Last edited 3:10 p.m., Oct. 16, 2018
A Springfield-based company certainly has reason of its own to remember the Alamo.
H2R Market Research, a firm that counts as clients the Kennedy Space Center, One World Trade Center and Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., added Texas General Land Office to the list. The office works in partnership with the city of San Antonio to preserve and promote the Alamo, the state’s most visited historic landmark, averaging 1.5 million people a year.
A public-private project to expand pedestrian space and improve the state-owned Alamo campus and city-owned plaza is in the works as the landmark turned 300 this year. Completion is aimed at 2024 for the project that includes Texas General Land Office, the city of San Antonio and nonprofit Alamo Endowment as partners.
Jerry Henry and Jill Mowris, co-owners of H2R Market Research, noted their work involving the Alamo redevelopment project during a Sept. 21 presentation at Beyond Data, an event presented by CultureWaves and Springfield Business Journal at the Springfield Art Museum. A portion of the company’s research findings were presented as a case study at the data symposium, and the full findings are posted to Alamo.org, in a document titled, “The Alamo Brand Perception Research.” It was completed in June, after H2R interviewed 2,068 travelers – about 1,600 Texans and 400 people from seven other U.S. cities.
Among the findings, the Alamo has nearly the highest possible brand awareness, but only about half the visitors say they’re likely to return.
Bryan Preston, Texas General Land Office’s communications director, said the market study H2R conducted is a vital part of the process.
“We really wanted to be able to see where we were on track,” he said. “It helps guide us on what people want to see, what they like and dislike about a site like the Alamo.”
Preston, who serves on the Alamo Master Plan Management Committee, said PGAV Destinations, a St. Louis-based design firm, brought H2R on board for the project. PGAV was hired in December 2017 to lead the project that seeks, in part, to repurpose some of the Alamo campus buildings into a visitor center and museum and restore the church and barrack on-site.
“We’re going to use as much data as we can to figure out the site’s strengths and weaknesses,” Preston said. “We know people want to see it maintained and treated more reverentially.”
Springfield Business Journal contacted Mowris and Henry, but they declined an interview about the Alamo project citing client confidentiality agreements.
PGAV Destinations Vice President Tom Owen said his company has worked with H2R on more than 20 projects covering educational and entertainment destinations during the past decade.
“They’re our go-to company for doing the kind of research they do,” he said of H2R’s focus on tourist attractions in the education and leisure sectors. “They’re very knowledgeable about that sort of thing and they know how to do research specifically for destinations.”
Owen said it’s likely PGAV will need some additional testing assistance from H2R when the project moves forward in the design phase.
Preston said prior to the study, project officials were certainly aware of support for the Alamo, which was built in 1718 and moved to its current location in 1724. But the strength of the support was confirmed in H2R’s study, he added.
“We didn’t know empirically until we got the data from H2R,” he said.
At the Beyond Data event, Mowris and Henry noted the respondents in the study had an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the Alamo at 85 percent, ranking only behind San Antonio River Walk’s 90 percent.
According to the study, 35 percent of target travelers in the study said the Alamo was their first historical or cultural attraction to come to mind in the state. Its brand awareness was near universal at 98 percent with its market potential of past visitors or those who would consider visiting also a strong 93 percent. Mowris and Henry said the Alamo ranks significantly higher than H2R’s norm for attractions.
Among its strengths, based on visitor responses in the study, were self-guided tours, on-site historic structures and as a place where all ages can learn and have fun. Unmet needs cited by visitors were a lack of fresh events, attractions and variety of activities. They also said there is a lack of shade from the heat and would like the opportunity to buy tickets online for a specific tour time.
The study also revealed the Alamo’s retention of visitors runs around 46 percent, indicating it has a higher ratio of lapsed visitors relative to its total market share. Guests have visited but need a reason to return, according to the study. Among recommendations in the study is to directly market to locals, provide more trees and shade, and highlight the attraction’s ability to teach history as a memorable and fun experience.
Preston said attendance, which ranges between 1.3 million and 1.7 million visitors a year, is tracked by visitors who enter the iconic church, aka mission, on the Alamo’s site. No ticketing system is in place for the free attraction.
“They were not surprising, but they were heartening,” Preston said of the study’s findings. “It allowed us to see there is a real respect for its history and its defenders, and a real love for its site.”
Preston said the project is nearing the end of the first phase, as the project’s master plan still faces a vote at the end of October by San Antonio City Council. If plans are approved, he said the project would then transition into a capital fundraising mode and implementation around the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019.
The redevelopment project will take several years to finish, with organizers hoping for completion by 2024 – its tercentenary from when the Alamo relocated to its current site.
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