The head of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau will tell the annual 'tourism summit' today that the local tourism industry is strong, and is facing numerous opportunities to add to that strength in the coming years, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  Casandra Matej says tourism in San Antonio welcomes 28 million visitors a year, reported a record 850,000 room nights from conventions in the year that ended September 30, and employs 112,000 people in the metro area, one of every eight individuals employed.


  Matej will tell the hotels, theme parks, destination resort officials and other tourism industry officials that one growth area that she has been fostering recently is international tourism, and not just from Mexico.  Matej says San Antonio is now on the radar of travelers from places like Brazil and the UK, and she says international travelers are the gold mine of the tourism world.


  "They stay on average three to four weeks in the U.S. when the come to travel," she said.  "So they are staying in our restaurants, in our hotels."


  She says the best way to attract additional foreign visitors would be if the United Nations would declare the four Spanish Missions to be World Heritage Sites.  A decision on that is expected next year.


  "We know that there are people, hundreds of thousands of people, who make their travel plans based on World Heritage Sites," she said.


  Matej said planned improvements to the Convention Center will place San Antonio in a position to host 85% of the conventions which are held in a given years, and she is confident that improvements to the Alamodome which are now being discussed will put San Antonio back into the running for NCAA men's basketball Final Fours, NCAA college football championship games, and other events that the city has been losing lately to newer, flashier stadiums.  San Antonio was shut out in the latest Final Four bidding and recently lost its bid to host the swimming trials for the 2016 Olympics at the Alamodome.


  Other challenges, Matej says, include the dysfunction in Washington, as sequester cuts and government shutdowns have made it more difficult for international visitors to include San Antonio in their itinerary.


  "People would fly into Dallas or into Houston, and the lines to get through customs would be hours and hours long, so they would miss their flight to San Antonio," she said.


  But Matej says more direct flights into San Antonio, including a direct flight from San Antonio to Guadalajara Mexico announced Monday by Volaris Airlines of Mexico, are boosting the local tourism industry.


  She says the hotel building spike the city saw in the middle of last decade have left the city is good shape as far as hotels in all price rangers and styles are concerned, but she says her office continues to entertain proposals from investors to construct new hotels.