COMMENT OF THE DAY: WELCOME TO HOUSTON! WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE WHILE YOU’RE HERE? “Sorry, I think there is a big difference between ‘tourist’ and ‘visitor.’ ‘Tourist’ makes me think of someone on vacation, while ‘visitor’ as someone stopping by on his way to someplace else, or visiting for business and leaving ASAP. Who on earth would see Houston as a tourist destination?” [GlenW, commenting on Dumping Suburban Water Features; Houston’s Growing Tourism Haul] Illustration: Lulu
Geez Glen have you ever heard of SpaceCenter Houston, the Menil, MFAH, Natural History Museum, Asia Society, Houston Zoo, Bayou Bend, the Galleria, Historic Galveston, Moody Gardens, Schlitterbaun et.al. I’m always amazed how clueless people are about their own city. Glen, stop hating and get out a little. Sucks this hate letter to Houston is C of D, but I don’t know why I’m surprised.
I recall some French filmmakers who came to Houston just to see and film the Transco Tower. Apparently it was a draw when it first went up, and everything around it was much shorter.
Other than that, I can’t figure out who our tourists are. But I bet their money spends the same as visitors.
Soon, folks will be flocking here play indoor horseshoes in the dome.
Shannon, all those things you listed are pretty lame and there’s a much better version of each one in other cities. I’m aware of all of them and lived in Houston 22 years and whenever someone comes to visit me, I always end up taking them to San Antonio or Lake Travis. Let’s face it, Houston is a business city, not a tourist destination on its own.
Possibly people who are on road-trips might stay overnight in Houston on their way from point A to point B and check out some sights or at least eat some good grub. They may only be passing through, but I think they would qualify nonetheless as tourists. That said, unless someone was visiting family members, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I’m going to Houston for my vacation!” And that doesn’t bother me in the least.
Shannon you must be high. A third of those places are not in Houston, and every major (and minor!) city has an art museum and a zoo. Houston is a great place to live and may be a regional destination for those out in the burbs, but non-business people travel here to visit family and friends who then include those places on their itineraries, not the other way around.
I ride the 246 metro route out of Clearlake every weekday afternoon. Guess what? I see (international) tourists every weekday.
Glen, you may be right; however, it’s been said that ‘tourism starts at home’ so maybe you should take the red double decker bus this weekend from Hermann park to Downtown and back again.
Galvestonians consider Houstonians that go there to be tourists, and that’s an easy day-trip distance. Many parts of Houston are at least as far from Clear Lake as other parts of Houston are from Galveston, so yeah it seems somewhat reasonable that those people should be counted as tourists, too.
Also, there are a lot of people from small and medium-sized towns like Bryan-College Station or Lufkin or Beaumont for whom Houston is the nearest big city; to talk to a lot of those folks, Astroworld was the best place on the planet Earth.
Business visitors often bring their families, and they come from all over the world. Maybe the businesspeople themselves are visitors because they’re busy working, but their family act like tourists when they’re here; and even the businesspeople get to be tourists on the weekend.
And then there are the international road-trippers. I’ve met a number of Aussies and Germans that have driven through Texas; but most routed through Dallas out of indifference between it and Houston. Obviously Houston is much stronger than Dallas in terms of its tourist potential, but nobody understands that. (Even people from Dallas are conspicuously unaware) Also, somebody who winds up here on the way to somewhere else probably doesn’t have enough time to find Houston’s nice parts of town, its funky downbeat attractions, or its nice restaurants. Houston isn’t set up for them, or for tourists, or for visitors. It’s set up as a nice place to live; and that’s absolutely fantastic for somebody that lives in Houston.
To double-back on Galveston as a case study…even though so much of the local economy is dependent upon tourists, even the residents there are a bit resentful of tourists (and outsiders in general). For somewhere as small and obscure as Galveston would otherwise be without tourism, they’re something you put up with. Houston can pretty much take it or leave it; and maybe it should largely ditch tourism development in favor of promoting things about which it has better leverage. There’s no doubt that the money has a better use.
When I moved to New Orleans I met a girl from a deep-rooted New Orleanian family who said that her parents used to take her and her sisters to Astroworld every summer. It was the first time that I became aware that Houston had any tourists at all. I’ve also learned that there are quite a few rich foreigners (typically from South America) who visit Houston for shopping and other indulging in other luxury items. I’d call them tourists.
Know what separates Houston from cities people might plan a trip? A sense of place, history, and community. Know what inhibits a sense of place, history, and community? Designing a city around the fundamental premise of automobile traffic. Houston is a great please to drive to your job. That’s what it is primarily designed for. We’ve got hella parking. Loads of strip centers. All the history has been wiped out. No one spontaneously interacts outside business-related events. Sidewalks would be a great starting point. But with all the segregation of usage types and 5 lane boulevards, it’s typically pretty unpleasant to be out on the few sidewalks we have around here. That said, the Menil is nice. MFAH is all right too. The Rothko chapel–not to be sneezed at. I very much enjoy rooting for the Astros. It’s just that it takes more than a handful of driving destinations to make a city worth the trip.
I think of Houston as being a city like Sao Paulo. Due to shear size, it probably has a lot to offer, but mostly thought of as a place you have to go, not a place you want to go. Despite being a much less of a draw to international tourists, Sao Paulo has half again as many hotel rooms as Rio (42k vs. 27k). Rio will narrow this gap in the run-up to the Olympics, but won’t close it.
If you count spouses of business travelers, Houston DOES see some degree of international tourism. It’s a very attractive shopping destination for people from Europe, South America, and other locales with high consumption taxes and import duties. We also have a lot of people that moved here from other parts of the country due to job growth. Their out of town relatives count as tourists when they come to visit.
I’d also guess that a lot of the tourism here is for sporting events. For example, I’m guessing we’ll have a lot of tourists from Louisiana, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, this weekend.
It’s funny how to most Americans, being a tourist means lying on a beach somewhere with a bottle of liquor in hand. If you step out of your own narrow world view for just a second, you’d realize that a large cosmopolitan American city is plenty of reason for a foreigner to visit. Houston is also considered the gateway to Central and South America due to its location, as being the Energy Capital of the World means we get plenty of traffic from the Middle East and China. Just look around Galleria and the reflection pool area of Hermann Park and use your ears sometime, and you’d realize how many international visitors we actually have.
Oh yeah, I remember meeting some German tourists in Hermann Park a couple of months ago. They were trying to cross the traffic circle to see the Sam Houston statue and cars wouldn’t slow down to let them. I tried to impress them with my college German by yelling at the cars “Fußgängerzone!”
I should have asked them what the hell they were doing in Houston.
I’d like to see a Botanical Garden at the site of ailing Gus Wortham Golf Course
It’s refreshing to see most of the Comments are in defense of Houston. We all acknowledge that Houston will never be SA or NOLA in terms of a go to tourist destination and will more than likely never make Conde Nast’s top 5, however it’s far better than Dallas or Austin as a tourist destination. As you read some of the Comments, especially the hate letter that started the thread, it’s laughable how clueless they are about their own city or like Commonsense just have disdain because Houston isn’t Paris. How about going to see the shuttle at SpaceCenter Houston, or the Bishop’s Palace in Galveston, or the San Jacinto Monument, or the Menil, or the Rothko Chapel, or if you’re an architecture buff take in all the great new buildings. If you love Art, check out the MFAH, one of the top Museums in the country. Love Asian Art, go to Asia Society. It’s easy to be negative and dismiss Houston as flat and humid, but if you actually open your eyes you’ll see that you don’t need to take your visitors immediately to Lake Travis (it’s practically dry anyway) or SA (can’t say anything bad about SA, it’s fantastic), you can take them instead to all the cool things in Houston, I assure you they’ll be pleasantly surprised at all that Houston has to offer.
For all the anti-Houston tourism Houstonians, I really don’t understand why you are upset with Houston being a destination. Why is it any of your business where people travel and their calculus for doing so? Perhaps you’re jaded because you live here but the numbers indicate that Houston is arguably, by a number of measures, at the top for travel in Texas (business and leisure).
Travelers to the Houston area spend the most out of any of the other Texas metros. Houston’s average hotel rates are second only to Austin. Houston’s airports go to more places and with bigger planes than any other Texas metro and many other top travel (business and leisure) destinations in the USA.
Travel to Houston is a growing part of our region’s tax income and serves to diversify our economy. To be anything less than supportive is idiocy.
As Germans who travel I’m sure they’ve vacationed in any places like Spain, Greece or Italy. If you think anyone in Greece would slow down to let people cross a road you’d be in for a shock.
So let me guess, you vacation en Paris when you want some refined culture? Non? You take a quick weekend to NYC to smash back a few drinks and plates of food at your *** Michelin restaurants? You travel to Tokyo for To DiE for SuShI? Hope over to India for the absolute totes most authentic artisan rugs #ever?? You jaunt over to the Seychelles for a quick duck-faced selfie on a beautiful beach?
Houston is the most accessible, most cosmopolitan city for a majority of people who don’t want to or can’t spend in excess of 2k$ for plane tickets and 5 diamond hotel room.
As a native Houstonian I might even qualify as an attraction on Shannon’s list, as rare as we are.
I wouldn’t hate on someone who came to visit here, but one of the reasons I moved back was because I’d rather live here and visit other places than live somewhere else and have to spend multiple vacations a year in Houston to visit family. And after 17 years, I am totally ok with that decision.
Nothing wrong with having some places for tourists to visit, but that’s not really what we are about. I do tire of the repeated efforts to make Houston something it’s not, and doesn’t really need to be. This is a city that works, where people come to work and be successful. And that ought to be enough, because we are REALLY good at that.
@JC, your argument seems to only bolster the notion that our attractions are second and third rate to other places.
The places here might be OK to go see once but only while you’re in Houston for other valid reasons, the destinations here are not good enough to be a reason for trip here on their own.
AND THAT OK! I love Houston, I’ts great to live here, to work here, and easy to get around (unless you’re a sweaty pedestrian).
I work for a hostel located in central Houston. Our average guest is 20-29 years old and European/Australian/Canadian. The reasons why they come to Houston are: 1) It is a stopping point between Austin and New Orleans 2) They looked up the biggest city in Texas and this is what they found 3) They are planning on moving here for school/work. While here they will visit a few museums or do NASA, but only if they haven’t already done other museums in other cities. By the time they get here they’ve done New York, LA, Chicago, etc. They aren’t looking to do more museums. Often times they end up eating and drinking.
Houston is a great city, though, and they all leave loving how chill and relaxed we are.
How depressing, Josh. Nice that they think we’re “Chill” (God I hate that word) and a nice place to get plastered. These “kids” sound more into Strip Clubs than museums. I highly doubt they made made the Field Museum nor the Chicago Art Institute, it sounds more likely they grabbed a greasy Chicago Deep Dish and hit the bars of Wrigley Field. A stopping point between Austin and NOLA how refreshing, maybe our C of C will take that up as a slogan: Houston it’s in between Austin and NOLA and has tons of beer joints and titi bars—lovely.
I’ve always held that Houston is the largest city in the world with no real tourist draw. But let me follow that up with what should be an obvious point: this is a good thing. We don’t rely on tourist dollars here. We are the people that make money, even during the worst parts of the recession, and then go touring other cities. I visited Italy during 2009 (I think), and it was interesting to see that country have this weird cognitive dissonance about tourists. You could tell they sort of hated us, but at the same time they were desperate for us to be there as well because there were so few tourists those days and they relied on the money. Being a tourist destination is a special form of slavery. You have to perform for the visitors who drive up prices on everything and don’t really respect your local customs. But you have to lick their boots because you rely on them so much.
Not for me, I would rather just enjoy my city to myself and my fellow Houstonians.
As a side note it may be worth mentioning that the Galleria is a weird sort of tourist destination for a lot of rich people from South/Central America. I don’t think the volume is really significant in terms of the city as a whole, but I’ve met more than a couple of people who do this.