Money & Business

San Antonio CVB Takes Steps to Transition to Nonprofit

By / Mar 2, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau wants to better their competitive advantage and bring in more money by transitioning to a nonprofit.

The more money we can spend on making sure San Antonio is visible within the state, nationally, and internationally, the better competitive advantage that we certainly will have.

The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau (SACVB) is seeking approval from city council to transition to a private-public nonprofit, a move other top CVBs have already made.

Currently, San Antonio is the only top-50 city to still have a completely government-funded CVB, receiving 97 percent of its funding from hotel tax. Council approval would allow SACVB to seek 501(c)(6) status, giving it the ability to bring in revenue from fundraising, corporate sponsorships, partnerships, advertising, and membership dues in addition to city funding.

“That’s probably the biggest point, is the flexibility in order to grow our overall budget, which means big dollars for San Antonio,” SACVB Executive Director Casandra Matej said. “The more money we can spend on making sure San Antonio is visible within the state, nationally, and internationally, the better competitive advantage that we certainly will have.”

The CVBs of Dallas, Houston, and Austin already made this transition and have been able to grow their budgets by double digits, Matej said. Making the same structural change will help SACVB bring in about $10 million more, thus narrowing the gap and upping its ability to compete with the other major Texas cities.

San Antonio has recently renovated the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, expanded the River Walk, and been designated a World Heritage site, all of which will help the city draw tourists and meeting planners. Matej said that as San Antonio becomes a leisure destination and more broadly recognized, the city will also be a prime meetings destination, as attendees will want to travel to San Antonio.

“There’s a lot of things happening, and San Antonio is growing as both a leisure and a convention destination with a lot of investment into the product—the assets that help serve our customers so much—that we want to make sure that we have the loudest voice from the state of Texas telling everyone to come to Texas and come to San Antonio for your vacation or for your convention,” she said.

While most of the CVB’s revenue will still come from hotel tax, the alternative revenue sources will let the office extend its reach to potential clients and better serve its current clients. Increased marketing efforts will also give vendors greater visibility. “There’s going to be a lot of optimal ways for us to reach that association market, serve them better with extended reach,” Matej said.

CVBs are responsible for bringing tourism and business to cities and providing event planners with local services. Because of how CVBs are funded, they do not charge their clients for the work. So, in growing a CVB’s budget through other avenues “you can have more marketing dollars, you can serve your clients better, et cetera,” Matej said.

SACVB hopes to attain nonprofit status in October, and then complete the transition by October 2017.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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