If you are anything like us, you also can’t believe 2011 will be over and done with in just a few days! 2011 literally flew by. The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau staff was extremely busy this year hosting visitors, facilitating events and coming up with unique projects to involve Abilene residents and guests! For 41 years the ACVB has worked to improve the quality of life in Abilene through travel and tourism. Last year alone, visitor impact in Abilene was $364.5 million and generated $6.1 million in local tax revenue. The visitor industry in Abilene employs more than 3,460 people. Now you see why we stay so busy! Here is a look back on some highlights for us in 2011:

January 1, 2011 the ACVB launched a new revamped hospitality training class for hospitality employees entitled, “In Your Own Backyard.” The purpose of the class is to raise awareness about Abilene among hospitality employees, as well as teach them customer service traits so they can provide visitors with a positive experience! Participants visit Abilene attractions and learn what all there is to do in Abilene. In 2011 the ACVB educated over 75 hospitality employees in the Abilene area. This class is 4 hours and offered 6 times a year. It is free!  Contact us for dates in 2012 if interested!

Abilene was host to: Outlaws & Legends Music Fest, a first ever music fest that included over 6,000 residents and visitors in attendance on March 4-6. In addition the event was able to generate a donation of $31,810 to Disability Resources, Inc. The biggest 1 day, 1 stage event in Texas will return! The second annual Outlaws and Legends music fest will be held March 2-3, 2012. For more information check out www.outlawsandlegends.com.

Another first was our Your24 social media campaign. The premise of the contest was to video-capture, in four minutes or less, Your24: the hours that make up (or made up) your day in Abilene. Entries did not have to be professionally shot or edited, but were encouraged to be creative, energetic and include positive content about the entrant’s twenty-four hours in Abilene. All videos were professional panel and will be evaluated based on overall appeal, creativity and uniqueness to Abilene. Broken up into four categories in the Your24 Video Contest: Students, Locals, Visitors, and Businesses/Professionals. The campaign was a smashing success and we plan to continue it in 2012.

It was a banner year for the ACVB’s social media in general! Our bureau was selected as one of the 25 recipients for an Austin American-Statesman Texas Social Media Award. The Statesman reported that they received more than 358 nominations for the 2011 Statesman Texas Social Media Awards, a record. “We had a very strong lineup from which to choose the 25 winners,” said Robert Quigley, Statesman social media editor. The Abilene CVB social media strategy began a year-and-a-half ago with a simple Facebook page and it has since grown into several channels for communication to keep up with the times. The ACVB’s marketing programs promote an awareness of Abilene as a tourist destination. Social media has become an integral part of the ACVB’s overall marketing strategy, because it connects consumers to Abilene and allows us to connect with people around the world!

For the 22nd year, Abilene welcomed the Texas High School Rodeo State Finals in June. Each year the finals bring 660 contestants and over 1,200 visitors to Abilene. The event is held at the Expo Center and generates over $1.5 million into Abilene’s economy. We love having them and hope Abilene is called home for many more years!

What’s more West Texas than high school football? This year Abilene was host to 14 high school football playoff games from over 25 schools like Snyder High, Arlington High, Bronte and Windthorst. Over 42,000 people attended those games with an economic impact of over $630,000 dollars in just 4 weeks!

Through the efforts of the Abilene Sports Alliance and generosity of our community, a $1,000 college scholarship was awarded to awarded to one male and one female graduating student athlete from Abilene Christian, Abilene, Cooper and Wylie high schools. Since 2004, the ACVB Sports Alliance Committee has given out $53,000 in scholarships. We are looking forward to contributing to the futures of more deserving Abilene high school athletes.

These were just a few of our highlights from the past year. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. We look forward to new and exciting promotions and campaigns in 2012 and continuing to serve this great community!