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Q&A With Visit San Antonio President & CEO Marc Anderson on City’s Meetings Potential
View of convention center in San Antonio. Image courtesy of Visit San Antonio
There’s a lot of new happenings in San Antonio’s hospitality industry. Fresh hotels are on the horizon, including new-build Artista San Antonio Hotel on the River Walk (2023), a luxury InterContinental Hotel on the River Walk receiving a $50 million refresh (2023), Estancia del Norte opening in the Uptown District this past April after a renovation and rebrand, plus much, much more.
Visit San Antonio made a big change this year too, welcoming its new president and CEO, Marc Anderson, this summer, who joins the organization following six years as COO at Choose Chicago. We spoke with Anderson about the state of meetings in the city, what excites him most about San Antonio’s potential and more.
What’s the outlook for meetings and events in San Antonio?
San Antonio has successfully returned to safe, in-person meetings since the fall of 2020. To date, we have been fortunate to successfully and safely host a number of sizable groups, including the NCAA 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, the Texas High School Coaches Association and the Women of Joy conference, among others.
Historically, after times of disaster or stress, the travel industry has been a major factor in helping the American economy rebound. That is significant in San Antonio, where the tourism sector is a leading industry in comparison to many destinations. This year is the beginning of a strong recovery for our industry, and we look optimistically toward 2022 to further drive a safe and fast rebound.
Staying connected with customers, conducting virtual site visits and continuing to tell the San Antonio story over the past 18 months has kept us well-positioned for recovery. With a number of major groups on the books and leads steadily increasing, we look forward to welcoming many more groups to our beautiful city.
As you have stepped into your new role, what excites you the most about San Antonio’s potential for meetings and events?
There are very few U.S. cities that offer the level of authenticity and storytelling that a city like San Antonio can offer. This is one of the reasons I moved my family to San Antonio. San Antonio is extremely pro-business and pro-tourism. Our community believes in the power of our industry and how we add great value to San Antonio and our residents. San Antonio is a vibrant community that is poised for not only an incredible recovery, but extensive growth in the coming years. As the seventh-largest city in the U.S., San Antonio is experiencing a renaissance unlike many cities in our country.
In addition, San Antonio’s walkability is unlike most U.S. cities. Our convention center is literally within walking distance to everything in our city. As groups look at budgets to recover from COVID-19, a large line item such as attendee transportation can be eliminated by choosing San Antonio for their convention.
Any recent examples of meetings and events moving forward safely in San Antonio recently?
In early 2021, San Antonio proved that the destination is ready for events with the success of hosting the NCAA 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship from March 21 to April 4. Accommodating 64 participating teams within a bubble environment required meticulous planning and coordination on the part of not only the NCAA, Visit San Antonio and San Antonio Sports, but several local venues, hotels, restaurants, and other San Antonio partners, and thousands of volunteers.
From there, San Antonio’s hotels, venues, restaurants and attractions have remained committed to health and safety as our No. 1 priority. This summer, San Antonio hosted the Texas High School Coaches Association with over 14,000 attendees, breaking previous attendance numbers.
Our biggest takeaway is that meeting safely is very possible. We must all stay diligent in this recovery effort and not let our guard down when it comes to meeting safely.
Plus: The Latest Meeting Venue and Development News in San Antonio
Anderson emphasized that the amount of development happening in San Antonio that will contribute to its continued standing as a desirable meetings and events destination. Major highlights meeting planners should know about include the following.
- Artista San Antonio is coming to River Walk in summer 2023, adding 112 guest rooms to the area with an art-centric modern design with a nod to the Spanish colonial roots of San Antonio. The hotel, operating under Accor’s Morgans Originals lifestyle brand, will engage directly with the local artist community, providing several unique offerings for guests including access to limited edition prints, custom artwork and bespoke textile and leather goods. Over 2,500 square feet of event and meeting space will be available along with signature bar and restaurant experiences.
- An InterContinental hotel is coming to River Walk in early 2023. Scarlett Hotel Group and Trailbreak Partners have purchased the former Wyndham San Antonio River Walk and have planned a $50 million overhaul that will transform the 21-story building into a luxury, full-service, four-star, 390-room InterContinental Hotel. As part of the multimillion-dollar upgrades, the new hotel will offer 40,000 square feet of meeting space and nearly 3,000 square feet of dining and restaurant space, as well as luxury rooftop amenities.
- Dual-Concept AC Hotel & Element Hotel will debut at Riverview Towers in May 2022. Across from historic Main Plaza and San Fernado Cathedral, The Riverview Towers will soon be home to San Antonio’s first AC Hotel by Marriott and Element Hotel by Westin. The hotels’ 20-story building will include 4,000 square feet of function space and rooftop bar One Watson on the 13th floor overlooking the River Walk. AC Hotel will offer 181 rooms, while Element Hotel will offer 169 spacious guest rooms designed for longer stays including fully equipped in-room kitchens, fitness options and onsite laundry.
Additionally, Anderson said that the trendy neighborhood The Pearl is continuing to add dining concepts, which means more after-hours options for meeting attendees. "Two upcoming dining concepts will be centered around outdoor living. Allora is a stylish, full-service coastal Italian restaurant designed to take diners on a journey through the romantic Amalfi Coast. Arrosta is a fast-casual cafe, or tavola, bringing the flavors of Italian street markets to Pearl in San Antonio." Both plan to open in late 2021.
"Another major development is the three-phase renovation of Hemisfair, which is dramatically enhancing the downtown area and is fantastic for meetings and events, especially given it is adjacent location to the Convention Center," he added, speaking of the redevelopment of the historic district. "We are eagerly awaiting two new dining options in Hemisfair: The Bombay Bicycle Club’s second location will open in Hemisfair in late 2021, and Jerk Shack’s third location will open in Hemisfair in the summer of 2022."
Visit San Antonio