San Antonio's tourism industry will turn increasingly to attracting international travelers to the city, officials tell 1200 WOAI news.
"They stay on average three to four weeks when they come to the U.S.," Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Casandra Matej told 1200 WOAI news. "So they continue to spend money at our attractions, our restaurants, and our hotels."
David Dow, who heads the U.S. Travel Association, the national organization of tourism promotion groups nationwide, told the annual San Antonio Travel Summit that 'The Alamo could become the new Statue of Liberty' because San Antonio, more than many other American tourist destinations, has what international travelers are looking for.
"What travelers are looking for these days is authentic U.S.," he said. "That is versus parks and things like that, but authentic culture is important, and the missions fall right into that category."
Matej says the city has made major strides over the last few years attracting international travelers from places other the Mexico. She says the U.K. and Brazil send many more tourists to San Antonio than they have in the past. As living standards rise in countries like China and India, people there can afford international travel for the first time and many are coming to places like San Antonio.
"Every 33 international travelers bring one job," Dow said. "They are jobs that can't be exported to India or someplace else, they have to be here in San Antonio. And this is a very labor intensive industry."
Tourism, while no longer the number one employer in metro San Antonio, remains in the top five, employing 112,000 people.
But Dow says the continuing Washington DC political dysfunction, with sequester cuts and government shutdowns, are causing problems for international travelers, by making it more difficult for them to clear customs, and to get visas to travel to the U.S.
"The more difficult we make it for legitimate travelers to make it to the United States, it does present a challenge," he said. "99.99999% of travelers are legitimate travelers, and they want to come here, spend their money, and go home, and we should be welcoming them."