As Texas slowly begins to reopen for business, Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Charlie McIlvain is starting to see some glimmers of hope that the regional tourism economy can begin the recovery process.
“As much as we want to see the economic engine restarted at the same token we need to make sure it’s done correctly,” McIlvain said.
During an interview on Tuesday morning on KDT Live, a Facebook Live webcast, McIlvain discussed the reopening of the regional summer camps, which he said drives $32 million in economic activity to Kerr County, and other positives when it comes to recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to make sure we’re not creating additional problems for the community,” McIlvain said.
Of course, Memorial Day Weekend was one of the biggest for the region with the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Kerrville Arts Festival and other events scheduled, but that have now been postponed thanks to the pandemic.
McIlvain said the summer camps still have plenty of work to do in order to reopen, including mitigation efforts about how campers will be taken to the camps, and if parents will be likely to stay in Kerrville — as many have done in years past.
The pandemic stalled what has been a years-long trajectory of growth when it comes to hotel occupancy — with year-over-year increases and plans for a new hotel. The good news, as far as McIlvain is concerned, is that the Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center will be reopening on June 1, and its sister property — the Inn of the Hills — in the days following.
“From 2012, we’ve had just a nice increase each year,” said McIlvain, adding that visitors in 2019 brought in $112.2 million in economic activity to Kerr County.
McIlvain was citing a state report about tourism drivers and that out-of-town input helped employ 1,700 people in Kerr County. The payroll for those employees was more than $40 million, while out-of-town visitors generated more than $11 million in tax revenue.
“We are probably going to recover quicker than some of the large cities because they have to count on the airlines or the cruise lines to bring passengers in,” McIlvain said. “I think there is some pent up demand. People have been cooped up now for six weeks. They may not want to travel for 10 days or two weeks, but they may be ready for a two, or three-night getaway.”
More importantly, McIlvain said that pandemic hasn’t stalled out one of the city’s more important visitor-focused projects — a new downtown SpringHill Suites hotel that is being planned by hotel giant Marriott.