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Tourism has big year in San Antonio

City hosted 28 million visitors with overall economic impact of $12 billion

It was banner year for tourism in San Antonio in 2013.

According to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city hosted an estimated 28 million visitors, with an overall economic impact of roughly $12 billion.

SACVB Executive Director Casandra Matej said conventions played a big role.

"Our convention room nights are up. In fact, we had a goal of 850,000 and we actually exceeded that by booking 857,000 room nights," Matej said.

Matej presented the CVB's annual statistics to a room full of local hospitality and tourism partners Tuesday afternoon at the group's annual meeting.

In addition to the number of hotel rooms booked, the SACVB measures its success on the amount of free media exposure the city receives and they got a lot of that this year.

"We had over $26 million of free media value promoting San Antonio as a visitor and leisure destination," Matej said.

Some of that free positive media exposure can be traced back to the Spurs' appearance in the NBA Finals.

"One the things that does is it puts San Antonio in an international light," Matej said.

Capturing the attention of the international market is a big part of the city's success, according to Roger Dow, of the U.S. Travel association.

"A lot of our international travelers are looking for what they call the 'authentic America' versus some theme park or something like that," Dow said. "San Antonio has the Alamo, the missions, the history, the culture, plus it has a lot of fun on the River Walk and the restaurants, so it has a lot all in one place."

As Americans spend more of their vacation time closer to home, Dow said San Antonio needs to continue to cater to the American tourist while marketing itself to the international traveler to continue the success.

"I think that probably one of the biggest opportunities for San Antonio in the future is to grow flights from Mexico and other places to this airport and also grow the international market because it's really undiscovered for a lot of the international visitors," Dow said.

Next year, promises to be even bigger, with more conventions booked in 2014 than there were this year and the CVB continues bidding on big events like the NCAA Final Four and a possible college football national championship game in the future.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.

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