Travel Matters in San Angelo and Has for a Very Long TimeOpinion
OPINION — For more than 20 years, I have worked in some capacity in the travel and tourism industry. Every May across the United States, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, also known as Destination Marketing Organizations, celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, which falls on May 6-12 this year. The theme is Then and Now.
In thinking about the theme, I thought back on my then and now experiences with my family. We refer to those stories as being “back in the day” tales.
For example, back in the day when I was in my teens, our family had a 25-acre farm in the piney woods of east Texas, where we planted vegetables. We picked produce every other day and drove to the farmer’s market in Beaumont where we set up a table and sold it to early morning customers or provided it to dining establishments. Back then, we just called it eating what you grew and selling the rest. Now it’s referred to at restaurants as “farm to table.”
Back in the day, we would load up the Country Squire station wagon with a picnic basket and head to Arlington to go to Six Flags over Texas, stay all day, then head home before nightfall. Now it’s called “taking a day trip.”
Back in the day, we shared our amusement park experience when we got home by meeting up with our friends or by calling them on our landline phone and telling them about the fun we had riding the rides and seeing the city. Now, we follow, share, pin, tweet, post, video, and blog about our experiences. In the words of French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr back in the day, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Now I think of the “then” in San Angelo. Back in the early days of Fort Concho when the town was getting established in the late 1800’s, I can imagine visitors coming into town and deciding they wanted to spend the night. Hotel rooms were scarce or nonexistent, so a family might let a room for the night from someone’s home. They might even pay a little extra for a meal in the morning before getting on their wagon to head elsewhere. Now, it’s referred to as a bed and breakfast. Again, see Karr’s quote above.
Throughout the years since our founding, visitors have come and gone after spending time in San Angelo. Along with time, they spent money and continue to do so today. While not the largest industry in our city, tourism plays an important part in our economy and in our citizens quality of life. In 2016, visitors spent $178 million in our community. Those dollars came from flying or driving into our city, staying at our accommodations, dining at our restaurants, shopping in our stores, playing sports in our facilities, visiting our art museums, enjoying a concert or performance, stopping at our convenience stores for fuel or food, taking in nature-based activities on our lakes, river, and parks, and enjoying our many attractions. Some even came in for medical procedures they couldn’t get elsewhere, referred to in our industry as medical tourism. More than 3,100 jobs in San Angelo are tourism related and those individuals earned more than $67 million in 2016. A number of those jobs are first-time employment opportunities for young people, who learn customer-service skills which they will use throughout their careers.
While visitors discover the many treasures in our beautiful city, I encourage the citizens of San Angelo to do the same. During National Travel and Tourism Week, I ask that you be a tourist in your own home town so that you, too, can learn of the many things to see and do. The more you know about San Angelo, the more good news you can share. You are our ambassadors and I ask you to embrace your role.
What’s in it for you? If not for visitor spending in San Angelo, every household would pay an additional $379 per year in taxes. The more visitors to our area and the more money they spend, the more money you save. It’s a win-win for everyone.
For more information about the things to see and do in the city, go to DiscoverSanAngelo.com. We believe life’s better in a state of travel and the visitors spending money in San Angelo show that to be true. Enjoy our oasis in West Texas, off the beaten path. Happy National Travel and Tourism Week!