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MISSION, RGV – Reynosa’s maquiladoras have been the bedrock of the hotel and hospitality industry’s growth in the McAllen and Mission area, says one of the longest-serving hotel managers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Omar Guevara, manager of Clarion Inn & Suites in Mission, has been involved in the hotel business for 31 years. Apart from eight years working in San Antonio, all those years of experience were gained in the Valley. Guevara started his career at the old Hilton hotel on S. 10th in McAllen.

“These are what we call our base accounts. When you have business people who can travel and arrive on a Monday and stay the week and go home for the weekend, or, in some cases, stay for 15 or 30-day projects, it is a big bulk of hotel sales in the Valley and particularly in the McAllen-Mission area,” Guevara said.

Omar Guevara

“It sets up a hotel occupancy tax base for our city. If we do not cater for the maquiladoras, if we do not take care of them, if we do not create that hospitality, we are going to lose them to other cities. It is such an important base because of the hotel growth they have created in our area.”

Guevara said the plant managers and engineers that stay in McAllen and Mission hotels are so important that maquilas in Reynosa have their own shuttle vans. “They get taken over to Reynosa each morning and then they come back in the evening. It is such an important base to us. All our hotels have created those accounts. We all fight for them, we all take care of them, we get them one year and we lose them the next. It is a huge important base,” Guevara said.

Keith Patridge, president of McAllen Economic Development Corporation, concurred with Guevara’s comments. At a recent MEDC board meeting, Patridge said: “Based on a survey we did, 35 percent of the hotel bookings in McAllen were from companies that we brought in. So, one third of the hotel bookings are from companies we brought in.”

Keith Patridge

Guevara said his years of service in hotel and hospitality management has allowed him to observe the growth of the maquiladora industry from its early days.

“That is what McAllen built itself on, back in the days when Mike Allen and Nancy Boultinghouse ran McAllen Economic Development Corporation, when we were all fighting for these maquiladora accounts. They grew and grew to such an extent that today, it is our base during the week,” Guevara said.

“We continue to see the boom in the maquiladora industry. That is why the hotels are here, because of those four- and five-night stays. Then, we transition into catering on the weekends for the Mexico business and that becomes our weekend business. That is a leisure market, a good filler, we love Mexico and we love the retail behind it but those four or five night stays are our base.”

Right now, things are a little “stagnant,” Guevara said, because of the “situation” across the border.

“A lot of the maquilas are not sending the number of travelers they were two or three years ago because of what is going on in Reynosa,” Guevara said, alluding to violence in Reynosa. “So, we are losing that base. We need to create those relationships and nurture them. This (violence in Reynosa) is going to end at some point and those maquiladora accounts are going to come back heavy. We all still have them, we have that base. But, it is not at the pace we used to have. They have told us, ‘Omar, we cannot send our employees into Reynosa for safety reasons, because of the family.’ So, we are all hanging on. We will take what we can right now. We know this is going to turn over and we are going to get back the numbers of people we had from the maquiladora accounts.”

Asked how important a role McAllen EDC has had, Guevara said he could not praise the economic development group enough.

“Going back to the Mike Allen days, and now with Keith (Patridge) and Ralph (Garcia) and Janie (Cavazos), to be able to call them up and say, hey, what is going on, a lot of that stuff remains confidential and we understand that, but as long as we as hotel people and restaurant people and hospitality people can see that these people are visiting our area, we are pleased. We know that Ralph is out there promoting us in Mexico, and creating that confidence in our community, and we (area hotels) are going to support them,” Guevara said.

Keith Patridge is president of McAllen EDC. Ralph Garcia is McAllen EDC vice president for business retention and expansion in Reynosa. Janie Cavazos is McAllen EDC vice president for business retention and expansion in McAllen.

“I believe MEDC has been the strong arm of the industrial growth for McAllen. Obviously, the Chamber takes care of the leisure market but without MEDC in our area we would not be where we are today,” Guevara said.

“I have seen it from the Mike Allen days to today and I appreciate and love everything that MEDC does. I am sure I speak for all the hotels when I say we need them, we are going to continue to support them, continue to back them up because they are the ones that are doing the cheerleading for our city and bringing those accounts in.”

Asked if the general public understands and appreciates the work of McAllen EDC and the importance of the maquiladora industry to the Upper Valley economy, Guevara said:

“I would hope so. Whether you are related directly or indirectly, one way or another financially this all affects us. If we did not have the maquiladoras, if we did not have that tax base, if we did not have those travelers, we would not be where we are today.

“Everybody says, well they (maquila executives) stay in the hotels and they eat in our restaurants. But, they also rent cars, they do laundry, they shop in Walmart, they pick up groceries. So, let us look at the broad picture.

“It is our job as a community to take a step back and educate ourselves on the importance of tourism, whether it is industrial with the maquiladoras or the leisure market with Mexico, whether it is the sports market with the Games of Texas or the performing arts shows in McAllen, let’s take advantage of all that and understand that every guest that visits our community is going to leave some sort of a tax base. If we do it right they become a cheerleader for us when they go back home. They say, ‘hey, I had a wonderful time in South Texas.’”

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series with Omar Guevara, manager of Clarion Inn & Suites, on Sharyland Road in Mission. Part Two will be published later this week.