It’s difficult to fathom that my tenure at Visit San Antonio comes to a close in a couple of days. It seems like only yesterday that I was embracing the challenge of leaving Dallas and taking the helm of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In the years since, I have found more than a job. I have found opportunities for growth and professional and personal investment in a very special community. I have nurtured lifelong friendships. Most importantly, I have found a home.
While I’m heading east to take over as President & CEO of Visit Orlando, the flagship of the most popular tourism destination in the country, I’ll be leaving a piece of my heart in San Antonio. It has been a privilege to work with each of you, and over the past nearly 10 years it has been gratifying to join forces to accomplish some notable things. For instance:
- In 2016, the San Antonio CVB transitioned from a city department to the public-private Visit San Antonio, a 501c6 entity. Also that year, we saw the grand re-opening of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center after a $325 million transformation.
- Two years ago, Visit San Antonio joined with the City and the hotel industry to create the San Antonio Tourism Public Improvement District, which is forecast to eventually generate a 33 percent gain in the organization’s marketing budget.
- Visit San Antonio was a partner in pursuit of a UNESCO World Heritage designation for San Antonio’s legendary Spanish colonial missions.
- Visitation to San Antonio grew by nearly 37 percent, reaching 41 million visitors in 2019.
- From 2011 to 2019, Visit San Antonio’s budget increased by nearly 40 percent and the organization generated more than 7 million group nights.
There was much more, of course, including so many moments away from the headlines that contributed to enduring changes to our industry and the landscape of this remarkable city. I recall being with you for announcements of Final Fours, major conventions and other impactful events, cutting the ribbons on needed improvements on our landscape and many of us filling the City Council chambers to let our leaders know how important this $15 billion industry is for this community.
At so many important crossroads, we have come together to spearhead change. Time and again, we have been stronger collectively, and it’s never been more important than now.
In the wake of my exit, I leave behind so much hope for you, our partners, business leaders and influencers. The future looks brighter, even in the second half of 2021. The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, along with the stubborn resilience of an industry honed by months of fire, bodes well. We may be operating leaner and tougher, but San Antonio remains a beautiful and alluring destination of choice that will ultimately rise above all this.
Another encouragement for me is the team in place at Visit San Antonio. It’s among the strongest in the country, at every position. It’s a source of great pride for me that the organization was named by the Express-News not long ago as one of the Top Workplaces in San Antonio. It is also operating leaner and tougher, but the company’s talented leadership is committed and well-positioned to not miss a step in coming months.
This includes our Chief Operating Officer, Dave Krupinski, who has been named the interim President & CEO. I hope you’ll get to know him very soon, if you don’t already. His open and honest philosophy leans heavily on proactive and interactive communication, and he has been a strong behind-the-scenes force for Visit San Antonio for more than seven years. As a veteran of three decades in the hospitality industry, he understands marketing, tourism development, airport operations, convention sales and so much more. Contact him at DaveKrupinski@visitsanantonio.com.
Dave, along with Visit San Antonio, will need your support. Especially now, as we struggle to emerge from a time of pandemic and loss, our team will be coming to you for insight and support. With the 87th Legislative Session under way, including several key topics on the table that may impact our industry, please answer our calls for action.
In coming months, those calls may surround the renewal of the management agreement between the City of San Antonio and Visit San Antonio. At another important crossroads, it’s vital that the effective work of our organization be allowed to continue. In a time of healing, Visit San Antonio must continue to be agile in its operations, with the necessary speed-to-market capability to fuel the city’s third-largest industry.
That healing will take time, as our most recent hotel occupancy and revenue numbers show:
- In December, hotel occupancy was at 38.9 percent, average daily rate was $80.27, room demand hit 566,494 and room revenue was at $45.5 million – all up from November.
- For the entire 2020 calendar year, occupancy was 42.2 percent, with an $88.81 average daily rate. Room demand was at 7.1 million and room revenue at $628.2 million.
There remains work to do, and moving forward I’m proud of the Visit San Antonio team in place to handle the challenge. Indeed, it’s my greatest legacy from my time here.
Thank you again for partnering with me for almost a decade. I have been truly fortunate to be a part of a community – and its remarkable hospitality industry – over nearly a decade. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any time at 210-701-2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Casandra Matej, CDME, CTA
President & CEO
Visit San Antonio