Not all USC players hating on El Paso; read what social media tourism experts thought of city

EL PASO, Texas - Not all University of Southern California football players are disliking their time in El Paso for the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

USC redshirt freshman fullback Soma Vainuku tweeted praise for the Sun City, according to the El Paso Times.

"El Paso pretty cool place," Vainuku tweeted before also mentioning the low gas prices of $3.09 in El Paso and wishing he saw that in California. The El Paso Times also reported that Vainuku instagramed a photo of the inside of a elevator being decorated in USC wallpaper and tweeted "El Paso showing some love!"

USC freshman defensive end Leonard Williams apologized Thursday morning for a tweet on Wednesday that called El Paso "shitty." Read that full story here, including explanations for USC being late for a Sun Bowl dinner.

People don't just come to El Paso because of athletic events. In early November, about 230 people involved in the tourism industry came to the Sun City for the Social Media Tourism Symposium.

And a good amount of those symposium attendees enjoyed their time in El Paso.

"In our post event survey 58.5 percent said they would recommend El Paso to a friend or relative as a potential travel destination," said David Serino, founder of the Social Media Tourism Symposium. "We had a great experience in El Paso - based on the welcoming spirit of everyone in town. Everyone we ran into was very accommodating, and they were super excited to know that there were guests in town and we were enjoying ourselves."

Serino said because of the schedule, they didn't have a lot of time for extra stuff but that they did head out to quite a few restaurants and bars. He said the bar workers - especially Downtown - were extremely friendly to them when they found out they were a convention group.

As for activities they were able to partake in, if you're in Texas you just have to get a certain kind of footwear.

"A lot of people went boot shopping," Serino said. "I would say roughly 30 people bought boots out of about 230 attendees. Also, the authentic Mexican food was awesome. And there was great price value in the city."

Carlos Aguirre, an El Paso tattoo artist and singer, thinks the bad perception of El Paso comes from within its residents and that has to change.

"El Paso itself has had self-doubt and the world sees that," said Aguirre, who has a two-year-old video called "I Love My City." "When they see someone doubting themselves they're going to say 'that city ain't nothing.'"

Aguirre travels quite a bit and said El Paso has quite a few things over other cities.

But the main thing El Paso has is the people. He said in other cities you could live years without knowing your neighbor but in El Paso everyone knows everyone and that comes across in friendliness and hospitality.

As for Aguirre's advice to tourists visiting El Paso?

"Find someone who lives here and have them talk to you about the city and places to go," Aguirre said.

And the first place Aguirre would take a visitor is to the Franklin Mountains.

One of the biggest rock stars around absolutely loved his time at the The Plaza Theater and would probably consider it his number one place to visit in town.

"I read that in 1986 this beautiful building came very, very close to being torn down," Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder said toward the end of his Nov. 7 El Paso concert. "So I don't know who the people responsible for saving it are ... if I ever got to meet 'em I'd thank them profusely. It's so important to keep treasures like this alive. It's been a real extreme pleasure, not just come to your town for the first time, but to play in such a beautiful building. And I'm grateful that the contents (the audience) of the building have been so generous and kind."

KVIA asked some of the Social Media Tourism Symposium guest speakers their thoughts on El Paso. Here are some of their responses:

Jessica Lawlor, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Visit Bucks County, Pa. - LOVED running up the canyon, dining at Tabla (amazing food!) and enjoying the gorgeous Texas November weather :)

Shannon Morgan, Senior Editor and Online Media for Maryland Life - Was mostly at the convention center but enjoyed dinner at Star City Kitchen and the view from McKelligon Canyon Pavilion

Jeremy A Williams, Interactive Marketing Manager at Indiana Office of Tourism - I was very impressed with El Paso. Loved that downtown had free WiFi everywhere and enjoyed Leo's downtown & McKelligon Canyon

Stephanie Lynch, PR and Social Media Manager at Hoffman | Lewis in Missouri - I loved the mariachi, Popsicles and rolled tacos. Would come back to visit art museum!

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