With an early commitment made in 2020 to safely bring back meetings and events, Fort Worth is carrying the momentum into this summer with a surge of leisure travelers, sports fans, and the return of business events.
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In July 2020, Mayor Betsy Price released a video message welcoming visitors back: “Fort Worth is open for business and ready to show you our legendary Texas hospitality.”
Fort Worth began welcoming guests and visitors again last year, which set the city up for a very busy 2021. As early as June last year, Fort Worth was holding one of the first major national sporting events to return during the pandemic and attracted further events from other cities throughout 2020. Taking these early steps has positioned the city to be on the forefront of responsibly returning to conventions, meetings, and sporting events.
Through the months between December 2020 and June 2021, the city hosted more than 40 events, with 50,000 occupied room nights and over $90 million in total economic impact across the city. With 31 meetings already scheduled for 2021, and a further 42 locked in for next year, the city is approaching booking levels from before the pandemic.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS, FOR LEISURE TRAVELERS AND EVENTS
“We’re committed to reopening safely,” said Bob Jameson, president and CEO of Visit Fort Worth. “For customers, our city’s superpower is remarkable coordination so that maximum resources are available to support meetings and events.”
Safety has been of primary concern for the city, which has made a commitment to reopening and ensuring all meetings, events, and conventions have everything they need — and going even beyond that. This focus has allowed for the safe return of events in advance of other cities.
New facilities, attractions, and developments are opening, too, meaning events can more easily attract attendees, aided further by the extra safety measures the city has been taking through its Reopen Responsibly program. One example is the 1929 Art Deco, newly restored Sinclair Hotel, which opened in November 2020. The hotel was touted by Architectural Digest as one of the most ecologically sound properties in the world.
The boutique Hotel Drover, which opened in March 2021, is the centerpiece of a $175 million redevelopment of the Fort Worth Stockyards. A $50 million second phase has already been announced. There’s also a new $250 million hotel and entertainment development announced for the Cultural District near downtown.
The city has made the most of its strong infrastructure for hosting large events, with a walkable downtown surrounded by many exciting attractions. The historic Stockyards — which recently underwent a $175 million expansion and renovation — the new 14,000-seat Dickies Arena, and the museum-filled Cultural District, are only two miles away from downtown.
Adding the convenience of the infrastructure that makes the city so accessible, such as Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, hotels, and facilities, it’s no wonder events are even relocating to the city of Fort Worth from others that have not had the same track record or early commitment to reopening.
“We’re past the re-opening phase — we’re ready to go. The momentum from the past six months has given us a great platform for hosting meetings and conventions,” said John Cychol, vice president of convention sales.
A YEAR OF SPORTS IN FORT WORTH
“This has been a remarkable year for sports,” said Jason Sands, director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission, which has a successful private/public partnership with Visit Fort Worth. “With safety measures in place, we have welcomed more than a dozen events. The city’s friendly, supportive culture really paid off this year for our customers.”
The success of the sporting events sector, and its early return in particular, laid the groundwork for other events. Most started returning with limited capacities and implementing strict health and safety protocols. The PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge, was one event successfully held in the city during the pandemic, in June 2020. It was the first PGA Tour event and one of the first national sports events to take place after Covid-19 changed everything in March 2020, and returned to Fort Worth in May 2021. The College Gridiron Showcase took place in January 2021, and the NCAA Gymnastics Championship took place in April of this year.
The city’s early commitment to ensuring the continuation of sports and events while operating as safely as possible was heard across the industry. It presented the opportunity for more than 13 Olympic, college, and other sporting events to be scheduled in Fort Worth for the first half of 2021. Key examples include the National Finals Rodeo, which moved from Las Vegas and took place in December 2020 at the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field in nearby Arlington. Moving from Penn State University, the USA Olympic wrestling team trials took place in Fort Worth in April.
FORT WORTH HAS DOUBLED DOWN ON EVENTS
Events over the last 12 months have already made use of Fort Worth’s top-tier offering. More than $2 billion has been invested into facilities, experiences, and transportation across the city, and Travel + Leisure named Fort Worth at position 15 in its top 50 destinations for 2021. The prestigious magazine emphasized the city’s new hotels, Texas heritage, investment in attractions like the Stockyards, high-quality boutique shopping, and art offerings.
“Our community has come together around high standards to help you have a healthy visit,” continued Mayor Price in her welcome back video. “Hotels, restaurants, museums, and other attractions are working together to reopen responsibly.”
All of this has enabled Fort Worth — the 12th largest city in the United States — to continue reopening safely and welcome more events, just as it has been doing since this time last year. Now that travel restrictions are lifting and vaccination rates across the country mean more gathering types are allowed with higher attendee numbers in a range of sectors, the city is keen to welcome more leisure travelers and the organizers and attendees of meetings, events, and conventions.
“Wherever you’re from, everyone is welcome in Fort Worth,” said Fort Worth Mayor Price. “Y’all stay healthy, and y’all have fun.”
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