By Sarah Beauchamp and Katie Kervin, Assistant Editors
What's new for meetings and conventions in your destination that you're most excited about?
We recently announced a $325-million expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The expansion, scheduled to begin this fall and projected to be complete in early 2016, will provide more exhibit space, a stunning ballroom that will be the largest in Texas, larger meeting rooms, and state-of-the-art finishes throughout. This project will modernize the entire center, along with adding additional space. It will allow us to capture more and larger meetings, and will be particularly attractive for corporate meetings looking for new destinations.
I am also very excited about the launch of our Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program. This is a national certification for frontline workers and volunteers that helps build destination knowledge and boost customer-service levels across the city. We believe this program will allow us to greatly enhance our visitors’ experiences in a destination already known for hospitality.
What is your leadership style?
The environment is ever-changing, so I strive to have a leadership style that is nimble and flexible. You have to be willing to take risks and test creative boundaries. Some initiatives will have high reward and success, while some may not, so you have to be willing to change direction. I strive to have a transparent and collaborative approach with partners, staff, and clients. I think some of my team would tell you that I have high expectations but that I am willing to be in the trenches for the success of the city.
What are you most looking forward to in 2013?
We have a very strong convention year ahead of us, and we are eager for the large increase in our convention attendance. We are also seeing much stronger interest in the corporate-meeting markets, and our new convention center facilities and great resort properties are helping us capture more of this lucrative market.
Personally, I am excited to see the completion of San Antonio's River Walk expansion — which expands the River Walk from three to 15 miles — a project four years in the making that is not only a great amenity to San Antonio residents but for meeting attendees as well. To the north, the Museum Reach features new restaurants, venues, and cultural attractions, while the new Mission Reach to the south is the largest ecosystem-restoration project currently under way in the country, and flows by four Spanish Colonial Missions. This portion will offer outdoor activities, like hiking, boating, and kayaking.
What is the biggest challenge — and the biggest opportunity — facing the meetings industry today?
The biggest challenge is being able to differentiate your destination from others. Competition is far greater than ever before, with expansions creating exciting new destination opportunities and the more established destinations continually re-creating their guest experiences. Additionally, attendees now have so many events and other options for getting information that making productive use of their time is a higher priority than ever before. We believe San Antonio is well positioned to meet these challenges and grow our share of the meetings industry.
Executive Director, San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau