San Antonio Conventions and Meetings, will they come back strong?

San Antonio Conventions and Meetings, will they come back strong?

TRCSA Convention attendees between breakout sessions at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention

Convention attendees between breakout sessions at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention

San Antonio has seen a huge drop in conventions and meetings since March 2020. Hotel occupancy is not at normal levels. Current COVID vaccine rollouts are happening, so a good sign to see for the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2021. My past articles have talked about this probably more than I should but I feel I need to keep updating to a positive outcome happens.

As a Convention Photographer for many groups I have been affected, but my hope is to stay focused on the upward signs of getting back to what we all miss. I found an interesting article that was published back in Feb 2020, and my guess is that this was before all meetings were halted.

SmartAsset, which is a technology company that provides personal finance advice to make smart decisions in all areas, ranked San Antonio at number 2 in the country in their Feb 2020
“Best Cities for Conferences Edition” . They looked at different factors to come up with these rankings which were, total hotels medium and large, the average cost of a hotel, the average cost of a meal to attendees, distance from the airport to downtown, average travel time from the airport to downtown, crime rates and concentration of dining and entertainment in the city.

Here is what SmartAsset wrote about their ranking of San Antonio:

“San Antonio, Texas is second in our top 10, and is also one of the most affordable travel destinations in the country. Even if you cannot squeeze in a trip to the Alamo, San Antonio has plenty going for it when it comes to conferences. It has 349 total hotels, a top-three rate. That includes 87 medium-sized hotels and three large hotels. The average restaurant meal costs $50, and the average hotel room costs $138.”

This ranking of San Antonio is insightful, and I’m excited to know the Alamo city is ranked so high. Now we just need to get this pandemic under control and, if possible, completely eradicated. This will be a challenge, but with continued awareness, San Antonio will be a top-tier convention city again.

San Antonio has a lot to offer, and here are some of my favorite places in the downtown area that I have been hired as a convention photographer during the meetings and events over the years.

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Convention Photography of attendees on break in Bridge Hall Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center.

Convention Photography of attendees on break in Bridge Hall Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center.

Located where in the heart of downtown and is within walking distance to restaurants, tourist attractions, and many hotels. A capacity of 514,000 sq ft of exhibit space and so much more. This place is incredible. All the latest technology to make any convention run smoothly.

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio Riverwalk River Barge Cruise with Convention attendees.

Convention photography services of San Antonio Riverwalk River Barge Cruise with Convention attendees.

Many opportunities for groups to enjoy the sites and sounds of the city. The food is endless, the place for anyone and everyone to just stroll and people watch. Many venues are located on the river for groups to have their private events. One place that I always enjoy, the roving dinners that are so popular with groups and places like Rio Rio Cantina that has several levels and overlooks the Riverwalk or Boudro’s executive chef Danny Ibarra, who marries the traditions and history of South Texas with the finesse of the world’s finest restaurants. This place is hard to get into because, well, it’s just that good, so book early for your groups. These are just a couple of places to get your interest.

Grand Hyatt San Antonio

Convention Photography of attendees holding Hyatt frame for a social media photo op during a Hyatt Leadership Summit held at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.

Convention Photography of attendees holding Hyatt frame for a social media photo op during a Hyatt Leadership Summit held at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.

An upscale 4-star hotel that is conveniently connected to the Henry B. Gonzalez Center and Riverwalk. It covers around 115,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. I have covered so many meetings here I have lost count. The staff is on top of everything, and the groups I have worked with there often comment to me how much they just love this place. The hotel is a straight drive to and from the airport that takes about 10 minutes with traffic.

San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter

70,000 sq ft of meeting space and the older but like fine wine the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk which has close to 20,000 sq ft.

Convention Photography services by proimagesphoto.com of Attendees engaging at a tradeshow booth at the Marriott Rivercenter

Convention Photography services by proimagesphoto.com of Attendees engaging at a tradeshow booth at the Marriott Rivercenter

It is just across the street from the convention center and Shops Rivercenter Shopping Mall. This place has so much history, and my memories go back to many that would fill a book twice over. I remember being chosen to be the photographer that took photos of President George Bush Sr back in 1992 for the San Antonio Drug Summit, which took place at the Marriott Rivercenter. My assignment was to take photos of President George Bush Sr. and the Presidents of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico. I was assigned a U.S. Marshall who followed me the whole time. I remember asking him why; his response was to be sure that I was not replaced with someone like my appearance to get close to the Presidents. I often had to go in the stairwells and not elevators, along with Secret Service. I will always remember that. I would show photos, but back in 1992, it was all negatives, and those were confiscated after the assignment.

La Villita and Arneson River Theatre

San Antonio Convention Photography of attendees at Arneson River Theatre

San Antonio Convention Photography of attendees at Arneson River Theatre

Located on the southern bank of the San Antonio River Walk. La Villita was the original “Little Village” of San Antonio and goes back to the 18th century. The history is rich with stories too long to be told here but today it is full of quaint shops called “The Artisan Village” and with great places to eat and connected to the famed Arneson River Theater where many groups have large scale outdoor events.

Not only does the Alamo have a history of Texas Independence, but it also has a history of hosting events for groups of all sizes. I can attest to this as I have been there capturing all the sights and sounds and taken group photos in front of this beautiful Mission.

Downtown San Antonio has a lot to offer to any group, small or large and when this virus is behind us, we will get back to doing what we do best. Conventions and meetings will make this city come alive, and I look forward to the day we can all meet again.