After more than a year of virtual meetings with colleagues in the tourism industry, I and several park board representatives went to Austin to participate in the Texas Travel Alliance’s Unity Conference and Dinner. The alliance advocates for the tourism industry, and its mission is to improve the quality of life in Texas by strengthening travel and tourism.
By all accounts, the more than 100 conferees were glad to be in the same rooms together and begin to return to a sense of normalcy. For now, normal still looks a bit different. All attendees wore red, yellow or green bracelets indicating their comfort levels when it came to interaction, ranging from no touch, to elbow- or fist-bumping, to shaking hands and hugging. Classrooms and dining areas were carefully arranged for social distancing and capacity requirements.
Attendees represented attractions, municipalities, city governments and various Texas convention and visitors’ bureaus. Together, they discussed the issues facing tourism as we emerge from the pandemic. Galveston was well represented here. Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody participated in a panel discussion on interpreting tourism data and moderated a panel on the impact and forecast for the short-term rental industry. Galveston’s Claire Reiswerg of Sand ‘N Sea properties served on that panel and offered her insight.
Other topics that are high on the list of tourism professionals’ agendas are workforce shortages, particularly in the hotel and restaurant sectors, access to funding that helps small businesses remain open and how tourism bureaus can remain relevant during times of crises.
Park board CEO Kelly de Schaun is an alliance board executive committee member and chair-elect. She spent much of her time meeting with legislative officials — urging them to support local and state issues that strengthen, diversify and grow tourism.
Many of these legislators attended the much-anticipated unity dinner. Park board special guests included Mayor Craig Brown and his wife Angela, State Rep. Mayes Middleton and state Sen. Larry Taylor and park board chairman Spencer Priest. Gov. Greg Abbott delivered the evening’s keynote address, highlighting the current and projected vaccination roll out, the response to COVID-19 and the strength of the Texas economy.
A highlight of the dinner was the presentation of the alliance’s Hospitality Award to park board regional sales director Dottie Bossley. Bossley was recognized for being a standout among her peers in the Texas hospitality industry.
“We’re all extremely proud of Dottie’s achievement,” de Schaun said. “Her hospitality award is well-deserved. I also found it inspiring to see so many Galveston residents participate in this event. It’s a testament to their dedication to this important industry.”
Park board meetings are typically held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 601 23rd St. and via livestream at www.galvestonparkboard.org.