by Cristina Peña/Austin Community Newspapers
ROUND ROCK, Texas- It’s a great time for the Texas economy, but according to the latest government data, it’s an even better time for Round Rock.
The amount of direct travel spending in Round Rock topped out at $285.6 million in 2013, a 7.5 percent hike – twice the rate of the state, a state tourism official noted last week.
The city was on a steady incline between 2002 and 2008 until the recession hit and travel spending dropped by 15.3 percent, according to information compiled by Dean Runyan and Associates for the Economic Development and Tourism division in the Office of the Governor.
Nate Gieryn, travel research manager for the governor’s office, spoke at the July 22 Round Rock Chamber of Commerce luncheon about tourism in Texas and how the state is advertised around the country.
“[These numbers] should give you an idea of the significance of tourism in Round Rock and I especially want to point out the spending growth rate,” Gieryn said. “I know everyone here is probably used to leading the country in growth in one way or another but a 7.5 percent increase is still pretty impressive. I mean, the state average was 3 percent so tourism here has kind of outpaced the whole of Texas by double.”
Included in the direct travel spending are hotel rooms reserved within the city limits. According to data from Source Strategies, Inc. for the governor’s economic development and tourism division, Round Rock sold 677,630 hotel rooms in 2013, an 8.9 percent increase from 2012. Spanning 10 years of hotel reservation data, Round Rock hotels have booked 53 percent more hotel rooms than 2004’s 441,181 rooms.
Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Nancy Yawn has a major role in bringing tourism funds to the community. She said Round Rock hotels have a lot of business travel during the week, but when her staff began planning for the future, she wanted to see how the hotels could fill more rooms.
“When we started to look at how we could better utilize tourism as an economic development strategy, we talked to our hotels and said, ‘What are your needs?’” Yawn said.
What the hotels wanted was very simple: weekend travelers. With than answer, Yawn and city staff began working toward the “Sports Capital of Texas” brand that would bring the Round Rock Sports Center to the community and in turn, fill hotel rooms with weekend travelers who will eat at Round Rock restaurants and shop at local establishments.
But the visitors don’t just spend money, they boost jobs for individuals in the region. According to data compiled by Dean Runyan Associates, tourism in Round Rock supported 2,964 jobs, an increase of 6.7 percent compared to 2012.
“I think [economic success] can be attributed to the fact that we do good corporate business during the week and fill in the weekends with sports business,” Yawn said. “A lot of people don’t realize what this industry does for the economy and the jobs.”