Fort Worth takes its shot: Tourist, marketing group has banner year

The 2019 Visit Fort Worth Hospitality Award was presented to the Fort Worth Zoo by Rosa Navejar, chairman of the Visit Fort Worth Board of Directors. Kristen Garrett and Zaire Bird accepted the award.

Visit Fort Worth had plenty of news, some awards and economic impact data at its 6th Annual Meeting & Breakfast on Feb. 5, but the big news went back over 200 years.

Visit Fort Worth announced that the hip-hop historical musical Hamilton will get its shot at Bass Hall for the 2019-2020 season. The acclaimed – and criticized – Broadway hit by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the nation’s first Treasury secretary and Federalist Papers co-author will tread the boards June 9–28, 2020.

While that announcement brought some cheers at the breakfast at Omni Fort Worth that looped in an estimated 820 attendees, there was plenty more to chew on.

The meeting’s theme, “Tastemakers,” spotlighted individuals and entities enhancing the city’s tourism economy. In the lobby prior to breakfast there were FunkyTown Donuts. The breakfast included a breakfast taco with brisket from Heim Barbecue and Mrs. Renfro’s Salsa.

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Visit Fort Worth, the city’s tourist and marketing organization, announced its latest economic impact data, noting that Fort Worth had 9.4 million tourists in 2018 with an economic impact of $2.6 billion. Hotel occupancy in Fort Worth averaged 72.6 percent, exceeding the national average. There was an 18 percent growth in visitor spending in 2018, hitting $2.5 billion.

The 2019 Hospitality Award was presented to the Fort Worth Zoo for its contributions in developing Fort Worth’s tourism industry. Accepting the award were Kristen Garrett, outreach manager for the zoo, and Zuri Bird, who made sounds appropriate for winning the award.

Fort Worth Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker accepted the award on behalf of the Zoo and revealed results of a new study estimating the economic impact of the attraction.

In 2009, an independent study indicated that the Fort Worth Zoo had an annual direct economic impact on the city of Fort Worth of $124 million, he said. Now, ten years later, Fouraker said a new study said the annual impact today has grown to $206 million.

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The annual award honors a person, company or organization that has made significant contributions to developing, marketing and delivering visitor experiences to Fort Worth’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry. The award is a bronze sculpture of a man presenting a Shady Oak hat, a legendary symbol of Fort Worth that the late Amon G. Carter presented to visiting dignitaries.

The Fort Worth Film Commission, an office of Visit Fort Worth, reported a three-year economic impact of $19 million. It announced that it is working with high-profile productions such as the feature film The Last Whistle, starring Brad Leland and Jim O’Heir, featuring Les Miles and including a song by local singer/songwriter Pat Green and Ticket morning host/singer George Dunham titled “Til the Last Whistle Blows.”

Visit Fort Worth also premiered season two of the Fort Worth Stories video series, highlighting popular tourist destinations. The series is streaming at

To illustrate the importance of food and dining to tourism, Visit Fort Worth also launched three new video series titled Chef Stories, EATFW and Dining with WERO.

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Eating is important to Fort Worth. Food and beverages accounted for an estimated 26.5 percent or $560 million of the city’s $2.4 billion visitor economy – increasing 6 percent in 2018.

The videos will showcase Fort Worth’s culinary scene through the eyes of local chefs, restaurateurs and culinary innovators and will be used in Visit Fort Worth’s marketing and advertising.

Then things got hot: Sean Evans, host of the popular YouTube series Hot Ones, and Chris Stang, co-founder and CEO of The Infatuation, a restaurant recommendation website, presented a mini version of the series speaking to global culinary trends impacting food tourism. The program gives a guest progressively hotter chicken wings as the host asks the guest questions. Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa was one of the flavors.

Other tourism news discussed at the meeting:

· A sports facility study examining ways to boost tourism for youth and amateur tournaments. Last year, Fort Worth sports brought more than 455,000 visitors to the city. And Visit Fort Worth booked 53 future events that will bring more than 607,000 visitors.

· The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame will debut its $5.5 million second-floor renovation on March 6.

· The Fort Worth Herd celebrates 20 years in 2019 with plans to expand the experience.

· The Will Rogers Memorial Center plans to light Pioneer Tower in 2020, creating a focal point in the Cultural District.

· Visit Fort Worth led a coalition of partners to show off innovation, technology and creativity at South By Southwest (SXSW), the international festival in Austin. They will return this year.

· Music continued to be a key initiative in 2018 for Visit Fort Worth’s affiliate Hear Fort Worth with the launch of the inaugural Texas Crossroads series in partnership with Performing Arts Fort Worth and the announcement of four new initiatives to help local musicians develop their talent and reach a larger audience.

· SXSW reimbursements were offered to musicians who applied to play a showcase at SXSW 2019. The reimbursements were made possible by a grant from 95.9FM The Ranch radio station.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Visit Fort Worth board Chairman Rosa Navejar and Visit Fort Worth President and CEO Bob Jameson also addressed the attendees.

Some numbers:

New research released shows record growth in visitation, spending and jobs directly related to the Fort Worth visitor economy.

• 9.4 million visitors

• $2.6 billion in economic impact

• 24,100+ jobs supported by tourism

• $126 million in local tax revenue

• $638 tax savings per average household