SAN ANTONIO — As San Antonio wrapped up 11 days of Fiesta celebrations over the weekend, restaurants and hotel managers reflected on the event's business benefits.
“Fiesta has had a great local impact for our charities. It raises a ton of money for our local community, so it’s a very positive event for our city,” said Robert Thrailkill, general manager of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio.
The grand comeback of Fiesta attracted an estimated 2.5 million people to flood the Alamo City while generating $340 million in a local economic impact.
The pandemic led to Fiesta being cancelled in 2020 and returning in 2021, although on a much smaller scale during the summer months.
Thrailkill noted the traffic issues prompted by Fiesta weren’t enough to stop the flow of foot traffic through the Hilton Del Palacio Del Rio downtown San Antonio.
“Record crowds. They were large, large crowds walking through here. For us, groups are a part of what we do here every here when we have Fiesta, but people enjoyed it, liked what they saw,” Thrailkill said.
Further upstream, dozens of bars and restaurants experienced the benefits of the Fiesta crowd as tens of thousands of people packed the Riverwalk.
“Exciting to see that Fiesta was back as normal this year. Of course, the two parades Friday and Saturday brought hundreds of thousands of people downtown, and we definitely felt it,” said Aaron Selinkoff, director of operations with Mad Dogs Restaurant Group Inc.
But Fiesta wasn’t the only event emerging out of the pandemic with boat loads of money-spending customers. He attributes the convention crowd for the additional financial comfort during Fiesta.
“In the last couple weeks, we’ve had three very large conventions that we booked from 2020, and those impacts are noticeable on the Riverwalk for sure,” Selinkoff said.
Among the ongoing challenges is hiring enough qualified staff. However, Selinkoff stressed staffing levels did not pose a major issue over the past couple weeks as customer demand soared.
“We’re definitely paying more than we have in the past. Unemployment in San Antonio is hovering around 3% and we still need to hire around 40-50 people for our group,” Selinkoff said.
The combined crowds kept businesses busy around the clock; a trend Selinkoff hopes continues for months and years to come.
“We’re ready for folks. We’re built for it.”