Tomball leaders have made significant strides to ramp up community events designed to brand the city as a destination for tourism and family-oriented fun with 51,000 people attending city-sponsored festivals in 2014. Festival attendance in the city of Tomball increased by more than 6,200 visitors since 2013, Tomball Marketing Director Mike Baxter said.
Likewise, Magnolia officials have begun this year to market the city as a hub for healthy living and continue to embrace its designation as an official host city of the Texas Renaissance Festival since 2011.
In Magnolia, attendance has increased by about 17 percent at all city and chamber events during the past few years, including the Magnolia Showdown Barbecue Cookoff, Hometown Christmas at Unity Park and various Stroll events, Magnolia Economic Development Coordinator Tana Ross said.
“One thing that people don’t think about is that tourism has a trickle-down effect,” Tomball Marketing Director Mike Baxter said. “Even though our events for the most part are in the downtown Tomball area, they still benefit other businesses in the whole area. Somebody is going to buy gas here, they may have to go to Walgreens or CVS, and they may end up going to Kroger or H-E-B to get a picnic.”
City of Tomball sales tax numbers have increased from $8.8 million in 2010 to $14.2 million in 2014, Tomball City Manager George Shackelford said. As more hotels continue to open in the area, the hotel occupancy tax numbers have spiked about 24 percent from late 2012 to 2015, he said.
These upward revenue growth trends are due in part to the establishment of a Tourism Advisory Committee, Hotel/Motel Association and creation of a marketing director position four years ago, Shackelford said.
“When talking to [owner] Mary [Harvey] at Granny’s Korner, she has great days when visitors venture down Market Street,” Shackelford said. “Cisco’s Salsa Company says they are slammed and full all day long as well as The Empty Glass, Brautigams Bar N Grill and Nonnie’s Soda Fountain. Just imagine putting 6,000 to 7,000 people at your front doorstep in a six-hour period in the downtown area.”
The committee and association work together with city officials to promote Tomball as a tourism destination with help from the police and fire departments, said Holly Cook, chairwoman of the Tourism Advisory Committee.
“We’ve seen a growth in our events across the board,” Cook said. “I think that’s what we’re striving toward is to have the growth sustained. As residents and business owners, that’s where we get our income. I think that seeing the increase in the tourism and festivals directly relates to the economic growth in our area.”
Cook, who also works at Community Bank of Texas in Tomball, was named the first chair of the committee in 2011 and continues to serve in her role with eight other board members, including three hotel members, three business owners and two residents.
Baxter and city staff have worked together to develop several popular city events that have been recognized statewide, such as the July 4th Celebration and Street Party, Rails and Tails Mudbug Festival and Bugs, Brew and Barbecue Festival.
“We took the program from the aspect of the startup of a theme park,” Baxter said. “We came up with the slogan, ‘Tomball Texan For Fun’ and the mascot. The ‘rides’ are our restaurants, shops and entertainment in town. We built it using that as a template, and it has worked.”
“We’ve seen a growth in our events across the board. As residents and business owners, that’s where we get our income. I think that seeing the increase in the tourism and festivals directly relates to the economic growth in our area.” —Holly Cook, chairwoman of the Tourism Advisory Committee
In Magnolia, sales tax revenue has seen a 30.4 percent increase from $1.84 million in 2010 to $2.4 million in 2014. Similarly, hotel occupancy tax revenue rose 29 percent over the same time frame from $37,005 in 2010 to $47,729 in 2014, and the city is looking for ways to increase its marketability, Ross said.
This past spring, the city carried out its first “Live Well! Magnolia” initiative with free fitness and healthy living courses open to residents for eight weekends throughout March and April, Ross said.
The programming ended April 25 with a Run Through the Woods fun run and health fair in Unity Park. About 90 residents enlisted in the “Live Well! Magnolia” program throughout the course of the event, she said.
“Whether it is a home you are looking for, a farmers market with local healthy offerings, a great park to jog or a doctor, you can live well in Magnolia away from metro mayhem,” Ross said.
The city is expanding the “Live Well! Magnolia” initiative as another economic development and marketing tool, Ross said. There are plans to continue the event next spring for possibly four weeks with cooperation from local businesses and residents, she said.
Along with the city events, the 41st annual Texas Renaissance Festival, which is held in Todd Mission for eight weekends from Oct. 10 to Nov. 29, poses a huge economic boost for Magnolia, TRF General Manager Terre Albert said. Albert, who also serves as chairman of the Greater Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, said the festival welcomes 30,000 to 35,000 attendees each day—a total of more than 600,000 guests each year.
“It’s a major thing out here for the area with the local economy and tourism,” Albert said. “We fill a lot of the hotels in the area from Navasota to Conroe to The Woodlands and our city of Magnolia’s hotels all the way down to the new part on FM 2978.”
As an official host city, Magnolia has partnered with TRF during the past five years to offer free shuttles from local hotels to the festival, which is located about 6 miles northbound of downtown Magnolia on FM 1774, Albert said.
“We have 5,000 people camping out here every weekend, and if they come into town on Thursday or Friday, they are probably going to stop and eat, get gas or shop at these places,” Albert said. “I know it generates revenue for the city of Magnolia overall. It just may not have that impact for every business, and I would be naive to think it does.”
Tomball and Magnolia officials plan to attract new hotels to the area and increase tourism and marketing efforts to bring in more visitors, officials said.
Over the past three years, Tomball has won dozens of tourism and marketing awards from the Texas Festivals and Events Association, Baxter said. Tomball also won a viewer’s choice pick and was featured on “The Daytripper” travel show on PBS in late May.
“Next year the plan is to really reach out statewide to bring in tourists from even farther out than we have in the past through a brochure that we’re developing with Kelly [Violette] over at the Economic Development Corporation and online tourism websites and programs,” Baxter said.
In Magnolia, officials plan to continue marketing the city’s large home lots, parks, cycling routes and other amenities to attract new developers and residents to the area, Ross said.
“We are working to attract more bed and breakfasts, cycle-friendly offerings and would very much like to see a zip line and canopy tour in the immediate area,” she said.