National estimates show that COVID-19 has wiped out more than half of all hospitality jobs and reduced business and leisure travel by more than 70%, but Fort Worth is seeing early results to rebuild the visitor economy.
Tourism is in the fabric of our city.
It’s our small businesses, our restaurants, trails and parks, museums, concerts and festivals. The fun experiences our city offers – most just minutes apart – makes us proud to invite friends, family and colleagues to stay and explore.
Visitor spending generates important tax revenues that support city services and offset your property taxes. Before coronavirus, tourism delivered big results for Fort Worth:
- More than 9 million visitors to Fort Worth
- $2.6 billion annual economic impact
- 24,000 hospitality jobs
- $126 million in local tax revenue
Today, however, national estimates show that COVID-19 has wiped out more than half of all hospitality jobs and reduced business and leisure travel by more than 70%.
We realize the road to recovery will be long and challenging. But we are seeing early results to rebuild the visitor economy along with our partners.
- Fiscal responsibility: Even though we have had to reduce staff, eliminate programs and cut budgets, we have retained core functions to support local business and reopening plans. We renegotiated contracts and suspended staff travel and international marketing.
- Local assistance: We redeployed staff normally focused on out-of-town visitors to promoting “buy local” and communicating with our hotel, restaurant and attraction partners. We supported distribution of masks and business grants, as well as campaigns such as “Y’all Wear a Mask.” More than 200 businesses have made the commitment to follow best practices through our Re-Open Responsibly campaign.
- Nimble marketing: Visit Fort Worth retooled marketing campaigns to focus on Texas travelers. Engagement with Visit Fort Worth social media is up 189 % over last year. Road trips have increased dramatically this summer and we are pointing travelers to the many attractions that have reopened with social distancing and other safety measures, including: the Stockyards’ new Mule Alley, Cultural District museums, Fort Worth Zoo, Botanic Garden and Nature Center. Promoting our incredible but vulnerable restaurants across the city is a big focus.
- Proven success: Fort Worth has been a leader in showing that events can take place when we follow Governor Abbott’s guidelines. We were proud to support the Charles Schwab Challenge, which “played an instrumental role in the safe return of the PGA Tour,” according to Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. We leveraged that opportunity with a TV ad that reached more than 3 million viewers on CBS.
Texas Motor Speedway races, equestrian events at Will Rogers Memorial Center and PBR at Dickies Arena are also taking place. The Kenneth Copeland Ministries convention this month brought 2,000 much-needed visitors to downtown hotels and restaurants.
- Recover with resilience: Tourism is big business and a job-creating machine. Even as many conventions cancelled for 2020, our organization has succeeded in rescheduling them for 2021 and beyond, as well as contracting meetings for 2022-2025. This year, even during coronavirus, our Sports team booked 99,000 future room nights worth a $98,000,000 economic impact. In 2021, we look forward to welcoming USA Gymnastics, NCAA Gymnastics and other exciting college and amateur sports.
- Tourism means all: We want everyone to feel welcome here, and that means working with partners across the city to share the whole story. Inclusion and equity are vital to our visitor economy, and Visit Fort Worth stands against racism and exclusion – the enemies of tourism. Last February, we launched the website Discover Diverse Fort Worth, full of videos, business listings and attractions related to Black and Hispanic communities. The Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are vital partners in this program. We are now growing this website to include other communities.
You can help with the recovery:
- Be a tourist in your town. Support local business. We have more than 200 open-air restaurant patios. Explore or rediscover cultural attractions.
- Invite your friends. Remind them that most of our attractions are just minutes apart. It’s easy to visit Fort Worth — and every visitor dollar contributes to our economy.
- Bring a future meeting. Visit Fort Worth is a non-profit with free assistance for planning gatherings of any size, from board meetings to family reunions. Demand is building for future years and you can add to this momentum.
Contact me directly at AskBob@FortWorth.com. Together we are partners in sharing Fort Worth’s welcome and shaping the story of our city.
Bob Jameson is president and CEO of Visit Fort Worth, the destination marketing organization for our city.