Julie Davis became president and CEO of the Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau after former boss Charlie McIlvain retired, and finds her own way in an atmosphere of increasing optimism as the effects of COVID subside.
You and the CVB employees invite the community to celebrate “National Travel & Tourism Week” and “The Power of Travel” on Friday, May 7th this year : Offer a free lunch in the parking lot of the CVB office.
They will also celebrate the 1:00 p.m. announcement of a new award winner that will be posted on the Sudie N. Burditt Wall of Fame in the CVB office.
“We have informed all of our stakeholders about this event. This celebration takes place annually in the first week of May, in both Texas Travel & Tourism Week and National Travel & Tourism Week, ”said Davis. “This year the theme is ‘The Power of Travel,'” said Davis. “Tourism is an economic engine and has an impact on this community.”
She said there wasn’t a similar festival in 2020 so this year should be fun.
Visitors return in social groups like rallies and motorcycle rides. However, corporate groups will return more slowly because they need a larger “safety bubble”.
“And we need to remember that group members from different parts of the nation have had different COVID experiences,” she said.
According to Davis, leisure travel has made a good recovery, including exercising at the Sports Complex, the recently attended dog show, and the motorcyclists.
She said that for Kerrville and the Hillsbrad, tourism and business are looking better every day now.
According to the hotel occupancy tax collections, collections rose 138 percent in March 2021 than in March 2020; and that month, HOT’s revenue was 15.5 percent higher than March 2019.
She said when COVID affected the local economy, and tourism in particular, so dramatically, that area lost half of its business in March.
“Major convention and spring break activities were lost, falling 50 to 80 percent last spring,” she said.
She said another way to measure this is by the number of visitors to the CVB office. And in March of this year they were finally back to 560 visitors. “That’s an increased number, but it’s still not our highest number ever.”
But she added, “I’m looking forward to diverging from last year’s fear and now it’s just optimism. We see it all over town. “
She said the leaders of many “common” fall events all appear to be planning their events to take place.
“The folks at Kerrville Folk Festival have been planning since January and will have a virtual component with some smaller face-to-face events in May. Then their annual event is scheduled for October 1-10, “said Davis.
She said the Hill Country Arts Foundation is making plans for their arts and crafts fair in September; and the Cailloux Theater has expanded its offering.
Speaking of future planning, she said they expect an influx of visitors when the hill country and Kerrville are at the center of the total solar eclipse of 2024.
“We are already planning security and traffic problems on site. and we have coordinated with communities that have been through this, ”said Davis.
She said the Hill Country Alliance is already holding virtual roundtables for this event because the entire trail of this eclipse affects the entire Hill Country along State Highway 16.
The main effect on site will be on Mondays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“But we learned a little about supply and demand in that ice storm,” said Davis. “So we can already think about how well our gas stations should be fueled, and HEB is well stocked. and how the police are preparing. We’re going to need Port-a-Potties everywhere; and the AirBnB people are probably already thinking about it. “
Davis added that on October 14, 2023, the Kerrville area may receive a “mini test” during an “annular solar eclipse” if the trail of that solar eclipse also affects the hill country.
Davis said she was a military baby, then grew up here and graduated from Tivy High School in 1992.
“I was gone as an adult for 10 years and then came back.”
She started working at CVB in January 2002 when Sudie Burditt and then Charlie McIlvain were there. Davis was the vice president of operations.
“I always worked on the budget. and Charlie also handed me ‘marketing purchases’ in collaboration with the advertisers. That experience helped in this transition. “
She admits that she has asked these two former CEOs for advice once or twice since, and calls them “great mentors and personalities”.
And she said, “COVID taught me to appreciate the time savings of Zoom meetings. But there is a lot of time on the computer. And some nights I stay late and some nights I go home on time.
“Then I’ve been speaking publicly lately and speaking on a radio show. The latter was probably my worst fear, but the people on the radio station were great and I survived. Now spring helps with my optimism. “
Davis works weekends with five full-time employees and one part-time employee.
She said that not all of her volunteers were returning for various reasons; and nobody works now.
The current opening times for the CVB office are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We always have a brochure shelf available outside. and we have a ‘visitkerrvilletexas’ app that people can download, ”said Davis.
She has a nine-person citizen agency that supports her in her operation. and that board includes three hoteliers and other dining and shopping representatives.
“Here you have your finger on the pulse of tourism and we have monthly board meetings.”