Visit The Woodlands board discusses spring revenue decline, 2021 budget plans

The Woodlands Township's convention and visitors bureau discussed the state of the local tourism industry and outlook for 2021 during a June 17 meeting. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
The Woodlands Township's convention and visitors bureau discussed the state of the local tourism industry and outlook for 2021 during a June 17 meeting. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)

The Woodlands Township's convention and visitors bureau discussed the state of the local tourism industry and outlook for 2021 during a June 17 meeting. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)

The Woodlands Township’s convention and visitors bureau, Visit The Woodlands, discussed the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on its 2020 operations and outlook for recovery in 2021 during a videoconference meeting June 17.

Visit The Woodlands board members first heard an update on the bureau’s 2020 finances from Monique Sharp, the township’s assistant general manager for finance and administration.

Although Visit The Woodlands annual revenues were nearly 22% under budget through April, expenditures came in 23% below budget. Sharp attributed the net favorable spending of around $18,500 to the bureau’s suspension of some operations this spring.

Due to extended closures at most of the township’s hotels, Sharp said, May hotel occupancy tax deposits, which cover April activity, fell 95% from their budgeted projection. Year-to-date deposits fell by more than 37% compared to 2019 and by 40% compared to the 2020 budget, although those figures are expected to rise this year as hotels and businesses continue to reopen.

Visit The Woodlands Chairman Bruce Rieser said the worst financial effects on the area's tourism industry from recent stay-at-home orders and business closures are likely over.


“I’m actually reasonably encouraged,” he said. “Anything short of a 40% shortfall in the hotel taxes, we can handle fairly easily. It starts to get pretty painful after that. I’m feeling fairly confident that we’ll make that.”

Members also noted that hotel occupancy tax deposits are spaced unevenly throughout the year, which may result in a less significant budgetary shortfall if the local hotel industry rebounds in the second half of 2020.

“The real key is the last six months,” Rieser said. “If we can just get about 35% of the budget in the next six months, which is I think doable, then we’re only facing a shortfall of about $3 million, and we can manage that with the reserves we’ve got with very little pain. So, fingers crossed on this.”

Visit The Woodlands President Nick Wolda also shared a presentation on the bureau’s 2021 financial plans later in the meeting, including two proposals that would reduce its budget for fiscal year 2020-21 by either 15% or 40% from the original budget.

After hearing input from local hotel managers about their outlook for business through the rest of this year into 2021 and discussing the two proposals, the board unanimously voted to continue planning for a 15% reduction to next year’s budget, with the option to shift to the 40% plan if shortfalls continue.

Rieser and Director J.J. Hollie, who also serves as president and chief executive of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, said they approved of making the more moderate reduction to allow Visit The Woodlands to have a jump start on promoting the area into the future.

“Everybody else is going to be cutting back,” Rieser said. “I would really like to at least appear that we’re going to do almost everything that we normally do to get our community out ahead of everybody else.”

Hollie said he favored the smaller reduction to allow the bureau to continue its regular operations, given that further economic shutdowns are unlikely.

“Especially when there’s so much fear that people hear and see every day, ... the appearance that we are moving forward—that we are doing it in a safe and logical way—is a much better visual than running for the hills,” Hollie said.

Before concluding the session, board members also agreed to consider several proposals for a possible expansion of The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center at their next meeting in July. Wolda said the bureau’s request for proposals approved last November had yielded eight possible plans, three of which he asked to share with the board next month.

“We know that the convention center—now, going on 20 years—is not able to handle some larger groups, and we’ve had to turn away some business,” Wolda said. “We’d like to, as staff, bring some proposals to you in July to take a look at what an expansion would be and what that means for the convention center that is owned by The Woodlands.”
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2019 as a reporter for The Woodlands area and began working as Austin's City Hall reporter in April 2021.


MOST RECENT

FM 2978 has been under construction since 2018.
(Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Work on FM 2978 continues with expected completion date this summer

The project, begun in 2018, is expected to wrap in the second quarter of 2021.

Tomball Star Academy will celebrate its senior class May 27 with a graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Magnolia Event Center, according to district information. Students will graduate virtually from LSC-Tomball on May 13, according to LSCS information. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
'They’ve created the legacy:' Inaugural class to graduate May 27 from Tomball ISD's early college high school program

The inaugural class of 95 students has been instrumental in paving the way for the students yet to finish the program, said Kelly Marchiando, the principal of Tomball Star Academy since January.

The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a significant shortage of nurses by 2032. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Why Texas faces a growing nursing shortage and what can be done to address it

In 2018, the state health department estimated about 11% of the demand for nurses was not able to be met, and that number is expected to rise to 16.3% by 2032.

Photos in the home of Barbara and the late Don Gebert show the couple and other family members over their decades together. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Don Gebert, founder of Interfaith of The Woodlands, remembered in The Woodlands

A celebration of life service for Don Gebert will be held June 12 at Lord of Life Lutheran Church.

Two new stores came to The Woodlands Mall in April. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Two new stores open in The Woodlands Mall through April

Casper and TravisMatthew joined the mall's offerings April 9 and April 23 respectively.

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Chipotle opens in Magnolia; get a sneak peek of new Houston aquarium and more metro news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

(Courtesy Third Coast Organic Foods)
Third Coast Organic Foods launches e-commerce business

The business sells sugar-free organic wine vinaigrette salad dressings.

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member. (Courtesy Fire Smart, LLC)
Fire Smart, LLC celebrates one year of providing fire safety education across Greater Houston area

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member.

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Chipotle opens on FM 1488 in Magnolia

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia.

Sweet Charlene's Bakery opened in March. (Courtesy Sweet Charlene's Bakery)
Veteran-owned Sweet Charlene's Bakery debuted at The Woodlands Mall this spring

Sweet Charlene's Bakery opened its new location in The Woodlands Mall on March 5.

Designs show the concept for the administration area of a new 32,000-square-foot campus being planned by Xavier Educational Academy. (Courtesy Xavier Educational Academy)
Xavier Educational Academy announces plans to combine campuses at 1 location near Arboretum

The private school currently operates at three campuses in West University, The Woodlands and Memorial. The new 32,000-square-foot campus will quadruple the available space.