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Market Street re-route proposal runs head-on into SA Alamo mythology

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That total of restaurant and food service jobs includes every single restaurant and food service establishment in Bexar and the surrounding counties. It means everyone from the Bill Miller BBQ at 1604 and 281 to the Taco Haven on South Gevers Street, every Luby's and every Taco Cabana, whether they see an out-of-town visitor or not. Contextualized as a purely tourist statistic by CSL and others, it assumes San Antonians themselves never eat out.

So HR&A and CSL really aren't correct. The "hospitality industry" may be very welcoming, but it's not nearly the same as the "tourism industry" or the "visitor industry." Indeed, the 2008 study that reported the 106,000 jobs in hospitality found only 14,053 metro area jobs at hotels and lodging establishments. It's those hotel jobs that are a much better measure of visitor impact. And it's easy to see the scale of local hotels on the downtown skyline. But those jobs too need a little more information to be put in perspective.

For the third quarter of 2011 (the latest count), the Texas Workforce Commission counted 13,006 hotel and motel jobs in Bexar County. Yet that amounts to just over 2 percent of the 598,000 total private jobs here. Compared to the total Bexar job count, including public employees, of over 732,000 it represents just 1.8 percent.

Those figures may put a slightly different perspective on the size and values of "tourism" here as opposed to "hospitality." They certainly provide a more realistic starting point for a community discussion about investing more public dollars in an effort to lure more tourists. And perhaps they suggest that while we venerate the Alamo, we look to a different kind of future.•

Heywood Sanders teaches public administration and public policy at UTSA. His column appears monthly.

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