The designation of the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site will have a powerful economic impact, Archdiocese Director of the Old Spanish Missions Father David Garcia told 100 members and guests of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
“There will be another potential bonus,” Fr. David said, “but it will all depend on us. The maximum economic potential occurs when the entire community gets involved.”
He said the World Heritage designation is estimated to bring up to $105 million to the local economy in the next ten years. And more money will mean more employees.
“It’s expected to bring 4,141 local jobs,” he said. “If we promote it, up to 5,239 jobs. We’ll need staff – and not just for the Missions.”
The mid-year economic update breakfast at the Plaza Club focused on national, state, and local data and the changes that have taken place since January 2015.
Fiscal presentations were also given by Dr. Keith Phillips, Senior Economist and Policy Advisor of the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Dr. Steve Nivin, Director of the SABÉR Research Institute, but the personable Fr. David held the chamber’s attention.
Fr. Davis’s talk, “A Sacred Heritage with an Economic Impact,” explored how our newly designated UNESCO World Heritage Site will bring changes to the city.
“We have the largest concentration of Missions in the United States,” he said. “We have seven historic structures from the Spanish era.”
He spoke how a trail could connect the Spanish Governor’s Palace and San Fernando to the five Missions.
“I walked the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in northwest Spain this year,” he said. “They have hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to walk a path connecting sacred places.”
(Read more: Camino de San Antonio: A Future World Heritage Walk)
Fr. David believes we could have something like that in San Antonio. “They have a little bit of a head start on us,” he smiled. “They’ve been doing it a thousand years.”
Economic growth on the Southside is another item that makes Fr. David smile.
“The area has a sports complex and numerous parks along the river. It also has Texas A&M University at San Antonio, Brooks City Base, and Toyota Manufacturing,” he said. “The Missions will only enhance that.”
The World Heritage Site in San Antonio is not like other cities.
“Because we have five Missions and not just one site, visitors can’t see it all in one day,” Fr. David said. “They’ll have to stay two days.”
Compared to other visitors, Fr. David believes European and Japanese tourists have more disposable income. “And they’ll go back and tell their friends. Repeat visitors and new visitors will make a huge impact.”
Fr. David explained that experiential tourism is when a visitor has cultural interaction – and we have a lot of culture along the Missions.
“The key is informing visitors of the Missions,” he said. “We must educate and involve. We’ll have a maximum impact when the entire community promotes our heritage.”
The Missions are not like the Alamo; they are a vibrant part of the city.
“The Missions are alive,” Fr. David said. “In addition to regular church services, we have the Posadas, the Matachines, and other celebrations. We are not just a static structure. We are part of the community.”
One such event is coming soon.
“On Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m., we have the illumination at Mission Conception,” he said. “The builders of the Mission knew what they were doing. They designed the windows to allow the sun to shine through to illuminate the face of Mary on her Feast Day every year.”
Fr. David advises people to arrive before 6 p.m. to see the light show.
(Read more: Solar Illumination at Mission Concepción)
*Featured/Top Image: Mission Espada. Photo by Scott Ball.