A Look At What Draws Travelers To Town
Mar 01, 2018 09:23AM
● By Ashley Madonna
A Boom in Bleisure
Even though the idea of self-indulging while away from home is not new, recent numbers prove the movement toward bleisure is becoming the new normal. According to the Global Business Travel Association’s 2017 “bleisure study,” one-third of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure in the past year. And those rates climb in younger generations with 48 percent of millennials saying they have added on vacation time while on the road for work.
The Dallas-Fort Worth bustling corporate scene continues to expand, which means more and more out-of-towners are initially coming to the area for business. Southlake is 10 miles from gate to street to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which was ranked 4th in the world for its sizable operations and 11th for number of passenger traffic in 2016. So all kinds of people are coming in and out of there every single day. The year’s 65.7 million travelers needed somewhere to stay after they stepped off the plane, so why not Southlake?
“We offer a proximity for those who don’t want to stray too far from the airport,” City of Southlake senior marketing manager Jill Lind says. “It’s good to stay central.”
Business professionals can easily stay at one of Southlake’s upscale hotels, like the Hilton Southlake Town Square or Cambria Southlake DFW North. And because those elevated establishments are doing so well with these guests, more big names – Delta Hotel by Marriott and The Westin Southlake Hotel– have their sights on Southlake as well.
“I have lived in Southlake for 30 years, and I recognized with all the development happening here, there was a need for another high-end, full-service hotel,” Paul Barham, CEO of Harrell Hospitality Group – who manages The Westin Southlake – says. “People come from all over the country, the world, with the draw of the DFW Airport, so we are hoping to attract those high-end groups to stay in Southlake.”
And that central mindset carries over when travelers try to plan out their DFW stay. When planning out their itinerary, out-of-towners often look for nearby attractions that will fill their nights or extended days with memorable experiences. Southlake acts as that luxurious middle ground for those who want to see all the amenities found in the Metroplex. It has a pretty even distance between both major cities bookending the area, 23 miles from Fort Worth and 25 miles from Dallas, so visitors can stay centralized to maximize their potential explorations.
“You can stay here, spend a day in Dallas and hit the Museum of Art or the Perot Museum. And the next day, you can check out the Stockyards and see that cowboy culture that draws people to Fort Worth,” Lind says.
With AT&T Stadium around the corner in Arlington, there are plenty of riveting sports games or big-name concerts available for night-time entertainment. Some of those headliners and coaches even choose to stay at Southlake’s own hotels because they know they will get high-quality service during every visit. These people can stay anywhere, and they are choosing to stay here because of the luxurious amenities and setting.
“The number one reason why people stay in Southlake is because of the location,” Mike Hutchison, general manager of Hilton Southlake Town Square, says. “We are smack dab in the center of the Metroplex.”
Instead of competing with the other cities in the area, the city knows that everyone wins when they build each other up.
“We think, ‘Why fight when we can all embrace the unique attributes that live in each city?’’ Lind says. “The Metroplex is such a great attraction in itself and we do a really good job of supporting each other.”
But if they are looking for a night in town, travelers can easily explore Southlake’s walkable environment without having to worry about straying too far away from their home base. After booking a room at the Hilton, guests are just a few blocks from fine steak restaurants, boutique shopping options and a movie theatre – so the only thing needed for a night out is a pair of walking shoes.
A Home Away from Home
While both working and playing can keep a day exciting, it’s nice to come back to a home base at the end of the day. And it’s even nicer when that location radiates a hometown spirit.
Both locals and travelers can sense that homey feel when they drive into Southlake. Whether they are driving past Dragon Stadium during football season or are using the quaint city signs for navigation instead of relying on their phones, the vibe changes when you come into town.
Because Southlake has built up a certain prestige, many local tourists are also attracted to seek out those amenities as well with a majority of the city’s tourists traveling in for the day.
“Day-trippers are our biggest pull thanks to Southlake’s reputation,” Lind says. “An average drive for visitors is usually three hours.”
Be it the extensive retail options or the area’s beautiful natural lures, there’s always something to explore, do or see while visiting. Somehow the 22 square miles of land that make up the city include 1,100 park acres, six miles of park trails and two amphitheaters. That’s on top of all the shopping. Southlake has more than four times the U.S. average of organized retail per capita on a square foot basis, according to the City of Southlake Tourism Master Plan. It all fits, it all feels right and there’s still room to expand.
Everything feels like it’s done on purpose. It’s all laid out to make a day out on the town as convenient as possible. But because the city was zoned out precisely, there’s designated space to wander through the town and feel that sense of calm that comes from being at home.
“While walking around, you can feel the tranquility in our environments,” Lind says.
You can go from the humming Southlake Town Square to the Bob Jones Nature Center down the road to experience the quiet nature brings. The balance of both proves each visit here can look and feel different.
And those visits can get even more exciting when the city is hosting one of their extravagant events. Their annual list of happenings includes Easter in the Park to Stars and Strips for July Fourth, which draws in all kinds of Metroplex visitors interested in seeing what all the production is about. After analyzing the visitor satisfaction surveys circulated following each affair, Lind says they have found a bulk of attendees come from outside the city.
We see all kinds of people coming in for the events,” Lind says. “We do a nice job of promoting them, but that doesn’t slow us down throughout the rest of the year.”
One of the city’s biggest events, Art in the Square – that got its start in 2000, has since become the eighth best fine arts festival in the U.S., according to the well-known ArtsFair Sourcebook. These events have experienced great success because of the recent trend for people to seek out experiences. Locals, especially those in younger generations, are choosing to spend their money on building memories instead of material goods. And if there’s one thing Southlake has, it’s tons of experience-building adventures.
A Benefit to the Community
While residents may, at first, bat an eye at the thought of visitors crowding from their town’s amenities and increasing city strains like traffic, tourism provides a real financial benefit to individual citizens.
“Tourists contribute a great deal to our local economy,” Lind says.
Last year alone, tourists added $21.7 million in local sales tax revenues, which accounts for 75 percent of sales tax revenues collected in Southlake. And with one of every 10 jobs in Texas being supported by travel spending, it improves the local economy and builds up the possibility of expanding Southlake’s amenities.
“Tourism is important in Southlake. Our businesses rely on them,” Lind says. “Tourism means jobs; tourism means money. At the end of the day, they a crucial piece of Southlake’s sustainability and vibrant quality of life.”
So next time you are talking with an out-of-towner, give them a few insider tips on different areas to explore in Southlake – like taking a few of the back roads to avoid Southlake Boulevard during rush hour or checking out Feedstore Barbecue to enjoy classic Texas cuisine. It may come back to benefit you down the road.