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Everything posted by ToryGattis

  1. My concern is more along these lines: an aquarium is not a national or intl draw (I believe - including Atlanta). It is an "enhanced local draw" the way I think about it - people within driving distance say "hey let's go to Houston this weekend and see the new aquarium". But if most people within driving distance have already seen a couple of aquariums - the ones mentioned - then they're a whole lot less likely to go to Houston to see another one. If I had to guess, I'd bet there is little or no substantial "aquarium competition" within driving distance of Atlanta (GA, NC, SC, TN, AL), at least not until you get down to Sea World in Orlando. And if we end up building an aquarium that almost exclusively draws from local metro residents, it doesn't really add much, at least economically. Nice amenity, but doesn't move the needle as a tourist destination.
  2. I'd be careful with those rankings. They're just based on the number of international arrivals at each city, so they're not counting domestic tourism, and they're not separating business travelers from tourists (or, for that matter, true tourists from those just visiting friends or family). The Aquarium idea is interesting, but has a lot of competition: Moody Gardens, SeaWorld in San Antonio, the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, and the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. I think people have a limited appetite for aquariums, and we already have a lot of competition within driving distance.
  3. FYI, this thread inspired me to do a new blog post here http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2011/11/targeted-tourism-strategy-for-houston.html as well as request others to come over to this thread.
  4. Good stuff, although I think I'd stay away from the name "Museum of Future Technologies". I've read some articles that Disney had a real problem with Epcot because it kept getting dated so fast as technologies changed. I think most of the museum would be the history of engineering and technology, maybe grouped into themes like "mobility", "computing", "health/medicine", "energy", etc. but then shifting at the end of their timelines to broad, long-term challenges. The museum would certainly still have to be updated pretty regularly, but a relatively small fraction of the overall exhibits. The goal is for the kid to get swept up in the great people and technologies of the past and then get them excited about being contributors to future progress. Love the "Triumph of the Human Spirit" idea.
  5. Haven't been there, but love the fact that I can type it into Google Image Search and immediately get a feel for the place. Looks impressive. Definitely a good example. I wonder if a better name for ours might be "The Museum of Progress", showing how human civilization has advanced with science, engineering, and technology and the great challenges we face going forward.
  6. Massive expansion - like the difference between the Lone Star Flight Museum and the National Air & Space museum. More broad engineering and tech (rather than just science and aerospace). Address the Grand Challenges of Engineering: http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/ (maybe a wing for each?) Of course have big hardware when possible: planes, rockets, etc.
  7. I guess the short description would be like the National Air and Space museum (the 2nd most popular museum in the world after the Louvre, see http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-most-visited-museums/3 ), but covering a broader range of STEM subject areas and giving not just history, but articulate the big challenges facing those fields going forward. The goal is to not just look backward, but inspire kids to study hard so they can contribute to working on the big problems of the future in their careers. The original vision of Epcot might be another example. Lots of interactivity and summer camps, school field trip groups on multi-day visits. From a marketing analysis, there is an unfilled niche, and here's my articulation of it: parents plan family trips, and they often want to educate their kids as well as have fun. There are plenty of opportunities to do this with history - Colonial Williamsburg, Boston, the Alamo and San Antonio, etc. - not to mention Europe. DC is where you learn about our great country's history and political system. The national parks for learning about nature and the environment. San Diego for every type of animal in the mega-zoo (and SeaWorld for aquatic animals). But there's bit of a hole when it comes to teaching kids about and inspiring them into STEM careers. On a national level there's Air and Space in DC and a couple of NASA sites (inc. Houston), but it's pretty limited. On a local level it's pretty small science and children's museums. We could aspire to be one of those "must-do" vacations for all families that want to broadly educate their kids. "A DC/Smithsonian of STEM" might be a way to think of it. Maybe that's one mega-museum, or a collection of medium-sized ones. Not sure. The Astrodome is a huge opportunity, as is the giant empty field to the south of it and the easy rail connection to our Museum District. And we already have a starting pull with Space Center Houston. Build on that, and we can create a differentiated niche from other tourist destinations (see the list in my blog post).
  8. Simbha: I love the well-thought out details of your plan (the walkable museum district concept is awesome). And an energy museum certainly plays to our strengths. But I don't think it will do much to attract national and international visitors. People just aren't all that interested in museums in general, or energy. As I mentioned in my post, museums are usually something people add on to a trip they're taking for other reasons. They compliment the trip, they're not a driver of it. I think this applies to London, Paris, NYC, and others. Now DC is an odd exception, and one I think Houston could learn from. The giant Smithsonian collection of museums is a powerful draw for intl and domestic visitors. I'd say domestically it's mostly families or school field trips, where the kids learn about both govt and our nation's history/art/etc. Parents bring (or send) their kids because they think it will be good for their development, as opposed to the pretty much pure fun of something like an Orlando vacation. That's the sentiment I think Houston go viably go after. By creating a very future-oriented, big challenge-focused, STEM-based tech/engi/science museum complex (inc. energy) as a compliment to NASA, we become one of those destinations families will want to visit for the benefit of their kids. I'm not saying they won't also have some fun when they get here (Kemah, Galveston, shopping, eating, etc.), but the core reason they will add it to their vacation plans will be to inspire their kids into STEM fields (science, tech, engi, math) - just like I'm sure plenty of DC trips have inspired kids into public service careers. But for us to be that kind of draw, we have to go way beyond what they already offer in their local science and/or children's museum.
  9. I have always been interested in this topic, so thought I'd bring over my most recent blog post on it. Also a link below to the last HAIF discussion on this. Attracting national and global tourists to Houston PWC ranked Houston #11 *in the world* for business, life, and innovation - a really amazingly high ranking when you think about it. Here's what they said: Best : #2 in cost of owning business space, entrepreneurial environment and life satisfaction, #3 in commute time and cost of living Worst : Last in foreign job-creating investment and international tourists Details: Houstonians love Houston. So do US business owners. The rest of the world ... not so much. With lax zoning laws and plentiful space, Houston's low cost of living and doing business is a dream for American businesses and middle class workers, but the rest of the world pretends as though the city doesn't exist. The city has fewer international tourists than any other comparable global city.That sparked an interesting debate started over at HAIF on how to improve Houston's tourism, especially for foreign visitors. This has always been a tough issue for Houston. We just don't get tourism proportionate to our global economic standing, and out-of-sight is out-of-mind. But what would a realistic strategy possibly be? Out family-fun Orlando? Out weather California? Out beach Florida or Hawaii? Out culture New York? Out museum DC or New York? Out gamble/adult-fun Las Vegas? (or South Beach?) Out ski Denver or Salt Lake City? Out history New Orleans, Boston, Savannah or Charleston? (or even San Antonio) See what I mean? People choose vacation locations for specific reasons, and the winners are pretty damn dominant. We're stuck as a local/regional "big city" tourism destination like Chicago is for the midwest and Atlanta is for the southeast, with our share of great museums, restaurants, shopping, and a few attractions - but not enough to pull people from across the country - much less the world - to vacation here. Our one niche exception - something with some global pull - has been NASA JSC and Space Center Houston, but who knows what the future is there. Here's a long-shot proposal I made a few years ago on this blog, one that would build on the NASA niche: Finally, Houston needs to upgrade its tourism experience. All great, world-class cities offer a compelling tourism experience, even if only for a short trip. Even with NASA, the Galleria, and solid museum and theater districts, this has been one of Houston’s most glaring weaknesses, and one that has kept us off the radar for educated, well-traveled professionals. Again, the light rail network and some vibrant pedestrian districts will help greatly, but we really need one powerful, anchor “mega-attraction” that will actually draw people to Houston for at least a long weekend. One niche where I think Houston could be distinctive would be the world’s largest engineering and technology museum – something along the lines of DC’s National Air & Space Museum, Munich’s Deutsches Museum, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It could even be one of the Smithsonian’s network of National Museums, which have started to move out beyond Washington DC (Design in NYC, Industrial History planned for Pittsburgh). Think of it as Houston’s version of Paris’ Louvre or London’s British Museum. The combination with Space Center Houston could create a national draw, not to mention a wonderful source of educational and career inspiration for our youth. As far as sites, 109 acres just became available at the end of the light rail line with the closing of Astroworld – not to mention the old Astrodome - both easily accessible to downtown and Reliant Park conventioneers. Any well-heeled philanthropists out there?Done on a large enough scale, I could see it attracting not just the usual tourists, but multi-day student group field trips from all over like Space Camp does in Huntsville or the Smithsonian complex in DC - inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers. It should not just focus on history, but articulate the great engineering and technology challenges we face going forward. It would be a big, bold, expensive gamble - but could be just the ticket to move us up to the next level in tourism and international recognition. More good stuff in the comments.
  10. Wow! Those are amazing shots. Thanks.
  11. I don't know, but I'd guess it might have something to do with the Barnett Shale field under Ft. Worth. The mineral/gas rights raise land values.
  12. Saw that too a few months ago. Nothing filmed in Houston. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472399/locations I remember that skyline shot. Definitely Houston, but very old stock footage I think. Key downtown buildings missing. His pickup truck might even be digitally inserted in the scene.
  13. Hit the back button in the lower-right corner of the picture to get to it, and then note the little mouse-over pop-up text boxes at different points on the picture. Kinda cool.
  14. Interesting thread. Instead of commenting, I wrote a new blog post here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2011/07/attracting-national-and-global-tourists.html
  15. The commutes are getting worse, but it will take a lot to overcome the weak schools and expense of living inside the loop. And employers are also (unfortunately) starting to think about moving out to the suburbs to be closer to good schools and affordable new housing, like the new Exxon campus near the Woodlands. Houston's core is healthy, but I don't see it getting any more of the growth over the next decade than it did the last decade, especially with the Grand Parkway opening vast new areas to develop. If you look at the H-GAC jobs forecast, it shows little growth for downtown and uptown, and although TMC grows well (fed by employees from Pearland), the big majority of the job growth is outside the core, which means the residents filling those jobs are likely to be out there too. I've said this on my blog before, but if Houston's wants its core to capture more job and residential growth, it needs to revamp Metro to subsidize private commuter bus/shuttle services competing to connect every neighborhood to every job center with nonstop 65+ mph service on a robust, expanded HOV/HOT lane network (inc. the 610 loop). If it's easy for employees from all over to get to jobs in our central job centers, employers will expand more here instead of in the suburbs, which, in turn, will attract more residents to the core who *do* want to be close to their jobs.
  16. Thanks for the analysis. It's even less than I suspected.
  17. Oh, I definitely think the inner loop growth and densification will continue, but it will also continue to be a relatively small part of the overall metro growth. Less than 10%, maybe less than 5%. I don't know the analysis from the last 2010 vs. 2000 Census, but remember reading inner loop growth was only a small fraction.
  18. Mostly around Kingwood, The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land, and Pearland. Think Grand Parkway west of 45 (including the Tomball area), and Beltway 8 east of 59N and 59S.
  19. The Aberdeen model looks like the model for the one here, with our differentiation being USA and fall instead of spring. You're right - there is plenty of competition. Hopefully we'll be able to compete. It can't hurt that we can instantly get an attendance of thousands of locals - we really don't have to draw that many travelers to have a big conference. That will get it the critical mass, and build from there.
  20. Good question. I assume they have experienced people putting together the trade show to make sure. And of course they can draw on the GHP to get all of the big local energy players to participate, including their alternative energy units. Then they can use those attendance commitments to draw in companies from outside Houston. I think a lot of the small alternative energy players will want to participate in hopes of drawing investment from the big energy companies based here.
  21. Pretty much. Of course I was thinking bigger - full week, mix with OTC, etc. - but they'll have to start small and grow it to that. I like the mid-Oct dates - good weather in Houston. It should reflect well on the city for the visitors. I also wish they had "technology" in the name, and maybe "global" instead of "USA", but those are minor quibbles. It should be a great long-term branding, economic development, and tourism asset for the city.
  22. It's finally happening! New energy tradeshow to launch in Houston in 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 23, 2011 HOUSTON—The nation’s energy capital will host a groundbreaking new tradeshow next year bringing together professionals from the full range of energy industry sectors to discuss the current and future landscape of this evolving field. Total Energy USA is expected to draw approximately 7,500 attendees to Houston October 16-18, 2012 for the largest tradeshow of its kind in the country. Unlike other industry events that have a narrower focus or may be aligned to certain interests, Total Energy USA will provide a balanced forum with an opportunity for all energy sectors—fossil, nuclear, renewables, and cross-cutting sectors like energy-efficiency—to be represented. The resulting mix will create new business opportunities for participants as they discuss how to balance locally available resources, economics, reliability and environmental impact when making important energy decisions. “For more than a century, Houston has been the hub for petrochemical production and innovation,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “The creation of Total Energy USA puts us one step closer to being the world’s energy capital—not just in traditional fuels but in the future of alternative energy.” Total Energy USA is being produced by VP International. Partners in the initiative include the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Technology Center. “Total Energy USA is based on the principle that addressing our nation’s energy challenges will require that we consider all energy options, conventional and non-conventional, along with energy efficiency and reducing energy use,” said Vinnie Polito, managing director for VP International, the event’s producer. By opening up the field and collaborating with associations, media and organizations across the renewable energy spectrum, Polito believes that Total Energy USA will answer the need for an industry event that “elevates the dialogue, broadens the opportunities and paints the complete energy picture.” “This event represents a unique opportunity for Houston to capitalize on our knowledge base in the energy industry,” said Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Energy is the backbone of our economy and Total Energy USA will offer our local companies a home-field advantage for networking and deal-making with firms from around the world.” "To meet our energy needs we must look at all options - fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable sources of power - as well as harnessing the power of smart energy to empower consumers to make informed decisions about how they purchase and use energy," said John Ragan, NRG Energy regional president, Texas. "By bringing all of these together, Total Energy USA will help build understanding of sound, energy-related decisions." What is Total Energy USA? Total Energy USA will be an annual trade event that will bring together all of the energy sectors to provide a comprehensive look at the overarching, integrated industry. This business-to-business tradeshow and educational conference will be the largest of its kind in the United States. What's unique about this event? Total Energy USA is the only event in the U.S. that brings traditional fuels and energy efficiency together with clean and renewable energy technologies. Furthermore, unlike other events that focus on a particular segment of the industry, Total Energy will offer a balanced forum for delegates to make their own decisions and for sponsors to showcase their products on a level playing field. When and where? The inaugural event will take place October 16-18, 2012 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. Who's involved in creating Total Energy USA? VP International is producing Total Energy USA. Partners in the initiative include the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Technology Center and the Technology Transition Corporation. Who will be the exhibitors at Total Energy USA? The event is expected to draw approximately 400 exhibitors affiliated with the energy industry, including associations, builders/architects, component equipment suppliers, equipment manufacturers, project developers and operators and professionals in fields such as renewable energy development, solar design, wind services and more. Who will attend? An estimated 7,500 energy professionals, leaders, researchers, academics and others interested in our energy future including architects, builders, community leaders, developers and energy consultants, government officials, power producers, landowners, large energy users, media, oil and gas suppliers and more. Total Energy USA is designed specifically for those working in the energy industry. Attendance estimates are based on the performance of similar tradeshows previously held around the world. Why is this happening in Houston? Houston has a long history in the petroleum industry. But today the nation's fourth-largest city and nucleus of the energy sector is focused on the total energy landscape, from petrochemicals to wind power. No other city offers the combination of energy-related expertise, resources and technology—or the commitment to leveraging opportunities for development, commercialization and networking.
  23. Items #2 and 5 here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/6922730.html
  24. Toll is set to maximize throughput. Chronicle articles say half (roughly). I believe most park-and-ride buses leave from a single location and go nonstop to their job center. 90mph is the top speed between stops. Once you factor in stops every couple of miles, it is much, much slower on a net basis.
  25. HOT the left diamond lane and it will carry a maximum load of cars + buses at full flow speeds, so no loss of capacity. In fact, it's a net gain with the speed. Feds are paying about half for 3 of the 5 lines (assuming the come through). The other two lines are all ours. Upgrade our transit system: I do, I just want to do it differently (i.e. spend the money differently), focused on express commuter bus service from all neighborhoods to all job centers + increased signature bus in the core (instead of LRT lines). I do somewhat support the University LRT line. I just presented at TEDxHouston on this. Check out slides 17 to 24 in this pdf: http://sayabit.com/tgattis/XRf0CF (the link can also be found on my HoustonStrategies.com blog on the top-right column under Links)
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