Waco seeks to boost tourism

By Ade Adesanya

As Waco tourism dwindles and business budgets get trimmed for efficiency, local businesses continue to serve loyal customers.

Businesses are eyeing their operating costs since tourism is on the decline. Business managers have to monitor their costs and make changes where necessary.

“It is true that people are cutting back on travel and leisure, but when you think about it, we [are] faring much better than most of the country,” Susan Morton, sales and service manager for tourism markets at the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “We are grateful for the Interstate Highway 35 and the business it brings to our community — especially to our overnight visitors who leave money in our community as they travel. Overnight travelers contribute significantly to the hotel-motel tax in Waco due to our strategic central location. The revenues are in turn used to promote tourism.”

A major goal of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau is to ensure Waco is a visitor-friendly city with many activities.

“We are trying to work with other Big 12 cities to ensure when they come for an event in Waco, they stay longer to explore the sites and activities within Waco,” Morton said.

In addition to I-35, Baylor serves to showcase Waco to people throughout the state and country by its athletic events and other competitions which bring in thousands of people annually from other Big 12 cities.

“The greater Waco economy is experiencing an upswing from the recession. Businesses are gaining from being generally more efficient and making better business decisions,” said Kris Collins, director of business retention and expansion at Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

But analysis of travel data by Dean Runyan Associates of the greater Waco area shows tourism has declined.

The June 2010 report on tourism by the same researchers shows that local tax revenue in the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area went down from $3.8 million to $3.6 million, which is a 5.3 percent decrease. According to the report, travel spending declined by 14.2 percent from 2008 to 2009.

The business community is keeping the economy in perspective by monitoring constantly changing economic indicators and tracking the performance of various sectors in the Waco economy.