San Antonio Magazine | Antonio Gutierrez
During May 20-24, it was “all hands on deck” for Marc Anderson and his talented team at Visit San Antonio. They were caught up in a flurry of activity while San Antonio played host to the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW, the premiere international inbound travel trade show, which showcased the Alamo City on a global level. About 5,100 attendees from more than 60 countries attended, not to mention 600 local volunteers who made our visitors feel at home.
“It’s important because we’ve been working hard over the past 24 months to build San Antonio into a global brand,” Anderson, president & CEO of Visit San Antonio, said during a break from the recent conference. “This conference will assist in driving nearly 400,000 global travelers to San Antonio over the next three years and generating more than $600 million in tourist spend back into our city.”
May 24th also marked Anderson’s official two-year anniversary on the job, having hailed from the Windy City. Prior to relocating to San Antonio, he was chief operating officer for Choose Chicago, the sales and marketing arm for the City of Chicago (his hometown), as well as McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America.
Since arriving here in 2021, Anderson has wasted no time in rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. “Shortly after I started, we made the decision to make storytelling the main pillar of our organization,” he said. “It encompasses marketing, paid media, earned media and a global development plan. It also included us opening our first overseas representation in the United Kingdom in October 2022.”
How is the tourism and convention industry looking for San Antonio this summer?
We are optimistic. If our hotel occupancy continues to pace, we will reach historic highs. We are already experiencing historic highs with average daily rate and revenue per available room, which is very important if you are a hotel manager. We’re investing 30 percent more in our marketing dollars spend for our summer advertising to ensure the pace continues, and that we not only attract more leisure travelers but more conventions to our city.
What attracted you to San Antonio?
It’s actually unusual in my career for someone to spend their whole life in one city. I’ve always been the type of marketer and sales professional who has to truly believe in the product I’m representing, and I felt San Antonio has so many stories to tell locally and globally. I also felt my experience with Choose Chicago and the Peninsula Hotels, along with my global marketing and public relations background, that I can add value to this city by showcasing our culture, our history and our stories.
What do you enjoy about your role as president and CEO?
It makes me proud to represent such a diverse city like San Antonio, which is a historic city and 305 years old. We celebrate our city and are also evolving at such an incredible pace.
What was some of the feedback from visitors who attended the IPW Conference?
The feedback has been phenomenal. Many attendees expressed that this was the best IPW they had ever attended. Delegates from nearly every continent mentioned how they enjoyed our city and the warmth, smiles, and passion of our residents. They had no idea how diverse our community was. It was important for the attendees to experience and explore the city because it is our culture that makes San Antonio unique. The President of the U.S. Travel Association, Geoff Freeman, praised the community for coming together and showcasing our city’s distinctiveness, charm and incredible cuisine. I heard we set the bar high for other cities to follow.
What is the impact of San Antonio’s hospitality industry on our economy?
We are the third largest industry in our city. One in seven San Antonians are employed in hospitality. The money we generate from our city and state boils down to tax revenue. It keeps our schools, police, and fire, for instance, in operation.
Why is San Antonio a great destination for tourists and conventions?
We are a completely walkable city. We are also home to the No. 1 and No. 2 tourist attractions in Texas, the River Walk and the Alamo, which has embarked on a $500 million expansion. The River Walk is something our locals need to experience, as well as visitors from the U.S. and all over the world. It is well maintained with beautiful lights and foliage. We’re also one of the only UNESCO heritage sites in the U.S. and also a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. From a convention standpoint, we have 14,000 hotel rooms downtown at every price point. We have a beautiful Convention Center expanded in 2015, as well as a new expansion and renovation of the Alamodome. The $2.5 billion expansion of our airport is key to growing our convention and leisure market.
Chicago certainly gets cold. So, what are your thoughts about San Antonio’s warm weather?
My wife and I definitely enjoy the weather since we have 300 days of sunshine. It’s nice to be able to get outdoors during the winter.