AP NEWS

The S.A. hospitality industry gives back

May 26, 2019

That Americans have a heart for giving is evidenced each year by the tremendous amount of money donated to organizations and individuals that need it. According to a recent study released by GivingUSA.org, our country’s residents, estates, foundations and corporations donated more than $410 billion to U.S. charities in 2017.

In doing so, total giving rose by nearly 3 percent from the previous year, an upward trend that has become a powerful tradition in the United States.

Few places are as dedicated to charitable outreach as San Antonio. From the incredible, tangible impact of Morgan’s Wonderland and Haven for Hope to the various purpose-driven initiatives by San Antonio’s civic-minded companies, our city views helping others as a part of its very culture, every bit as valued as breakfast tacos, Spurs championships and Fiesta parades.

That our community believes it can only rise by lifting others is an important emphasis, as most nonprofit and charitable entities rely heavily on outside support, financial or in time and talent, to carry on the good work they do. For so many, their very survival depends on those investments.

That ethos extends to the tourism and hospitality industry, which has quietly gone about its business for years extending a hand to those in need, from feeding the homeless to aiding programs that support those with family, mental and physical difficulties.

It’s why the theme of the recent National Travel & Tourism Week, “Travel Matters,” carries a special significance.

Travel does matter, and in San Antonio that extends beyond the $15.2 billion the industry generates for the area economy. The tourism and hospitality community, by its very nature, has a heart for service to others. It’s represented in what local individuals and companies dedicate to charitable efforts, as well as the civic engagement showcased by many of the more than 300 meetings and conventions that come through San Antonio annually.

A few examples:

Last year’s annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians partnered with the city for a free community lung health fair at Main Plaza.

This year’s gathering of the Society of Critical Care Medicine included a “Save A Life” free CPR training and public health event in association with the city, Brooke Army Medical Center and St. Philip’s College.

The Younique Convention, held last August, saw the visiting organization donate more than 10,000 boxes of baby items for families in need.

Today, as we celebrate Visitor Appreciation Month, examples of charitable responsibility abound, from our attractions that back family-support enterprises to the culinary operations that devote portions of their profits to altruistic outreaches. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Splashtown and SeaWorld San Antonio, for instance, donate thousands of dollars in park tickets each year to nonprofit entities in the city, fueling those organization’s fundraising initiatives.

Additionally, the tourism gives back through scholarships, grants, internships and volunteer events. Some examples:

Chef Johnny Hernandez just opened Kitchen Campus, a 501(c)(3) project that is a “learning kitchen” with an after-school program for middle school students.

Louis Barrios, whose family owns and operates several restaurants, has a 501(c)(3) organization called Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation. It’s designed to improve the lives of individuals, particularly women, who “face insurmountable obstacles in life.”

Lisa Fullerton, president and CEO of A Novel Idea, which owns and operates five Auntie Anne’s and two Cinnabons in San Antonio, has been a proactive supporter of the San Antonio Clubhouse, which works to support adults living with mental health difficulties.

Visit San Antonio, for its part, dedicates time and resources to its charity of choice, Boysville, a nonprofit children’s home and shelter that has rebuilt lives for more than seven decades.

The San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association financially backs the mission of the Angel Buys program, which has given more than $500,000 to need-based organizations since 2005.

It’s all part of who we are as a tourism and hospitality industry.

Travel matters. And those in need benefit because of it.

Casandra Matej is president and CEO of Visit San Antonio.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.