Travel and tourism are critical to the Texas economy and create a massive economic impact across the state each year. In 2021, tourism generated $7.6 billion local and state tax revenues in Texas and $27.6 million in The Woodlands. The enormous impact caused by tourism is a large part of the reason why advocating for tourism on local and state levels is so important - and why the Visit The Woodlands leadership team traveled to Austin to represent The Woodlands at Unity Dinner and Converge on the Capitol, held on February 15-16, 2023.
These two events, organized by The Texas Travel Alliance and The Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, bring together leaders in Texas tourism with State Senators and Representatives biennially to discuss the impact of tourism and current legislative issues that may affect or hinder tourism in Texas. Visit The Woodlands' leadership team (Brad Bailey, Chairman; Nick Wolda, President; Elizabeth Eddins, Executive Director; Ashley White, Director of Marketing; and Josie Lewis, Director of Sales) attended Unity Dinner and Converge on the Captiol to advocate for an incredibly important part of the economy for the State of Texas and The Woodlands Township: travel and tourism.
Visit The Woodlands at Unity Dinner 2023 with Rep. Justin Holland, Legislative Champion Award Winner
Nearly 600 tourism professionals, State Senators, and House Representatives attended Unity Dinner on February 15, held at The Austin Convention Center in Downtown Austin. Attendees mingled, browsed silent auction items, and discussed Texas tourism before taking their seats to continue conversations over dinner. Visit The Woodlands sponsored the Unity Dinner Program, which featured an inspiring speech by Texas Secretary of State, Jane Nelson.
Secretary Nelson congratulated the Texas tourism industry for their efforts, noting that in just 10 years, the economic impact of tourism in Texas grew from $4.9 billion in tax revenue to $7.6 billion. She also expressed her support for tourism in Texas, highlighting how it impacts the economy and economic development across the state.
Secretary Jane Nelson speaking at Unity Dinner 2023
After a standing ovation for Secretary Nelson, the President of the Texas Travel Alliance, Erika Boyd, presented the Legislative Champion Award to two recipients: Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and Representative Justin Holland. Both gave inspiring acceptance speeches, emphasizing their support of the tourism industry and the need to preserve and foster tourism in Texas. Unity Dinner attendees took this message to heart as they left dinner and prepared to meet with Senators and House Representatives the following day at Converge on the Capitol.
"Unity Dinner is a great opportunity for us to gather with our peers across the state to recognize the work of the travel and tourism industry throughout the year," said Elizabeth Eddins, Executive Director of Visit The Woodlands and Texas Travel Alliance Board of Directors Member. "It's important that we come together with leadership from fellow destinations, state agencies, state senators, and state representatives to celebrate, educate, and advocate for tourism in Texas. Our state is resilient and has seen an incredible rebound in tourism over the past three years, which has contributed to a large economic impact for Texas and The Woodlands."
CONVERGE ON THE CAPITOL
The morning after Unity Dinner, Visit The Woodlands' leadership team visited the Texas State Capitol for one-on-one meetings with Texas Senator, Brandon Creighton, and Texas State Representative, Steve Toth. The team was joined by Visit The Woodlands' Chairman, Brad Bailey, and Vice Chairman, Fred Domenick - General Manager of The Woodlands Waterway Marriott - to advocate for tourism at the Texas State Captiol.
Visit the Woodlands' Chairman, Brad Bailey, and President, Nick Wolda, meeting with State Representative Steve Toth.
Both Senator Creighton and State Representative Toth represent Texas districts that encompass The Woodlands and speak on their citizens' behalf in the House and Senate. They also speak on behalf of the tourism organizations in their district, including Visit The Woodlands. This is why it is important - and necessary - for Visit The Woodlands leadership to meet with them face-to-face and discuss legislative issues surrounding tourism in The Woodlands and in Texas as a whole.
While at the Capitol, Visit The Woodlands' leadership team met with State Representative Trent Ashby, Chair of the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee. Senator Creighton, Representative Toth, and Representative Ashby were all very supportive of tourism in The Woodlands, commenting on how it supports the economy and overall quality of life for residents.
Over half of The Woodlands Township budget consists of hotel tax and sales tax, both of which are supported by tourism. The amount of tax revenue generated by tourism in The Woodlands allows The Woodlands Township to keep taxes down for business and residents, and it contributes to new projects that draw in visitors and elevate the quality of life for residents.
"Tourism is incredible," said Brad Bailey, Chairman of Visit The Woodlands. "Nearly 60% of The Woodlands Township budget is driven from hotel occupancy tax and sales tax. Making sure that we keep a vibrant tourism, retail, restaurant, and hotel community is critically important."
Visit The Woodlands' leadership team met with Senator Brandon Creighton to discuss tourism in The Woodlands.
While visiting with Senator Creighton and Representative Toth, the Visit The Woodlands leadership team discussed why it's important to preserve at least 1% of hotel tax revenue for funding tourism initiatives that promote The Woodlands as a premier business, leisure, and group event destination. When a small portion of tourism's tax revenue is allocated for initiatives that drive more tourism to a destination, it drives growth and develops a self-sustaining tourism industry. It's crucial to relay messages like this to State Senators and Representatives in order to preserve and grow tourism in The Woodlands and across the state.
"We are always grateful for the opportunity to meet with our State and House Representatives," said Nick Wolda, President of Visit The Woodlands. "Senator Creighton and House Representative Toth have been very supportive of tourism in The Woodlands, and we always enjoy meeting with them to discuss current tourism efforts. These meetings are even more impactful when our leadership team, Chairman, and Vice Chairman are able to join us at the Texas State Capitol. When we work together, we can do amazing things."