By Diann Bayes, Vice President, San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Having devoted more than 20 years of my life to the travel and tourism industry, I can say without any doubt the COVID 19 pandemic has taxed me more than anything I have ever dealt with in my job.
Throughout my career, we have experienced crisis in our country, all affecting travel and tourism in some way. One of the most recent tragedies was September 11, 2001. I remember watching the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City, the plane hitting the Pentagon, and the plane crashing into the field in Pennsylvania. I was working at a Convention & Visitors Bureau in Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas, that is, not the Big Apple but the Little Apple. We certainly felt the impact on the travel industry I’d been working in for a few years, but, honestly, we felt it from arm’s length. I knew friends who lost friends or who knew people who were there, but I didn’t really know anyone at the time who had truly LIVED the tragedy.
Today, it’s different. Since mid-March, we’ve all seen the news, read online and print articles, attended webinars, been on virtual conference calls, and some of us have had the good fortune to have the ability to work from home.
We’ve watched grocery store shelves empty, had restaurant staff deliver our orders curbside, worn masks in public, and stood six feet away from strangers whenever we were out. For the first time I can remember, we are GLOBALLY experiencing this pandemic, even if many of us are not sick. Our quality of life has been greatly affected.
Our citizens have been unable to enjoy our attractions like Fort Concho, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Chicken Farm Art Center, and San Angelo State Park.
Our citizens have been unable to shop in their favorite stores, eat inside their favorite restaurants, or attend a sporting event.
Our citizens have been unable to enjoy live music or dance at one of our many live music locations across the city; a city named by the Texas Music Office as one of only 10 Music Friendly Cities in Texas.
Our citizens have been unable to congregate for proms, reunions, or graduations at any of our local meeting venues.
I work for the San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), a Division of the Chamber of Commerce. A CVB is another name for a Destination Marketing Organization. Our role is to promote San Angelo to visitors who will come and spend new tax dollars at our accommodations, bring new money to our retail establishments and restaurants, and hold special events like conventions and meetings, sporting events, or festivals and events that bring other visitors to our city to spend new money. We are essentially the city’s advertising agency to the outside world.
Why is this visitor travel important to you as a citizen? Direct visitor spending brought $221 million to San Angelo in 2018, in addition to $22 million in local and state taxes. If not for visitor spending, every San Angelo household would pay an additional $546 per year in taxes.
This week, we celebrate the U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel & Tourism Week theme, the Spirit of Travel. While things are quiet right now, we know visitors will return.
We encourage our citizens to celebrate the spirit of travel, especially since many of us have been at home and away from the ability to do the things we hold dear in our own cities. If you are comfortable getting out, visit the open locations using proper social distancing and following the CDC guidelines. Otherwise, be a virtual visitor. Take advantage of shopping at our local retail establishments online or order to-go from an area restaurant. And then appreciate the things to see and do in San Angelo that you miss.
We also encourage you to consider this: What would life be like in our city without places for people to visit? What company would want to relocate a business here if not for our quality of life attractions? What family would choose to move or retire here if not for the travel and tourism product?
We encourage you to support our travel and tourism businesses. We also ask you to invite your friends and family back to our city, so they can experience our community, too, when the time is right. The spirit of travel is alive and well in San Angelo and we look forward to having our citizens join us in welcoming back leisure and business travelers soon.
San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau
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