Facility, venue managers from all over Texas gather in Nacogdoches to network

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Low sales tax revenue, hotel vacancies, and un-booked civic centers are serious problems.

There's an association working to change those trends for communities statewide. It's called the Association of Venues and Facilities, and it met in Nacogdoches Tuesday.

Sure the Nacogdoches County Civic Center competes with similar centers across the state, but as a member of the Texas Association of Venues and Facilities it's done in a friendly way.

"We try to help each other with 'cooperation' instead of the competition and we'll share information whether it's pricing, contracts, square footages, floor plans, whatever it might be," said Donna Leach, the vice president of Venues and Facilities.

The networking helps the managers learn how to go after events that are routinely held in hotels.

Managers now point out to customers how a Cinderella room can be dressed for a ball.

"These walls are plain, but what you can do with pipe and drape, what you can do with uplighting and the fact that you can afford it in the first place allows you transform a room into an absolutely amazing event," Leach said.

Not all customers are so easily convinced. In Nacogdoches, the Hotel Fredonia closure leaves a void for conventions wanting their room, restaurant, and meeting place all in one place. In Tyler, a new convention center is being built to meet a similar demand.

"We were turning away a lot of business because there is no hotel attached. Used to it was four miles to just get to a hotel," said Debbie Isham, the president of the Association of Venues and Facilities and Tyler's special events manager. "We're getting closer to the convention center now, but we're hoping that the tourism dollars will pick up through the new convention center."

"It's about creating raving fans," said consultant Kent Hutchison.

Hutchison reminded managers good service brings customers back.

"Get that repeat business because it costs us seven times more to go recruit a new customer than it does to keep customers," Hutchison said.

In addition, a commitment from the local community is the best way to build revenue for a venue or facility.

The Association of Venues and Facilities meets twice a month. Members host the event at their facility. Membership is offered to a variety of venues from recreation centers to conference halls.

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