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by Casandra Matej | November 14, 2017

Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San AntonioWhen people think of travel, they think "fun." Even if it's visiting another city to attend a conference or meeting for just a few days, traveling to new places allows us to experience different cities. It also reminds us how much we enjoy returning to the comfort of our own homes.

So it's easy to overlook the critical economic generator that is travel, tourism and hospitality, and, more importantly, the value it provides to everyone who lives in a city like San Antonio. But make no mistake, tourism is big business.

With more than 34 million visitors to San Antonio annually, our industry has a $13.6 billion economic impact on the local economy and employs one in every eight individuals. Furthermore, visitors to our city shop, dine and take in attractions, and those activities generate sales tax, which offsets local property taxes. Without visitor spending in our city, the average San Antonio homeowner would need to pay an extra $1,200 in property taxes just to maintain the current level of services. Stop for a moment and think about a $1,200 annual increase in property taxes.

With all that in mind, Visit San Antonio takes very seriously the job of protecting our industry, securing its future and guarding the jobs of our more than 130,700 employees. To do that, Visit San Antonio - along with other industry associations - has taken an active role in ensuring that our elected officials understand the value of hospitality and tourism, not just to our visitors, but to the residents who call our beautiful city home.

It will be a prominent topic of discussion at our Visit San Antonio Annual Meeting, which takes place Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. There, the seismic impact of advocacy will be discussed by influencers such as Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, among many others. Also speaking will be Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, as part of an all-day program (registration information can be found at Partners.VisitSanAntonio.com).

One example of our legislative efforts is the work Visit San Antonio and our partner organizations undertook during this past session in Austin as we tried to protect the Economic Development and Tourism Division funding - you'll recognize it as Travel Texas - to market our state as a destination. Research shows that every dollar spent advertising Texas as a place that Americans will want to visit provides a $7.92 return on investment. Despite this incredible success, funding for Travel Texas was cut by nearly half during the final days of the Texas Legislature's regular session. Texas now spends the same amount as Arkansas to promote our state as a top travel destination. So you can bet we will be tracking the short- and long-term impacts of this as we look ahead to tackling this important funding issue again in the 86th legislative session in 2019.

Many of my neighbors, friends and colleagues have expressed their frustration with the current political climate, and of course it would be much easier to stay on the sidelines and not engage. But our industry, our jobs and our state are too important to let apathy and political fatigue get in the way.

Casandra Matej is president and CEO of Visit San Antonio.