Sculley was a key player in S.A. tourism growth
During her 13-year tenure as San Antonio city manager, Sheryl Sculley has demonstrated a shrewd capability for recognizing a sound investment of time and resources with the good of the community at heart.
The evidence is found in more than the celebrated bond ratings or talent recruitment that will serve as a legacy for her work, but in how much better the quality of life is today for visitors to and residents of San Antonio.
Since her hiring in 2005, Sculley has been a consistent and proactive partner in supporting the tourism and hospitality industry, which has seen a $7.1 billion growth in economic impact in that span. Today’s $15.2 billion travel sector ranks as the third-biggest sector in San Antonio.
Sculley and her team have been responsible for notable evolutions in San Antonio that have benefited visitors and, in turn, improved the quality of life for residents.
Her tenure has included such notable achievements as the $325 million transformation of the Convention Center in 2016, expanding the city’s capability for hosting impactful conferences; designation of San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions as a World Heritage Site in 2015, an international opportunity for tourism; and expansion of the famed River Walk, one of the country’s most-visited sites, from 3 miles to more than 15 miles.
In 2015, at the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual meeting, Sculley was honored with the Robert H.H. Hugman Award for her lasting contribution changing the landscape or footprint of the community. The theme of the meeting was “Destination: Transformation,” and it was fitting.
After all, it’s a perfect description of her impact in helping spotlight San Antonio as a headline destination that now draws 37 million visitors annually and saw a nearly $2 billion increase in economic impact from 2015 to 2017. It will also serve as a mandate for her expected successor, Erik Walsh, in furthering that work.
Notably, Sculley has consistently recognized the importance of the hospitality industry to San Antonio’s economic engine, and championed the evolution in 2016 of the Convention & Visitors Bureau to a public-private nonprofit, renamed Visit San Antonio. Late last year, she further supported the organization when several local hotels proposed a powerful funding mechanism for its work, a tourism public improvement district, or TPID.
Sculley, who has never shied away from a challenge, recognized that San Antonio is in a competitive environment in battling for the tourism dollar in Texas and beyond. The city has a remarkable story to tell and needs the platform to tell it.
That will also be a legacy for Sculley, as the additional $10 million or more in annual marketing dollars for Visit San Antonio through that TPID will provide much-needed muscle in solidifying the city’s regional dominance as a destination of choice.
She knows that tourism means big business and that investing in it carries tangible and significant dividends. One of every 7 employed San Antonian works in the hospitality industry.
Sculley will leave with several notable achievements that have benefited residents and visitors. A dedicated runner, she was the force behind bringing the Humana San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon to the city, part of an overarching wellness initiative. She and her staff brought in the B-Cycle program and complemented efforts to improve amateur sports facilities.
Her budgets over the years have aided our libraries, infrastructure, streets and overall services. Residents have seen the benefits. Tourists, many of them drawn by San Antonio’s noted warmth and hospitality, experience the same — and plan return visits because of it.
“Our future is so bright,” Sculley said when she received the Hugman Award in 2015. “There are so many things that lie ahead for our tourism industry.”
Thanks in large part to her, that’s true.
We’re grateful for the work she has done for the tourism and hospitality industry, and look forward to working with her replacement.
Casandra Matej is president and CEO of Visit San Antonio. Rusty Wallace, area managing director and general manager for Omni Hotels and Resorts, is chairman of the Visit San Antonio board of directors.