Visit The Woodlands looks to tourism recovery plan as revenue shortfalls from shutdown become clear

Visit The Woodlands, The Woodlands Township’s visitors and conference bureau, discussed a three-phase reopening plan for the area’s tourism and hospitality facilities during a videoconference meeting it held May 20.

As area hotels began to reopen—including The Woodlands Resort, which reopened May 20—VTW President Nick Wolda said the larger reopening plan for the area's tourism amenities will focus on the concepts of response, recovery and resilience.

As expected, the hotel occupancy tax, which helps to fund VTW, was short in the May report, which reflects March receipts, according to Monique Sharp, the township’s assistant general manager for finance and administration. The shutdown that resulted in the closure of most area hotels and facilities began in mid-March.

As of March 31, VTW's year-to-date revenue trailed the budgeted revenue amount of $799,000 by $134,000, Sharp said.

VTW budget reductions planned in response to the March shutdowns included cutting March advertising, ceasing staff travel and planning other departmental cuts, according to the presentation. In April, those cuts continued, totaling about $1 million, according to VTW officials.

“Obviously, we expected to get hammered on the tax receipts, but we’ll just have to see what happens,” Chair Bruce Rieser said during the meeting.

Initial recovery strategies include using the township’s natural amenities such as lakes and parks to attract visitors, VTW Executive Director Elizabeth Eddins said. Rieser said this stage could focus on individual activities rather than group activities.

“[Recovery] is where we are now. We feel this time could be anywhere between six to 18 months depending on our hotels and visitors’ recovery," Eddins said.

Among new offerings in The Woodlands designed with individuals and small groups in mind, the Riva Row Boat House began offering water bikes May 21 through The Woodlands Parks and Recreation Department. Four water bikes are available and are designed to be used by single riders. Reservations can be made by calling 281-210-3965, according to the township.

Rieser said during the meeting he disliked the term “the new normal,” describing long-term changes in habits and instead hoping the return to genuinely normal activities would resume soon.

“What we’re operating in now is anything but normal, and I don’t think we should ever refer to it as that,” he said.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.