We sat down with Brad Smyth, Tourism Director of DMAI’s newest member Texas Tourism, to find out what’s on the horizon for the organization and tourism's role in economic development.
What are some hidden gems and off the beaten path experiences in Texas that outsiders may not be aware of?
Texas has many hidden gems that locals enjoy and lucky visitors get to experience. In a state as large as Texas there are almost too many to list and it really depends on what type of experience you enjoy. From the 600 miles of the Texas Gulf Coast to the mountains of the Big Bend Region, Texas is full of surprising experiences. Getting outdoors on the trails in the Big Bend National Park or Guadalupe Mountains National Park can be an amazing off the beaten path experience for visitors as is kayaking along the coast.
The cities of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth have great local music venues and restaurants that give a uniquely Texas experience. And, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the unexpected gems you’ll find in historic towns across the state, much less the almost countless barbeque must stops.
To help answer these types of questions, we enlisted the help of Texans for our #TexasToDo campaign, so visitors can experience Texas like a local. I recommend that people explore the videos and images on www.TravelTex.com under #TexasToDo to see for themselves that Texas offers much more than they might have expected or imagined.
How does your organization partner with local and city level DMOs in producing content and marketing strategies?
We work with our partners in the travel industry in many ways on these two fronts. Cities large and small provide information for the Texas State Travel Guide and much of that information is used across our other platforms. We get input from DMOs, hotels, attractions, associations and other industry partners as we develop marketing strategies domestically and internationally. Much of what we do internationally could not be accomplished without the support and participation of our partners, so we combine their input with research to help us in our planning. We also provide our partners a full Co-op program that includes advertising, public relations, and research opportunities that partners can leverage to extend their message farther than their budgets might otherwise allow.
What opportunities do you see in the future for The Economic Development and Tourism Division to capitalize on?
In the Texas Tourism program we see opportunities to influence domestic leisure travel to the state among millennial travelers who are learning about Texas experiences very differently than older generations. In the meetings market, major new convention center and convention hotel infrastructure has come online recently or will soon in many cities that will make Texas even more attractive to meeting manners. A great example is the DMAI 2015 Annual Convention being held in Austin, Texas that I hope your readers are planning on attending. Internationally speaking, Texas has seen tremendous growth in international air routes, especially in some key emerging markets, so we see great opportunities for growth in international visitors.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism was recently named as a leader of the FDI Frontlines Coalition. What are the linkages between tourism and economic development, and how do you view tourism’s role in attracting foreign investment?
Travel and tourism is an economic engine for Texas, generating $67.5 billion in direct travel spending in 2013 which directly supported 601,000 jobs across many different industry sectors including leisure and hospitality, transportation, retail trade and others.
There are many linkages between tourism and broader economic development, not the least is the role that tourism can have in increasing the awareness of a destination, especially internationally, and hopefully positively influencing perceptions. In recent years, Texas has seen impressive visitor growth from international markets ranking as the 6th most visited state among overseas travelers and as the top destination for Mexican air travelers.
International travel plays an important role in foreign direct investment and job creation, especially in Texas where the state ranks 2nd in total number of jobs supported by international companies.
Final question, aisle or window seat and why?
Normally aisle seat for easier access during the flight.