Air Show, Soccer Exhibition 2 Big Reasons To Staycation For July 4
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Thousands of tourists make the trek each year to attend Tyler's Azalea Spring Flower Trails and October Rose Festival, but then head elsewhere in search of summer and winter entertainment.
But two big action-packed events planned next month -- the Wings Over Tyler air show and the Fotbol de las Roses International Soccer Exhibition -- are being touted as reasons why Tyler is the perfect "staycation" destination for the long July 4 holiday weekend.
"Putting all these events together, with the air show as the marquee event, is what we've been looking for," Henry Bell, Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce chief operating officer, said. "Tyler is known for its spring and fall events, but nothing in the summer -- this is something to build on."
Historic Aviation Memorial Museum officials are helping organize the air show; the Chamber's Hispanic Business Alliance is overseeing the soccer event.
Chamber officials said there may not be a multitude of overnight guests this first year, but that can change over time as new attractions are added, Bell said.
Once visitors see how much the city has to offer, including family friendly entertainment, arts and dining options, they will likely plan return trips.
Equally beneficial, chamber officials said, is when tourists pass on favorable comments to their friends.
Predicting the economic impact of these visits is a matter of science and good math skills, Bell said.
Day visitors typically spend on average about $50 each while overnight guests spend about $102 per person, according to Texas tourism experts.
At least 20,000 people are expected to attend the July 3 air show; another 6,000 for the July 1 double-header soccer exhibit, though not all can be classified as tourists.
"It adds up," Bell said.
Shari Rickman, Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau general manager, said people who visit the city seem to enjoy it.
"It's an easy city to sell," Ms. Rickman said. "People in Tyler are so friendly and welcoming. They seem to bend over backward to make people feel welcome. It's part of that Southern hospitality."
Each summer, there is an overall lull in activity as people depart for family vacations and gatherings.
High gas prices may cause families to rethink their travel plans.
A generous outpouring of local support and sponsorship is helping fund the air show, described as among the city's largest one-day tourist events.
Susan Travis oversees tourism and servicing for Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"For one weekend, this is huge," Ms. Travis said. "We feel like it's definitely something to build on. We expect to have a great, great weekend in Tyler."
Day tourists are great for economic impact, but weekend guests are especially beneficial for Tyler's hotel/motel industry, Ms. Travis said.
Chamber officials are promoting the air show both in and outside the city, pointing out there are benefits to staying for a day or two. Efforts are being made to package the air show and soccer exhibition with other kid-friendly attractions such as Tyler's Discover Science Place, Caldwell Zoo and Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum and Country Store and Flint's Waterpark at the Villages.
There's also the Rose Garden, Goodman Museum and Gallery Main Street.
Randa Conner, who serves on the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce aviation committee, is among those working out details associated with the air show.
"There's a lot of work that goes into it," Ms. Conner said. "It's an aerial history lesson. So many kids, when they think about Pearl Harbor, think about the movie. If they see it (show), it makes it seem more real. This was one of the direct hits on America."
The idea to host an air show in Tyler is not new, however.
"It's been kicked around for the past seven years," Ms. Conner said. "This year, we decided, 'This is it.'"
Chamber officials predict the air show could become an annual tourist favorite and a key reason people could stay put for future Independence Day holidays.
"We look forward to it being an annual event," Bell said.