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Put your money where their mouths are

Welcome to Destination:SA, where the St. Augustine is always green and tourists who came for Sea World and the Alamo stay for the McNay and the Lyric Opera. That, in a nutshell, is the goal of Councilman Roger Flores' initiative, although he couches it in terms more defensible in the face of no-public-investment Neanderthals such as Express-News columnist Roddy Stinson: If successful, Destination:SA will enrich the City's coffers with more than $1.5 billion in hospitality industry revenue over the next five years. Goodbye Fredericksburg Road sinkholes; hello, contemporary-art museum.

Flores represents District 1, and his advocacy of hotels, restaurants, and cultural tourism has multiple roots. He runs the family business, which includes the downtown eateries Little Mitla and Paloma, built by his father, the late Roger Flores, Sr., who also represented the district at City Hall. "You could probably ask 90 percent of the general managers at hotels where they got their start in the business, and they'll tell you, I was a bellhop, I was a waiter, I was a busboy," Flores told the Current in an April interview `see "The Waiter," April 21-27, 2005`. "You may start out in a minimum-wage type situation. But hotels work from inside ... Same with the restaurant business."

Flores' father also was an advocate of San Antonio's art and culture and believed that it was the real draw for tourism, which is the no. 2 industry in terms of economic impact in San Antonio. As Centro Cultural Aztlan Director Malena Gonzalez-Cid put it after the public Destination:SA meeting August 15 at the downtown library, "I believe the visitor comes to San Antonio to see how we live ... a mall is a mall anywhere." San Antonio River Authority boardmember Sonny Collins added a plug for the river improvements that will create a linear park linking Incarnate Word university, the Witte, SAMA, the River Walk restaurants and hotels, Blue Star, and points inbetween `see "No Dick's need apply," March 17-23, 2005`.

At the August 15 meeting, John Kaatz of the market-research firm CS&L International presented highlights from an ongoing study of SA tourism. Seventy-two percent of visitors say they come for the historic sites, 50 percent for family attractions, and more than 15 percent come for arts and culture (Shouldn't the Hotel-Motel tax allotment for the arts be 15 percent, then? asked Urban-15's George Cisneros). Arts advocates in the audience also thought that number might be low because none of the exit polling took place at the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, or other culture destinations.

All this info is grist for the Destination:SA mill, which plans to churn out a strategic plan in two months' time. For more info, contact Laura Cabanilla-Cruz in Councilman Flores' office at 207-7279.

- Elaine Wolff


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