Ronnie Price, Experience Arlington

Betty Dillard

Ronnie Price, the new head honcho at Experience Arlington, ended his first week on the job with a bang. On the weekend of April 26-27, more than 10,000 patrons paraded around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where they enjoyed a smorgasbord of gourmet food trucks, live music and children’s activities at the inaugural Texas Food Truckin’ Fest. Presented by Experience Arlington and Rangers Enterprises, the event broke the record for the biggest two-day food truck fest gathering of trucks with a total of 33. “It was great, a huge success. A lot of the food truck vendors and visitors said they’re already looking forward to next year,” Price said. An award-winning hotel executive and hospitality veteran, Price took the helm of Experience Arlington, the city’s destination marketing organization, on April 22. A native of Houston, Price comes to Arlington with more than 16 years of experience in hospitality leadership, sales and marketing. Most recently, he served the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau for five years as assistant executive director of sales and marketing. During his time there, he was responsible for a $20 million annual budget and 44,000 hotel rooms. Before he promoted the Alamo City as a destination, Price led group strategy and sales for Marriott International in Anaheim, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio. He has helped steer the vision for numerous tourism boards and committees, including the Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio Tourism, Paseo del Rio and San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association. “Arlington is primed to grow in many areas and I look forward to being a part of its continued success,” Price said.

What sets Arlington apart as one of the top meeting/tourism destinations in the U.S.? Location is a definite strength for tourists and meetings groups, being just minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. This makes our area an attractive option for the international traveler, in addition to making it a great choice for conventions and meetings to meet in the middle. Of course, venues like Cowboys Stadium, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the International Bowling Campus and Six Flags Over Texas offer the style, entertainment and uniqueness that allow us to continue hosting some of the world’s largest events. But it’s also the great people we have here. It’s a community that cares about and supports their tourism industry, and that hospitality keeps visitors coming back.

What kind of impact does tourism have on the local economy? Imagine Arlington without a ballpark, a stadium, a theme park. The direct and trickle down impact that these venues have on our economy is tremendous. When groups come in for a convention or visitors come in for a game or day at Six Flags, they spend money outside of those venues, too. Our retail locations become shopping points for thousands; the restaurants stay busy; the hotels get full. Think about the people who work in those places. There are more than 10,000 jobs in Arlington because of tourism, and the average household pays hundreds less in taxes every year because of tourism. If tourism spending within Arlington had followed the national trend, it would have resulted in more than $81 million being taken out of the local economy, resulting in 1,800 jobs being lost. Instead, it was 8.4 percent higher. That is a positive impact.

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What’s on the horizon for Arlington’s tourism, entertainment and hospitality industries? There’s great leadership at the helm, with a planned vision for the future of our city and what we want it to look like. Everyone from city leadership, business community and hospitality industry is focused on constantly improving Arlington as an all-around destination. To have the people we have right now working on Arlington’s future is an incredible asset and speaks volumes about why Arlington will have ongoing success. We have the Final Four next year, College Football National Championship Game in 2015, an amazing ballpark and Rangers team, new rides at both Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor this season … the horizon looks great. Right now, the next chapter of Arlington is being written.

What is your vision for attracting more visitors and business to Arlington? Arlington has seen a great deal of success in recent years. When it comes to tourism, there are tremendous opportunities right now in the Entertainment District, as this area is truly a large canvas and the creative visions for it are limitless. I look forward to our team working with industry partners and city leaders to continue creating the strategic vision that outlines where we want to take the city.

How did you begin your career? What led you to the hospitality industry? My degree is from the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston. Senior year, I had the opportunity to work as an intern with Marriott International in sales and marketing, which led to having incredible mentors through my career. I was originally drawn to the hospitality industry while working through college for Pappa’s Restaurants and realized that the Conrad N. Hilton was one of the top U.S. colleges for hospitality. While at Hilton College, my professors were world-class, opening my eyes to the hotel side. I never looked back.

Any advice for people considering a career in the meetings, tourism or hospitality field? Find a good mentor and go for it! You’ll meet some of the most forward- thinking and passionate people. It is a demanding industry, but also one of the best and most rewarding.