Last Tuesday someone on Facebook posted a picture of freshly-sprouted flowers laid flat, only their little green leaf tips visible. The photo caption referenced our mini-Icemaggedan, “This ice is a life ruiner.” For the flowers, maybe. But for most of us, it was more a rearranger. This was certainly the case for the Denton delegation bound for Austin to participate in the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) Unity Dinner Tuesday night at the Austin Convention Center.
The Texas Travel Industry Association is a non-profit organization that unites businesses, organizations, associations and individuals throughout Texas who are dedicated to developing Texas tourism to its fullest potential. Its membership consists of airlines, hoteliers, CVBs, chambers of commerce, attractions, retailers, restaurants, travel publications, tour operators and individuals. The Unity Dinner is TTIA’s premier event every year. But this one was the 25th anniversary, a really big deal. Attendance shattered every previous record.
The original Denton Unity group was 31 people strong. Many of us were leaving for Austin a couple of days early to take part in Denton County Days at the Capitol, scheduled fortuitously for Monday and Tuesday. Everyone planning to hit the road Tuesday morning, however, was trapped in icy Denton, forced to unpack their bags and miss out. Except for me, the ice-in folks included the CVB staff.
I am honored to be the current Chair of TTIA’s Board of Directors. Because of that role, my responsibilities this Unity Dinner were more involved than a typical year. I was particularly sad that my team couldn’t be there to share the event with me. And, since I was one of the evening’s presenters from the stage, our pre-planned strategy was for CVB team members to serve as hosts for the Denton delegation. I have my husband Tim to thank for standing in the gap for them. He did a great job. But Dana, Veronica, Sharon and Jake were sorely missed all the same.
The CVB also sponsored the music during Unity’s opening reception. The music was going to be awesome, showcasing Denton’s original, independent music scene. But the entertainment was reduced to background Muzak from the convention center sound system when Denton musicians Ellie Meyer and Dunashay Thomas were among those frozen-in back at home.
Unlike the poor flowers on the Facebook post, however, Unity was not ruined. In fact, it was a great success with about 1,000 travel industry professionals and elected officials attending. Our delegation at 22 people was still the largest ever to represent Denton at this important legislative event. Thanks to Mayor Chris Watts, our City Councilmembers, City Manager George Campbell, Assistant City Manager John Cabrales, Economic Development Director Aimee Bissett, Chamber President Chuck Carpenter, Chamber Vice President Adam Gawarecki, John Bennett from Senator Craig Estes’ office, and everyone else who participated.
I want to especially thank State Representative Myra Crownover for participating in Unity with our Denton group. A thousand obligations and invitations pull our state legislators in different directions, demanding more hours than there are in a day, more days than there are in a week. Last Tuesday night, Unity was one of three major legislative events occurring simultaneously in Austin. I am incredibly honored that Representative Crownover opted to attend Unity in its entirety. Her support of our Denton leaders, my role within TTIA, and Denton’s travel and tourism industry is significant, meaningful in many ways on many levels. She is a great lady and leader and truly loves Denton.
At the end of the day, Unity celebrates Texas travel’s role as a vital economic driver in our economy. Denton’s travel and tourism industry supports 1,590 jobs, generates a $3.9 million impact on local Denton tax receipts and $176 million in travel spending. That is right here in Denton, folks. Travel matters! Tourism is the front door to everything: new business, new residents, new students, new investment and enhanced quality of life.
As the TTIA tag line states, life is better in a state of travel. Even when an ice storm rearranges our plans, keeps the car in the driveway and the world outside the window, life’s better, because someone is moving around somewhere. And as soon as the sun comes back out, so will we.