Why Houston Thinks It’s a Tourist Town

WHY HOUSTON THINKS IT’S A TOURIST TOWN The single biggest group that visits Houston is . . . wait for it . . . Houstonians, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. That’s probably because the survey counted local residents as tourists if they spent the night in a hotel or made a special trip of 50 miles or more. 58 percent of Houston visitors last year were from Texas; the next biggest source of visitors — accounting for 8 percent — was Louisiana: “And the No. 1 reason travelers report they come to Houston? Last year, 51 percent reported they come to visit family and friends; that is a higher proportion than the other cities in the survey.” [Houston Chronicle]

14 Comment

  • I know the popular refrain is “Houston is a nice place to live, but not to visit.” In the 5 years I’ve lived here, I’ve had friends and family come from all over and they really enjoy visiting. Being a tourist is another story entirely. The city is far too spread out for any tourist or out of towner to enjoy themselves easily.
    It doesn’t help that locals don’t even know their own city outside of their suburban enclave and the Galleria.

  • “The city is far too spread out for any tourist or out of towner to enjoy themselves easily.”

    Depends on what you are a tourist for. If you come to town for to check out the art (let’s say you come for FotoFest, for example), nearly all the museums, galleries, and art spaces are inside the Loop, mostly in three neighborhoods. So for that admittedly narrow class of tourist, the sprawl of Houston is fairly irrelevant.

  • Are the “Houstaonias” from Katy, The Woodlands, etc…?

  • Aparently I need coffee… “Houstonians”

  • PaxMcKatz:

    I wondered that, too. My company is located near IAH, and most of my coworkers live in places like the Woodlands, Spring, Humble, etc. But we have our Christmas parties downtown. The company makes it possible for the employees to get lower-then-normal hotel rates in case anyone wants to party hardy and stay downtown for the night, rather than drive back up to Conroe. (Very responsible of my compnay, don’t you think?)

    So I wonder if this practice is common? People come downtown for a Christmas party or a ballgame or the opera or a prom, they rent a room so they don’t have to drive 50 miles home that night after X beers or glasses of champagne or whatever they may have drunk that night.

  • RWB,

    It is. My company does the same thing. We usually hit up the Omni Riverway since they have been great host for our Christmas party and giving a good discount on room.

    I have many other colleagues in other fields where the same thing happens.

  • One additional point, and I know this may seem absurd, but perhaps the GHC&VB could do more to get Houstonians outside and actually exploring their own city. Just the other day I was in Austin and met a girl from Houston (Clear Lake) that had never been inside the loop more than 4 times. Not that “inside the loop” is all that, but that’s pitiful.

  • I can add to that Chris. A co-worker who we just hired out of college lived her whole life in the Woodlands. At 22 now, she said she only went inside the loop a couple of times and rarely went inside the Beltway.

    She’s traveled a lot, but considering IAH is outside the beltway, she never had to go into the city. She now lives in Midtown. It’s like a new city to her.

  • kjb434 and RWB,

    That is awesome that your companies do that. Worst thing is people trying to drive back home half-lit. I often will look on Hotwire, just to see deals downtown and make an evening of it; kind of a mini-cation. With Houston’s sprawl, it really is like several cities in one. I had a friend visit me when I lived in the Galleria area and she thought it was downtown, then on the way to the zoo, she thought the Med Center was… she was from a small town, but still there are many choices. With Jasper’s and some of the other restaurants opening in The Woodlands, I’ve thought about doing a trip up there. That and the Woodland’s Wine Week is awesome. And yeah, my typing improves with coffee…

  • I have family that lives inside the loop that occassionally vacation at the Woodlands Resort & Conference Center.

  • Are you sure you want to encourage more people to come Inside the loop? Please stay in the Woodlands!!

  • From ben:

    Are you sure you want to encourage more people to come Inside the loop? Please stay in the Woodlands!!
    Heh, I hear ya. But I am personally concerned with the vitality of Houston’s art scene, so yeah, I want people from the Woodlands or Sugarland or wherever to take the trip into town to check out the Fringe Festival or go to a museum or buy art in a gallery.

  • I wish we had a few more out-of-town-guest-worthy special attractions (besides restaurants & the Menil, that is).

    The exhibit at the world-famous Johnson Space Center is embarrassing. What should be a must-see place is grungy and neglected.

    Sooo… you want tourists, eh? Make the JSC exhibit first rate. Turn the Astrodome into a first-rate indoor amusement park. Build first-rate sand-side cafes in Galveston.

    There you go.

  • There are lots of places to eat in Houston. LOTS! But other than that, what would “real” tourists visit in Houston. Galleria? Theater district? Reliant?