meeting and convention business.

San Antonio will continue to prosper with the investment tourism has made in this city. The city will continue to flourish as the economy is diversified and other industry continues to grow, with the manufacturing and health/medical sectors expanding as well.

Tourism today supports a major part of the city budget, with revenues supporting the operations of several city departments, including convention facilities and the Alamodome, Parks and Recreation, Convention & Visitors Bureau, International Affairs and Cultural Affairs.

A tourism master plan called Destination S.A. is the key to keep this industry and the city moving forward. The new city management recognizes the importance of tourism and the improvements this industry brings to the quality of life and its citizens.

Marco A. Barros is executive director of the San Antonio Tourism Council, which serves more than 350 businesses and provides advocacy for the tourism industry.

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