At the same time, the neighboring city of Shenandoah, which has a population hovering around 3,350 over its 2 square miles, is expecting a 13th hotel to open within the next year. In addition, new openings will bring the city’s restaurant offerings to around 60 locations, Visit Shenandoah Director John Mayner said.
“An exceedingly high percentage of travel spending that comes into our city is from nonresidents,” Mayner said. “Make no mistake about it— every single day of the year, people come, stay, shop at our shops, eat at our restaurants and drop their dollars.”
Officials in The Woodlands and Shenandoah said the trick is how to keep that trend going with increasing regional competition and limited space in which facilities can expand. Vertical growth through additional hotel development to provide rooms and conference space is one approach currently underway in Shenandoah and under consideration in The Woodlands.
Brookfield Properties, which owns The Woodlands Mall, announced in late 2022 it will add a potential 16-story hotel with 275 rooms and 30,000 feet of conference space as well as a 14-story hotel with 200 rooms. A timeline has not been established for that construction, but in the meantime, The Woodlands Resort is currently undergoing $26 million in renovations, Visit The Woodlands officials said. The upgrade will include room enhancements, three new dining outlets and a boutique on-site as well as an enhanced conference center.
Local hotels have also been recipients of industry recognition. Fred Domenick, general manager of The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, said in an email the hotel was awarded hotel of the year for classic and premium brands for Marriott International in 2022 among U.S. and Canadian hotels.
In Shenandoah, Mayner said construction will wrap in early 2024 on the Hampton Inn and Suites under construction off I-45.
Brad Bailey, a member of The Woodlands’ board of directors and chair of Visit The Woodlands, said the impetus for tourism growth and revenue growth is to keep property taxes down, as sales tax revenue reduces the need for income from property taxes. The Woodlands’ tax rate is $0.1875, and the city of Shenandoah has a tax rate of $0.1477.
Events in April such as the Ironman Texas and The Chevron Championship, a Ladies Professional Golf Association championship, brought a surge to tourism while increasing the region’s national profile, Bailey said. Chevron Championship viewership peaked at about 1.5 million on the weekend of April 22, he said. The event is contracted with The Club at Carlton Woods for five years.
One boon for The Woodlands’ long-term tourism goals would be opening its long-discussed performing arts center alongside The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Bailey said. The indoor venue is under discussion, but high construction costs remain an obstacle, he said.
Aside from events tourism, however, The Woodlands sees conventions and conferences as a growing source of revenue. In 2022, it hosted 2,050 meetings, generating $21.6 million in revenue. In March, it hosted the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
“Every hotel room was full the whole week long. ... It’s great for all the businesses,” Bailey said.