South By Southwest to boost San Marcos economy

Special to the Star

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Some visitors to the South by Southwest Festival have decided to stay in San Marcos to bypass high hotel prices in Austin. Representatives from Embassy Suites say rooms are filling up for next week’s festival.

With visitors from across the country descending on Austin for the South By Southwest festival, San Marcos officials and business owners expect their proximity to attract an increase in guests.

More patrons are expected to attend SXSW this year than in any previous years, according to the festival’s website. This year, about 72,000 registrants and artists signed up for the festival.

Festival-goers are looking to San Marcos for accommodations for a number of reasons, said Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, executive director of the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau.

“We have people come here for many reasons since they don’t want to fight the downtown (Austin) traffic as well as the rates are less here,” Ybarra-Ramirez said. “People also like to come here because they like to visit San Antonio as well during their stay.”

Some San Marcos hotels are expecting a high volume of patrons over the weekend and into the following week due to SXSW. According to representatives from Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn, vacancies are rapidly filling. The hotels are offering accommodations at a fraction of the costs of their Austin counterparts.

Homeowners in San Marcos and the surrounding area can benefit from the influx of visitors to the area, said Sharron Walker, a short-term rental specialist with DEN Property Group. Many residents are welcoming patrons and extending their hospitality by offering rooms for rent in their homes. Some are even listing entire houses for rent on Craigslist and through real estate agencies.

“As the events of SXSW start to begin, we start to see more and more people wanting to rent out houses for a day,” Walker said. “In some cases (they rent for) the whole week.”

By renting rooms or houses outside of Austin, festival-goers have more options of places to stay than hotels, and this allows them to get out of the city for a couple hours.

The tourism office is looking at this year’s SXSW as an opportunity for visitors to do more in San Marcos than just sleep, Ybarra-Ramirez said.

The San Marcos tourism office encourages patrons to shop locally to help local San Marcos shop owners, Ybarra-Ramirez said.