SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio, Texas, is bringing on a heavy hitter to be the new President and CEO of its destination marketing organization. Marc Anderson, who will join Visit San Antonio on June 1, has 29 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry. Anderson will take the place of Casandra Matej, who joined Visit Orlando earlier this year.
He comes to San Antonio from a six-year stint as Chief Operating Officer with Choose Chicago, which markets the city as well as McCormick Place. Before that, he was the Regional Director of Marketing for The Peninsula Hotels, where he oversaw the regional sales, marketing, public relations and e-commerce office for the company’s business development in the Midwest and Canada.
“I am thrilled and honored to take over for Casandra Matej and join the Visit San Antonio team and this vibrant community that is poised for not only an incredible recovery but extensive growth in the coming years,” Anderson said. “As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio is experiencing a renaissance unlike many cities in our country. The city’s pro-tourism and pro-business stance was an invigorating and welcome opportunity.
“After all, DMOs are in existence to drive economic impact and tax revenues, increase demand, create new jobs and keep people working and uplift our cities across the world.”
Trade Show Executive caught up with Anderson recently to hear his thoughts on the move to San Antonio and some of today’s pressing challenges for the trade show and convention industry.
What’s first on your agenda when it comes to rejuvenating the meetings, and specifically, trade show market in San Antonio? What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the city in this area?
The first opportunity is to let everyone know that the city of San Antonio is open for business. That’s a major positive, especially when looking at short- or longer-term large corporate opportunities for our 500,000-square-foot convention center and our hotel community, which are going to be key to our recovery. I also think there’s an opportunity to work with some trade show companies that we may not have tapped in the past for shows that can book in the city in 2022 to 2023.
Also, 14,000 of the city’s downtown hotel rooms are within walking distance of the Henry B. González Convention Center (there are 45,000 hotel rooms in the San Antonio metro area). One of the things that is most exciting to me from a group angle is the walkability from the convention center to hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions.
What of your experience as COO for Choose Chicago will be most useful in your new position?
In that role, I managed several different divisions, including sales, client services, special events, membership, strategic partnerships, human resources and the Chicago Sports Commission. I hope to bring some of my expertise from working in that major market, my contacts, my relationships and the skills I’ve developed over the years, to San Antonio. San Antonio has a very pro-tourism, pro-business environment — they are so receptive to strategy and ideas for the future growth of the city, which is very exciting.
You also have extensive international experience — how do you anticipate using that to bring more international shows to San Antonio? What makes it a good prospect for international shows?
San Antonio has many exciting, authentic stories about its heritage, culture, history and diversity that can be told and will excite both international and domestic audiences. These rich stories will really ignite a fire of interest in the city, both from a group perspective and from a tourism standpoint.
You also are a member of the Board of Directors for the United States Travel Association (USTA), an Executive Committee Member of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, and Co-Chair of the USTA CEO Roundtable. How will you leverage your experience as San Antonio’s new CEO to bring more value to your work with the USTA and MMB, and vice versa?
MMB, which falls under USTA, is an advocacy coalition for the group and convention market. I’m a huge believer that if there’s a silver lining to COVID, it is that it has provided an opportunity to educate not only our legislators but also our communities on the importance of tourism, meetings and conventions.
At the height of the pandemic, almost 40% of those unemployed were in the tourism, meetings and conventions, and hospitality industry. Our industry was affected greatly by this pandemic, and we need to get people back to work. One of the things we talk about all the time on the USTA Board and the MMB Executive Committee is the pride that we have to have in advocating this industry that employs millions across the world and also drives billions of dollars of economic impact and tax revenues into our cities and our states. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge that this tax revenue doesn’t just touch convention centers and hotels. It also touches police and fire departments, streets and sanitation, the bridges in our cities, our public schools, and so much more. It touches the totality of the community, not just the hospitality industry.
As a member of Destination International’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, what are some of the biggest challenges destinations such as San Antonio face when it comes to DEI? What can destinations do to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive, particularly when it comes to hosting trade shows, conventions and meetings?
I think it’s our job as destination marketing organizations and as the industry to bring those who are underrepresented in our communities into the tourism and hospitality industries. I’ve always found that hospitality is very familial, and that familial environment in our underrepresented communities is really powerful in helping them to build their professions and their future.
As an industry, I think we can do a better job of talking about the power of our industries to all in our communities. San Antonio celebrates diversity, culture and history. That pride really resonates with people who are looking for employment and to improve their lives. And I’m really excited to dive in and help them do that in San Antonio.