Woodlands seeks sponsor for bigger presence at South By Southwest

November 25, 2017 GMT

The people who help promote The Woodlands and work to draw visitors to the township are set to meet in a special meeting Wednesday, Nov. 29, to consider an effort to attract more visitors by having a much bigger presence at the popular South By Southwest festival in Austin.

During the festival earlier this year, officials with The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau staffed a booth with two bicycles and two large televisions monitors that offered a virtual bike ride along scenic trails in The Woodlands. The idea behind the ride was to show people from across Texas, the rest of the nation and from around the world the beauty of The Woodlands.



2017 Marked the first time the Woodlands CVB sent a team to showcase the township at the popular music, tech and cultural festival, according to the president of the visitors bureau, Nick Wolda. The effort was part of an initiative to promote and develop tourism and convention business in The Woodlands.

The bureau has an annual budget of about $160,000 to send representatives to trade shows and conferences to promote the township, Wolda said, adding that according to numbers from the Texas Tourism Office of the Governor, visitors spend more than $300 million annually in the township.

As for the festival, it was first started in 1987 as a musical showcase. Now called SXSW for short, the multi-day festival has morphed from humble beginnings into a massive annual gathering that brings members of the technology, film and music industries together every year. During last year’s 10-day event, organizers say more than 400,000 people participated in its combined conferences and festivals.

Beside entertainment and technology at SXSW, keynote speakers are also featured at the event. Next year, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane​ ​Amanpour,​ ​former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, TV food personality Andrew​ ​Zimmern and entrepreneur and political activist Peter Thiel are scheduled to be among those speaking at the event.

“This diverse and dynamic group of speakers represents many of the burgeoning trends we see coming out of SXSW in 2018,” chief programming officer of the event, Hugh Forrest, said in a statement posted on its web site. “From leaders in block-chain and [artificial intelligence] ethicists to supporters of women’s rights around the world and more, we’re excited to showcase many of the exciting ideas that make our event the foremost destination for creative people.”



SXSW draws not only international attention to Austin, but also provides local civic boosters and township leaders an opportunity to show off The Woodlands to thousands of people from across the nation and around the world.

“Visit The Woodlands is actively promoting The Woodlands as a destination for corporate and convention meetings as well as leisure travel,” Wolda said, adding there are 14 hotels in the township. “We’re looking at the major state and national shows where we can have the most impact of presenting The Woodlands name as a brand and for conventions, corporate meetings and leisure travel.”

Last year, the cost for the week-long exhibit, including travel expenses for two staff members, came to $26,000. The two staffers reported steady foot traffic at the township’s booth, but also noted that most of the attendees seemed to be more attracted to the large corporate and international destination booths.

For next year’s event, The Woodlands CVB staff wants to move out of the exhibit hall where its booth was previously held and to show off The Woodlands with a one-day outdoor event in Brush Square Park. The park is located in the heart of the SXSW festivities, and according to staffers is much more visible to the throngs of people making their way through the event.

“We get lost in the shuffle with the larger markets,” noted The Woodlands Board of Directors Chairman Gordy Bunch, who previously served as chairman of the convention bureau. “This will make sure The Woodlands stands out as distinctly different.”

During the event earlier this year, The Woodlands paid it’s own way, but for next year officials hope a sponsor will come forward with $25,000 to $30,000 to match the funds currently budgeted.

To add value to the event, The Woodlands CVB would host a media and client reception to conduct business under the tent, Wolda added.

Also coming up during the Wednesday meeting, the board has on its agenda to “Receive, consider and act as necessary upon events of default by Waterway Events, LLC under the Waterway Cruiser Purchase and Sale, Financing and Operations Agreement.”

Wolda declined to provide details on the item.

The visitors and convention bureau is scheduled to meet in its special meeting Nov. 29 at 3:30 in its offices at 2801 Technology Forest Drive.