Tyler tourism is on the road to recovery.
The tourism industry as a whole was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tyler certainly felt the burden.
“Direct-travel spending contributes more than $390 million to the local economy annually and supports more than 4,000 jobs within the city,” says Shari Lee, president of Visit Tyler. “These dollars help support our local businesses because travelers don’t just stay at hotels; they eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores, buy gas at the gas station and more while they’re in town.”
Lee says like other tourism organizations, Visit Tyler had to refocus its marketing strategy to fill the gaps left by canceled conventions and sporting events.
“The tourism industry has seen hardships before, so we knew early on that tourism would be back, and we needed to be ready,” Lee says. “We released our first draft of a tourism recovery plan in May 2020 and have continued to follow and evolve that plan throughout the pandemic.”
Thankfully, the city’s businesses were able to pivot toward innovation and ride out much of the pandemic’s economic storm. For example, restaurants began offering curbside service and some even built patios to accommodate outdoor dining when indoor dining was limited due to social distancing restrictions. The City Council also approved the sale of alcoholic beverages to-go, which Holli Fourniquet, vice president of marketing for Visit Tyler, says became a popular feature with customers.
“Restaurants were the biggest businesses that had to pivot. Even though most restaurants offered takeout service before the pandemic, during the pandemic, they really kicked it into high gear. You could go to a restaurant drive-thru and order a bottle of wine with your meal or drive through ETX Brewing Co. and pick up a six pack of craft beer. Most of the restaurants were super creative in that way,” Fourniquet says.