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 of Attendees engaging at a tradeshow booth at the Marriott Rivercenter

Convention Photography services by 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.

Meetings and Conventions where do we stand

Meetings and Conventions where do we stand

I miss the early morning General Sessions, the hot coffee and the crowds mingling in the hallways or foyers between breakouts. The connections that are created and the people I have worked with over the years. Convention Photography, capturing the smiles, the engagement at the tradeshows, the speakers and of all the people attending is what I miss most of all.

It is my hope that Conventions and Meetings be back soon but the reality is, the year is off to a slow start for Conventions and meetings of all sizes.

The majority of meeting planners are focused on rescheduling and rebooking events and my guess is also the locations that are available for later dates.

I found this great read about a survey by Global DMC Partners .

A survey of, 242 respondents were polled from the meetings and events industry. Below are some insights from their poll.

Key insights from the responses included:

  • There is a clear shift towards hope for face-to-face meetings to resume in the latter part of 2021 with most planners (53 percent) now predicting that their in-person meetings and events will resume sometime in Q3 & Q4 2021.
  • The General health and well-being of planners and their family and friends is the top concern now, as opposed to fear/uncertainty, travel & government restrictions, and job security in Q3 2020.
  • Also 92 percent believe a vaccine is the most important factor in bringing back face-to-face events, an increase of 10 percent from Q3 2020.

The Third quarter of 2021 seems a long way from February 2020 but, it’s now February 2021. The struggles and changes we all have had to make will get us there for the 3rd quarter or sooner. Just have to keep the faith. Q4 will certainly be better, that is my opinion and I am sticking to it. I believe that we may see companies schedule their meetings more in October and November to make up for Q1 and Q2.

Health protocols Conventions and Tradeshows. As I get back to offering Headshot Stations, I see all meetings highly recommend the use of masks. For example, Nevada state requirement for face masks will be required at both the Sands Expo Center and Caesars Forum. Every state has different rules. I will be sure to know in advance when I am on location. Even with the vaccine rolling out, there are still many that feel it will be some time before we all are safe.

Here is a list I found on a show that was in Las Vegas and posted their Health and Safety precautions.

  • Everyone is required to use face coverings, frequent hand washing and social distancing
  • Significantly increase entrance and exit areas to the exhibit halls to spread out gatherings of people more evenly throughout the facilities
  • Designate entrance and exit areas to control and screen visitors with discrete daily health queries, incorporating non-invasive thermal cameras, etc.
  • Reduce number of people at registration by requiring preregistration and mailing of badges
  • Prohibit new registrations on site so only pre-qualified and registered individuals will arrive at the SHOT Show
  • Configure traffic flow with one-way aisles
  • Install hand sanitizing stations throughout the show, and provide hand sanitizer to each and every individual attending the show
  • Enhance physical cleaning with hourly sanitizing of high-traffic areas throughout the show floor and common areas, including doorways, elevators and escalators
  • Collaborate with the Sands Expo Center, Venetian Resort and Caesars Entertainment in their advancements to be among the first in the nation to pursue certification for safety measures aimed at outbreak prevention through actions such as sanitizing the facility nightly. You can find more information of how the Sands Expo Center and Venetian Resort are combating COVID-19 by CLICKING HERE.

Tradeshow and Exhibitor companies will most likely create new ways to have attendees feel safe walking in a booth. Thermal Screening stations will be used. Additional hand sanitizers in all booths as an example. This alone is a subject I will go more in depth on my next post, stay tuned.

Travel is another challenge as many companies are having their employees working from home but as the vaccine rollout improves and the infection drops employers will start getting their staff back in the office which in turn, I can see that changing to allow travel to meetings. So let’s keep our fingers crossed hey even our toes.

Business travelers are going through an evolution and it is being reshaped. We all can agree that change is always going to happen in any circumstance. Fares may dramatically increase to cover the cost of deep cleaning planes after each flight and that cost will be added to the plane ticket.

I can remember back before this Pandemic I would see the occasional person wearing a mask and thought it was a bit odd. Now it’s so common. The transition to this new normal took time but it took and just like that we will get use to whatever is needed to be safe.

Touching on Virtual meetings. This will continue to be a large part of this industry for some time to come but also the fatigue of sitting in front of a monitor of any kind is growing. Keeping the viewer engaged can be a challenge and recent studies some have saying that the micro delays in audio, poorly lighted portrait images and lower resolution screens are just a few reasons of the fatigue.

Listed here are the most popular video conferencing systems in 2020.

FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Duo, Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, Amazon Chime, Houseparty and Marco Polo. Which do you use?

As we move into the new year it will be wise to continue the safe protocol.

I read recently that Flu cases are unusually low and my guess is the masks we are all wearing and social distancing. Last year 9 million cases of the flu were reported.

This is a time of crisis for the meeting industry and it poses real threats in all areas that support this industry. My guess is that we will be ok but countless jobs have been lost and may never return. Even more worrisome is the loss of the conventioneer who drives the economics of the meetings that are created. Let’s keep trying to do all we can to bring a better outcome. Get people back to what they love. Drive the virus away by wearing your mask, wash your hands and social distance. This a challenging time for all of us.

I look forward to the days that are ahead with confidence. I will end this quote that I really like.

“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done” – Robert Foster Bennett

If I can help you with your meeting or convention send me your RFP. Looking toward 2021 to be a better year!

Conventions and Tradeshows, where are we now in this pandemic mess?

Conventions and Tradeshows for 2021, will it really happen this year?

Conventions and Tradeshows, where are we now in this pandemic mess? How can we overcome this challenge? So many questions but really not enough answers to make us feel really confident.

Travel is a bust for this sector as attendees and companies that send them are hesitant.  Many companies may still hold off until 2022 but I am hopeful that by 3rd quarter will bring back some meetings.

Even with the arrive of the COVID-19, vaccine challenges remain. Meetings will be different and probably for years to come.

The Chicago Tribune which wrote that Chicago’s convention Industry is cautiously planning conventions for the second half of 2021.

Around 59 events scheduled here from June 1st to Dec 31st including 39 major events that could draw over 800,000 visitors and over 800,000 hotel room nights this is from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that owns the near South Side Venue.

This is just one city, and a good vaccination plan that works for everyone in the United States is needed. We are at the mercy of this mass vaccine distribution  but I understand that there is much to do so I wait patiently and look forward to being a part of what I love and miss. If you are planning a meeting please send your RFP HERE.

I am not taking deposits but will save the date for you and no cancellations fees will be charged if the show is cancelled due to the Virus.

Any thoughts please feel free to share. We are all in this together.

Go to Top