Fort Worth’s Focus on Fun

By: David Berzina

Tourism marketing and economic development go hand-in-hand.

When most people think about economic development, it’s usually in terms of corporate relocation and expansion.  While recruitment and retention initiatives will always be a primary focus for the Chamber, it’s also much easier for us to get a foot in the door with our prospects when they’re already familiar with our city.

To this end, our partners in the hospitality and tourism industry, in particular the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. and Sundance Square, play a crucial role in the long-term economic vitality of our community.

Domestically and internationally, Fort Worth is well-known for its Western heritage.  Thousands of guests visit the Fort Worth Stockyards each day to watch the Fort Worth Herd Longhorn Cattle Drive, visit the Texas Cowboys Hall of Fame and the Stockyards Museum, shop for Western- themed items and enjoy Texas cuisine.  Proposed plans to refurbish and expand the Stockyards with additional retail and restaurants, outdoor festival space and a new hotel will attract an even greater number of visitors.

Another popular attraction celebrating Fort Worth’s Western heritage is the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.  In 2015, the Stock Show and Rodeo attracted more than 1.2 million visitors, and more than 76 percent of them came from outside the Fort Worth area.  Total spending for the 2015 Stock Show and Rodeo exceeded $62 million, and the entire Event generated more than $1.77 million in tax revenue for the city.

In addition to leveraging its Western image, the city has evolved into a world-class community, and in recent years, the FWCVB has done an excellent job of repositioning Fort Worth as one of the premier U.S. travel destinations, creating a favorable first impression among corporate decision makers.

One way the FWCVB has been repositioning Fort Worth is by working with Downtown Fort Worth to promote the leisure and business amenities in Sundance Square, the award-winning centerpiece of downtown.

While the FWCVB works to attract guests to Fort Worth, its pursuit of broadcast and entertainment production opportunities also introduces the city to corporate decision makers.  For example, ESPN has broadcast multiple times over the past five years from Sundance Square, exposing Fort Worth to millions of viewers.

Building on the exposure that Fort Worth received during the ESPN broadcasts, the Chamber recently partnered with the FWCVB, City of Fort Worth, Red Productions and other organizations throughout the city to support the re-establishment of the Fort Worth Film Commission.  Its staff is pursuing movie, television, commercial and video game production work that shines a spotlight on Fort Worth and brings jobs and revenue to local businesses.

In addition to building a brand image for the city, the FWCVB plays another key role in economic development.  The organization leverages its domestic and international connections so the Chamber and other groups may participate in trade missions and open doors for economic development discussions.

The hospitality and tourism industries have a substantial economic impact on the community even more directly.  According to a June 2015 study by Dean Runyan Associates, visitors to the state spent more than $70.6 billion in 2014.  During the same year, Texas tourism and hospitality generated more than $6 billion in taxes, 5.3 percent of all local and state tax revenues.

Narrowing this to Fort Worth, total annual economic impact for 2015 was $1.9 billion spent on accommodations, restaurants, local transportation, retail, and recreation.  Local tax receipts from these sectors resulted in $111 million.

Hospitality and tourism don’t just generate revenue or taxes; these industries also create a large number of jobs: 19,350 in 2015 from the hospitality and tourism sector.

As the volume of tourism increases, along with new business opportunities, so does the need for more hotel rooms.  A study presented to Fort Worth City leaders in 2014 recommended that the City add 1,400 rooms downtown, including a 1,000- room headquarters hotel to the convention center.  Efforts are also underway to develop another hotel to serve the Cultural District.

David Berzina is executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and he joined the Chamber in 2004.  His projects have resulted in more than 13 million square feet of building space, $3.4 billion in capital investment, and more than 20,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in annual payroll.  The Chamber will provide an economic development update in each issue of FW Inc.