13 FEB 2015: What happens when fans from the mighty Toronto Raptors and the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs meet up? It’s a lovefest with trip giveaways and cheering fans. As two of the best basketball teams competed at the Air Canada Centre the other night, reps from the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Texas Tourism Office mingled with local media in a corporate box to watch the exciting game (the Raptors won) and to share some of the latest tourism developments.

First, there’s that good weather. As we’re hibernating inside our parkas, folks in San Antonio are enjoying warm temperatures averaging 24 Celsius and yes, they tell me 300 days of sunshine a year.  

What’s new:

The Alamo Mission

Sometimes known as “The Shrine of Texas Liberty,” the Alamo Mission which is the largest tourist attraction in Texas is slated for a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation this year.  

Agents who have history buff clients will no doubt take interest in the hefty accolade expected there. “The big exciting news we are banking on this July is that we are up for (UNESCO) World Heritage status for our missions and for the Alamo,” says Dave Krupinski, assistant executive director with the San Antonio CVB about the historic site which he noted holds deep significance on the Alamo revolution and freedom.

The outcome: tremendous opportunities for clients seeking the next UNESCO destination for their bucket list trips.

River Walk

When you utter San Antonio folks think of the Alamo and the River Walk, and the city recently completed a US $358.3 million project to expand the River Walk from three to 15 miles. There’s the Museum Reach that connects downtown with museums and cultural districts including the historic Pearl Brewery to the north and the newer Mission Reach which joins the original River Walk to four of the city’s Spanish colonial missions.

The outcome: The Mission Reach is noted as the largest ecosystem restoration in an urban area. “It’s one of the largest urban eco parks in the country,” says Krupinski.

San Fernando Cathedral’s new video art installation

The facade of the historic San Fernando Cathedral is the backdrop to a monumental open art installation dubbed “San Antonio: The Saga.”

Created by renowned French artist, Xavier de Richemont this is his first outdoor video show in the United States. Visitors can view a breathtaking 20 minute free show scheduled over the next 10 years.

The outcome: “It tells the story of San Antonio and Texas from the beginning of the Alamo, the Texas Revolution to present day. It’s very emotional. With the colours, the imagery you’ll leave the show bringing a tear to your eye,” says Krupinski.

Repurposing the old Pearl Brewery

This ongoing redevelopment project of the 128-old Pearl Brewery can best be compared to Toronto’s own Distillery District. You take a derelict complex that’s been in the alcohol business for eons and breathe new life into it. In the Pearl Brewery case, clients can stroll through this art-filled urban village next to the River Walk.

The outcome: Once complete, Pearl Brewery will be the city’s “it” spot. There is a lot happening there.  Be sure to check out the Culinary Institute of America’s newest campus, restaurants by some of San Antonio’s top chefs, unique retailers, the largest farmers market in San Antonio (held on Saturdays), and the anticipated spring opening of Hotel Emma, a new Kimpton luxury-boutique hotel.

Canadian visitors

Overall the San Antonio CVB reports Canadian visitation is expected to increase due to the anticipated UNESCO designation scheduled later this year.

Right now Canadians average 2-3 night stays. “But when people come they say they wish they could have stayed an extra day,” says Krupinski and adds, “That message is resonating with travel agencies who are pushing that extra stay based on previous consumer visits.”

The take away: A surge of visitors

Over the next 10 years the San Antonio CVB anticipates an economic impact to the city of $100 million. “(This is) just from the incremental business that is coming off the UNESCO world heritage designation,” says Krupinski and notes from the hotel perspective an additional $3 million in revenue from hotel taxes will be created.

“It’s a big win but it’s also a big win for the clients of these travel agencies because these missions are part of San Antonio’s soul and you’ll feel that when clients visit. The people from San Antonio will speak from the heart and that’s part of what created San Antonio.”

For more travel details visit www.visitsanantonio.com

 

GAME FACES

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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