Visit San Antonio's Tyler Orwig on Southern Texas' Surging City
San Antonio, already the seventh-largest city in the U.S., is on a population and development boom that has seen the recent opening of 10 hotels and approximately 70 restaurants in the last two years, along with a $2.5 billion expansion of San Antonio International Airport that will include a new terminal and a resulting spike in air lift.
This multicultural destination has also just been named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and joined with the James Beard Foundation to launch the first Tasting Texas Wine & Food Festival last year.
We checked in with Tyler Orwig, vice president of association and tradeshow sales for Visit San Antonio, to discover what's new in the meetings and events world and beyond in this always-popular Texas destination that is experiencing a jobs, population and development explosion.
Always a draw because of its epic history, San Antonio will make you remember it for much more than the Alamo.
Tyler Davidson: Hello, this is Tyler Davidson. I'm vice president and chief content director of Meetings Today. Thanks for joining us for this Meetings Today Podcast. We are joined today by another Tyler in the industry, Tyler Orwig, vice president of association and tradeshow sales for Visit San Antonio. Thanks for joining us, Tyler.
Tyler Orwig: It's great to be here, especially with another Tyler.
Tyler Davidson: I know. They're getting two for one today. Exactly. So, then, you recently just got a promotion to vice president of association and tradeshow sales. Congratulations. What does your new position entail?
Tyler Orwig: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. So as newly vice president of association tradeshow sales I have the privilege of working and leading the sales and convention sales team here at Visit San Antonio. I've been here on this team for nine years and it's been a great run with Visit San Antonio, seeing all the developments, seeing all of the group events, conventions that we've been able to bring to San Antonio.
So, in my new role, hoping just to enhance all of those experiences. We have one of the best convention sales team in the DMO space and I am so excited to be a part of them as we work to bring even more groups and events to San Antonio.
Tyler Davidson: Whoever's listening out there, if they've never been to San Antonio for a meeting—especially the location of the convention center is amazing, right by the Riverwalk—and I always tell people one of my favorite things is to get prickly pear Margarita from Boudros. I do that every time I go there. Absolutely.
Besides all that, though, it's one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. What's going on there on the economic development side in San Antonio?
Tyler Orwig: Yeah, you know, most people don't realize, but San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the nation, and it's one of the fastest growing, experiencing a 20% population growth in the last 10 years.
On the business side, San Antonio has emerged as one of the best growth environments, and some of our most promising industry sectors include information technology, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, bioscience aerospace and financial services. And we're anticipating, for all of us natives—we're excited and a little bit reserved by this—but we're anticipating another 75,000 jobs to come into San Antonio in the next five years.
One of those things leading the charge is that cybersecurity industry. You may or may not know this, but San Antonio is also called Military City, with Joint Base San Antonio, with Camp Bullis, Fort Sam Houston, Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases. There's a big focus on cybersecurity and many of our universities here in town are expanding their curriculum to include cybersecurity classes for students coming in.
Also, in that business space, a little known fact here we like to shout out as much as we can, as we're home to over 400 company headquarters, with names such as USAA, Valero, Whataburger, HEB—even DeLorean has moved into town. So there's a lot going on in the business growth sectors.
Tyler Davidson: And also on the infrastructure side, what growth is taking place there in terms of public and private development.
Tyler Orwig: There again, there's just a whole lot happening here in San Antonio. We've had 10 hotels and—believe this—70 restaurants open in the past two years getting through COVID. The public and private development is expanding and improving our neighborhoods in almost every direction. In addition, our airport is undergoing a $2.5 billion expansion.
So, it's a really exciting time to be here in San Antonio, one of the biggest public private projects that you see that you will see here in San Antonio is the reimagination of the Alamo, and there's they're expanding the footprint there to help preserve the 300-year-old church in the long barracks there. They're opening a 24,000-square-foot Alamo collection center, which will be open this March. And they're also building a new Alamo Visitor Center and Museum, which is on track to open in 2026.
The airport, which we mentioned is adding a new terminal lengthening runways, offering more flights and carriers, as well as many other upgrades to the airport, which will only enhance getting in and out of San Antonio.
One of the projects that I'm really excited about in addition to the Alamo and the airport, is the Hemisfair three-phase renovation that's happening. We're about to open a nine-acre civic park right adjacent to the convention center, and that should open by the end of this year, which only enhanced the Yanaguana Gardens, which opened a couple years ago.
You have the Civic Park, which is going to open this year, and then behind the convention center by the Tower of Americas, that'll be the third phase of the Hemisfair Park, all which was started back in 1968 for The World's Fair. So, there's a lot happening downtown, and like I said, across the city itself.
Tyler Davidson: Wow, very interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing that develop. And you know, of course, you mentioned the Alamo. Everyone knows about the Alamo. And I remember going to San Antonio, and I think every Texas school kid goes there to see the Alamo.
You know, San Antonio is really known for its history. People know about that, but tell us something about San Antonio that we may not know.
Tyler Orwig: Well, as you mentioned, everyone knows about the Alamo and rightfully so—such an important story to our U.S. history, to Texas history.
But one of the things that, again, not everyone realizes about San Antonio is how culturally diverse and progressive this community is. Our population here in San Antonio includes Mexican, Tejano, German, Irish, Czechoslovakia and more. It just shows the appreciation of the diversity that makes our city shine.
Our neighborhoods are very eclectic, full of amazing art galleries and museums, rich history, global culture, world-class entertainment and amazing food. There's no shortage of things to do here in San Antonio. One of the fun things—there's so many fun things here in San Antonio—but there's over 40 murals within 13 city blocks in downtown San Antonio. We're quickly becoming one of the largest outdoor art displays in the country.
Tyler Davidson: Wow, that's pretty cool. And of course, you know, something near and dear to my heart is food. There's a lot of new restaurants that have opened. What's happening on the San Antonio culinary scene.
Tyler Orwig: Well, San Antonio has become known as the culinary capital of Texas. And like our culture, our cuisine offers a lot of diverse influences, including Asian, South Asian, European and of course Latin American influences.
We are home to the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, which is one of three campuses across the United States. Our restaurants' culinary traditions blend with the new and this homegrown talent from the Culinary Institute.
We are quickly becoming one of the most celebrated destinations in the country, and back in 2017, San Antonio became the second UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in the United States.
Visit San Antonio and one of our partners Culinaria; we got together with the world renowned James Beard Foundation this past year to bring the first Tasting Texas Wine & Food Festival to our historic Travis Park in historic downtown San Antonio. It was a four-day culinary festival with a purpose that showcased distinguished top culinary leaders from across the U.S. and Mexico, up-and-coming chefs from all over Texas, and their diverse culinary talent. That exclusive event was an amazing success to show the bright future for San Antonio's culinary scene.
And you talked about all the restaurants that everybody loves here in southern San Antonio. Fun fact for you: We have over 4,000 restaurants throughout the city, and that includes your iconic restaurants as well as a lot of hidden gems throughout the city.
Tyler Davidson: Wow. Yeah. That news about the City of Gastronomy—that's huge. Congratulations on that.
Tyler Orwig: Thank you very much.
Tyler Davidson: In a nutshell, why should planners explore San Antonio as a meetings destination? What makes it so appealing?
Tyler Orwig: I could go on for hours on this point. Tyler, this one's near and dear to my heart, having lived here for over 12 years. No, I'm not from here. But as you hear, many Texans say, "I got here as fast as I could."
San Antonio, when you look at it from a meetings destination, one of the aspects that is so great about it is the walkability of the city itself.
The Riverwalk— our world—famous Riverwalk—is at the core of downtown and within the last 10 years expanded from three to 15 miles, and that Riverwalk connects the convention center, connects hotel shopping, venues, attractions, and all of this development has enhanced that walkability even more, and so not only can you get around easy, but if you're a planner and you're looking to save some dollars, that really cuts down on a lot of transportation costs for your meetings.
From a hotel standpoint, and you mentioned it at the beginning of this, our convention center sits right in the middle of downtown. The Riverwalk flows right next to the convention center. We have over 6,500 hotel rooms within three blocks of that convention center. We have 14,000 hotel rooms in downtown San Antonio and we have 45,000 across the entire city.
So, we have hotel products that range from your highest-end to your most affordable, from large to small meeting venues. So great, great diversity of product there. With the city being centrally located, and our airport expanding so rapidly, our destination makes it very easy to get in and out, and especially moving into the future.
The venues to host meetings and events are unique, some state-of-the-art, some historic, some reimagined. We have the availability to host many different sizes and styles of meetings, and we pride ourselves on offering that unique, authentic experience. San Antonio as a leading tourism destination offers a lot of options for entertainment, attractions and unique events.
And we definitely like to have fun here. And there's something for every planner, for everyone here in San Antonio.
Tyler Davidson: Wow. Well, thanks, Tyler. Yeah, it is a special destination. And I enjoy myself every time I go there, and really looking forward to going there again and seeing all the developments there. So, thanks for joining us today, Tyler.
Tyler Orwig: It's been it's been great being with you, Tyler.
Tyler Davidson: Alright, and that was Tyler Orwig, vice president of association and tradeshow sales with Visit San Antonio. I'm Tyler Davidson. I'm vice president and chief content director of Meetings Today. Thank you for joining us for this Meetings Today Podcast.
If you're interested in our other podcasts with other thought leaders in the meetings and events industry, just head on over MeetingsToday.com and check out our podcast section, where we have a wealth of podcasts from the real movers and shakers in the industry.
So, thanks for joining us and whatever you're up to with the rest of the day, go out and make it great. Thanks.