"We are your go-to source for everything you need to know about San Antonio: from an extensive directory of services, to where to meet, sleep and eat, we know it all."
Casandra Matej, Executive Director with the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau has been in the travel and tourism industry for over 20 years. She has been with the San Antonio CVB since 2011 and loves sharing one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities with meeting attendees and visitors from across the globe. Today, she talks about what makes San Antonio a unique and vibrant meeting destination with Suzzanne Ravitz of Destination Marketing Association International.
SUZZANNE: What makes San Antonio a great meeting destination?
CASANDRA: What I often hear from meeting planners that makes our city a great meeting destination is our walkable meeting scene We have the beautiful River Walk that connects our convention center with event venues, thousands of hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, theaters and attractions.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about San Antonio?
CASANDRA: Since San Antonio has a strong reputation for its iconic history, people are often surprised when they learn that we are now the nation’s seventh-largest city and a hub of numerous industries including IT cyber security, and healthcare bioscience manufacturing.
SUZZANNE: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
CASANDRA: We are your go-to source for everything you need to know about San Antonio: from an extensive directory of services, to where to meet, sleep and eat, we know it all. We also assist with custom micro-sites for San Antonio meetings, have a housing bureau to assist planners who utilize multiple hotels and provide temporary event staff. We see ourselves as an extension of your team and are dedicated to your success!
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
CASANDRA: Our destination knowledge makes us an invaluable extension of your team. We’re your on-the-ground counterparts which helps you to save time and money, get connected with local providers and be in the know with what’s going on in San Antonio to create an event that wows your attendees.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
There is always something happening in San Antonio! A couple of things I’m particularly excited about are:
San Antonio has seen so many fantastic transformations lately. One of the biggest is the expansion of our Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Set for completion in January 2016, the transformation of the center is the largest capital improvements project in the city’s history. When completed, it will offer more than 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.
Pearl District & Hotel Emma
San Antonio is dedicated to historic preservation and through this we are seeing many new developments through historic reuse, like the highly sought-after Pearl District. Once a brewery built in the 1800s, Pearl has been reincarnated into an urban village along the River Walk. It is home to chef-driven restaurants, boutiques and the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus. This November, Pearl will welcome Hotel Emma, a 146-room independently operated boutique property perfectly situated in the 119-year-old brew house.
Preserving our history is part of what makes San Antonio such an intriguing destination. This past July, UNESCO designated the Alamo and our four other Spanish colonial missions as a World Heritage Site, noting it among the most culturally significant sites in the world. Experiences at the missions include tours, a visitor center, hiking and biking from mission to mission or even kayaking the Mission Reach stretch of the River Walk.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
CASANDRA: San Antonio is able to accommodate a wide range of meetings, both in terms of event type and size. The upcoming transformation will allow it to easily accommodate groups up to 10,000 people, needing 8,000 rooms on peak. We also have a variety of downtown hotels that can accommodate groups as large as 3,500 people under one roof. But we don’t just host large meetings. In fact, nearly 90% of the meetings we host are less than 300 people and that is partially because of our high stock of high-end mid-size hotels.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
CASANDRA: We want planner and attendees to have the best possible San Antonio experience. Tourism is one of our top industries, employing one in eight locals – so by helping your meeting to be successful, you are helping our local citizens and contributing to the heath of our city’s economy.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
CASANDRA: San Antonio is a unique destination and I feel honored to share it with everyone who walks through our doors. There is a definite sense of pride in our destination and a dedication to making people’s time here unforgettable.
SUZZANNE: What would you like all planners to know about San Antonio?
CASANDRA: If there was one thing that I’d want meeting professionals to know about San Antonio, it would be that having a meeting here places your attendees in a storied destination with everything they’d want to experience mere steps away.