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Fort Worth CVB prepares for SXSW event; pushes for accelerated convention center plan

Fort Worth is a great place to visit, and there is a plan in place to bring more people to Cowtown.

That was the message delivered by Bob Jameson of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau to the City Council at its work session Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Jameson gave an update on “Destination: Fort Worth, A Master Plan.”

“Visitors come to Fort Worth for more reasons than ever before,” he said, noting that visitor volume and spending has risen steadily since 2010, which coincides with the opening of the Omni Hotel.

However, Jameson added that awareness of Fort Worth is not where it should be.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we have a sturdy foundation on which to build,” he said. “We are all in the tourism business, and these statistics would suggest it’s big business, but there is more work to do.”

Jameson’s presentation, created from a study conducted by Intervistas, showed a $2.4 billion economic impact for the city through tourism. Going forward, goals include increasing the impact of tourism, raising the city’s profile, and making the city more competitive.

Three ways to accomplish these include increasing the amount of visitors, their spending, and their length of stay, he said.

“We are behind the national average (in spending and length of stay), and given all we have to offer, I know we can do better.”

Intervistas has done similar studies in cities such as Denver, Indianapolis, and Vancouver. Each of these cities has strong tourism.

Jameson said community engagement in the project includes:

*Thousands of pages of research.

*Two thousand-plus public survey expenses.

*Forty-plus meeting planners consulted.

*Thirty-plus interviews.

*Eleven focus groups.

The CVB is also working closely with the city and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Five ways to enhance visitor economy and increase the return on investment for Fort Worth include:

*Enhance/create experiences for visitors.

*Strengthen the message about Fort Worth, including listening to customers.

*Focus on visitor facility needs, specifically the Fort Worth Convention Center and hotels.

*Connectivity and transportation.

*Collaboration.

“We are losing out on larger and prestigious conferences that compliment the city’s economic development goals,” he said.

Jameson cited the upcoming Fort Worth Now event at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival in the coming weeks is an example of such collaboration. A total of 13 Fort Worth artists will perform at one of the nation’s most prestigious musical events.

Jameson said that if each visitor to Fort Worth spent just $7 more a day, it would result in $67 million total spending, $3 million more in tax revenue, and about 700 more jobs for the city.

Jameson called on the Council to support tourism growth, share the welcome, and work to accelerate the Convention Center and hotel program. He said that since such action was taken about a decade ago, visitation to the city has risen 75 percent.

“It’s time to do it again,” he said. “The market is asking us to act.”

Jameson said goals with the city staff to be accomplished by the end of this fiscal year include engaging customers’ needs, beginning design discussions, and updating funding models.

“It’s a new day for tourism,” Jameson said.

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