July 2, 2015

San Antonio Eagerly Welcomes 65,000 Adventists

, news editor, Adventist Review

The General Conference session is the largest and longest convention ever held in San Antonio, and city leaders said it was expected to have a major impact on the local economy.

Some 65,000 Seventh-day Adventists are converging on the city in the U.S. state of Texas during the 10-day GC session that begins on Thursday, July 2.

The flood of visitors could pump $41 million into the local economy, local media reported, citing the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Hosting a conference of this size takes years of preparation and the help of our many partners, from hotels to restaurants and everything in between,” the bureau’s executive director, Casandra Matej, told the San Antonio Business Journal.

Rooms are scare in many of the downtown hotels near the Alamodome stadium, where the meetings will be held, and some have been sold out for months.

“This is nothing short of spectacular for the hotel industry,” said John Clamp, executive director of the San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association, according to the Business Journal.

Read “Your Guide to the GC Session Agenda”

The GC session is also testing the limits of the San Antonio International Airport, a modest facility that is seeing a record number of passengers this week. The airport, located 8 miles (13 kilometers) north of the Alamodome, has 25 gates.

More than 200 “ambassadors” are greeting the Adventists at the airport and showing true Texas hospitality by answering their questions about city transportation, dining options, and tourist sites, airport spokeswoman Evelynn Bailey told KSAT television, the local affiliate of the ABC network.

“We’ll have ambassadors here, we’ll have them downstairs at baggage, we’ll even have them curbside, helping people,” Bailey said in a segment about the GC session that aired on the Tuesday evening news.

A local news radio station, WOAI, noted that the GC session was opening just as San Antonio residents were leaving town for a public holiday, U.S. Independence Day, on July 4. It cautioned residents to expect an “even more stressful” trip if they chose to use the airport.

“The super huge airport crowds will make it more and more critical to get your boarding pass early, preferably print it out before you leave home, pack light, pack to get through the TSA security counters in a hurry, and arrive early at the airport so you can navigate the crowds,” the radio station said, citing an airport spokeswoman Nora Castro.

Many San Antonio restaurants have added vegetarian options to their menus. The Grand Hyatt hotel, located near the Alamodome and already packed with Adventist guests, is distributing flyers with a double-sided list of “vegetarian-friendly restaurants.”

“San Antonio is known for its good food, and Convention and Visitors Bureau members want Seventh-day Adventists to experience the South Texas flavor despite their dietary restrictions,” KSAT television said. “Many restaurants have changed or enhanced their menus during the … conference in an effort to create a memorable experience for guests and big money for the community.”

While local media are trumpeting the size and economic impact of the GC session, Derek Morris, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association and a session participant, said he was hoping for something even bigger.

“This #GCsession will be the largest and longest convention in the history of San Antonio,” he said on Twitter. “May it also be the most blessed.”