Austin becoming international travel hotspot

It's an exciting time for Austin when it comes to travel.

We're becoming more of an international destination.

The Westin Austin Downtown opened its doors on Thursday.
Its design is inspired by our status as the "live music capitol of the world."

"Beautiful 15,000 square feet of banquet space which has again music-inspired all through out it," said Westin General Manager Kristofer Carlson.

Shilpa Bakre with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau says with the added Westin rooms, it will bring the downtown area to 8,300 rooms by the end of the year and 33,000 citywide.

By 2017 that number is expected to jump up to 11,000 rooms downtown...36,000 citywide -- something that will allow Austin to attract some larger conventions.

"We have obviously the J.W. Marriott that's come in, the Westin's coming in, we're looking in 2017 to a very large Fairmont project, we're able to kind of offer them a really interesting product mix and inventory that they can now take advantage of...which allows us to attract larger meetings and conventions moving forward," Bakre said.

And the out-of-towners that want to catch a glimpse of the Capitol City just keep coming.

"When you look at our visitor numbers, they've tripled in the last decade.  So 10 years ago we were at 7 million visitors.  Now we're at 22.6 million in terms of just last year.  58,000 jobs and about $6.8 billion in economic impact," Bakre said.

Austin-Bergstrom is making it a lot easier for international travelers to get here.

In addition to the airport's brand new passenger screening area, a new U.S. Customs facility opened in December.

"Before we could process about 200 passengers an hour.  Now we can process up to 400 passengers an hour and we have the ability and the extra capacity down there to go up to like 600 passengers an hour," said Jim Halbrook with ABIA.

Also on Thursday, Condor Airlines announced inaugural service with new twice-weekly non-stop flights from Austin to Frankfurt, Germany starting next summer.

"Austin's profile has grown significantly in the last 10 years in Europe.  It's seen as a very attractive place to visit.  Enormous amount of culture here, particularly with the music scene.  Particularly being a great place to start a Texan holiday.  A fly-drive.  And we felt the time was right," said Titus Johnson with Condor Airlines.

Johnson says this will bring in passengers from all over Europe -- and economic benefits for Austin.

"Every time a Condor Aircraft lands at Austin airport, it's going to stimulate probably around 300,000 dollars directly into the Austin economy," Johnson said.

ABIA says they have around 48 non-stop flights to different destinations around the U.S. and the globe.
You can get to Toronto Canada, Cancun, London, and now Germany.