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Groups postpone, cancel conventions in San Antonio over coronavirus concerns

National Society of Black Engineers postpones March conference in SA

West lobby of the Henry B. González Convention Center.
West lobby of the Henry B. González Convention Center. (sahbgcc.com)

Local tourism leaders are trying to get the message out that San Antonio is a safe destination, but the city is losing precious tourism money amid coronavirus concerns as many companies and organizations curb employee travel.

The latest blow comes on Tuesday as the National Society of Black Engineers postponed a planned convention in San Antonio that was scheduled for March 25-29.

A letter from National Society of Black Engineers leadership to its members said the decision to postpone the conventions was made to protect the members, their families and communities as well as “to ensure the quality of the workshops.” The letter mentioned that a number of NSBE’s corporate partners and several confirmed speakers had canceled their participation in the event because of travel restrictions.

David Gonzalez, the director of communications for Visit San Antonio, told KSAT the National Society of Black Engineers is hoping to reschedule in San Antonio later this year.

Gonzalez indicated that “a few other conferences” scheduled in March and April are also considering postponing.

“We want to keep the business in San Antonio rather than lose them to another city,” Gonzalez said.

Last week, the Self Storage Association canceled its annual spring conference and trade show that was scheduled in San Antonio for March 17-19.

“Any cancellation or postponement is going to be felt through the community,” Gonzalez said. “Travel and tourism is the third largest industry in the city and employs one out of seven workers in the city.”

Gonzalez said the impact would be felt not only with hotels and restaurants, but would also trickle down to smaller businesses like catering and printing companies.

“It’s really not even individuals saying they don’t want to travel, some corporations are being extremely overcautious and not permitting travel,” Gonzalez said.

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Possibly the biggest concern is the fate of the city’s largest annual festival. San Antonio’s Fiesta Commission still says it’s monitoring the coronavirus situation and so far has no plans to cancel the events scheduled from April 16 to April 26.

The South by Southwest arts and technology festival in Austin has been the biggest cancellation in Texas so far. SXSW brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to Austin each year. Organizers had vowed to hold the event, but finally caved after several high-profile companies, including Netflix, tech news outlet Mashable, video-based social media platform TikTok and U.S. chip maker Intel, pulled out of the festival.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued any travel warnings within the United States. However, Monday the CDC did urge people who are most at risk for developing complications from the coronavirus to stick close to home. The high-risk category includes people over the age of 60 and those with serious health conditions.

Gonzalez said, especially in this Spring Break season, he hopes people keep their travel and leisure plans in San Antonio because it’s what keeps our community moving forward.


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