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Encouraging Houston Tourism - What would you do?


Nick_G

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This is how Travel & Leisure describes Houston:

Energy capital, rodeo town, biotech and medical research center, aerospace innovator, international arts destination: America’s fourth-largest city is many things to many, many people—2.2 million in the greater metropolitan area. Like Texas itself, Houston transcends its own clichés and stereotypes and is increasingly impossible to pin down. In a city untamed by zoning laws, these multiple personalities exist side-by-side, and the sheer randomness of the place is sometimes appealing, sometimes appalling, yet always exhilarating. Three separate skylines jagged with audacious towers—by the likes of I. M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, and Philip Johnson—tower over prim, leafy residential neighborhoods. Exquisite museums, fine restaurants, and fashionable shops lie just off the pristine avenues of downtown. You never know what awaits around the next corner, but therein lies the appeal of this unpredictable and in comparable city.

Don't Miss:


  • Strolling (or jogging or cycling) around piney Hermann Parkat the end of the day. Under the gaze of Sam Houston himself, take in the serene Japanese Garden, enjoy an impromptu jazz performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre or a sunset on the reflection pool.

  • Chowing down at Goode Company, a Hill Country-style BBQ stand—complete with wood-fired pit, picnic tables, and Texas honky-tonk music. Whether in drop-dead Blahniks or dusty cowboy boots diners line up here by the dozens for cafeteria-style eats.

  • Exploring the Menil compound of museums—including architect Renzo Piano’s first two buildings in the U.S., the Rothko Chapel, and clusters of outdoor sculpture surrounded gnarly live oak trees.

http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-guide/houston

We should probably ask ourselves, why have I chosen the vacation spots that I did (besides family). For me it was to experience a different culture, history, food, fun and to see beautiful nature. Lots of people go to relax, too (of course in a beautiful place).

These seem like some pretty foundational reasons to go, did I miss any?

It seems that Houston should identify what they have in these categories that other cities do not and of course, get the word out. It probably depends what kind of traveler you're advertising to as well. People from a small town might not be as interested as someone from a big city.

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This is how Travel & Leisure describes Houston:

http://www.traveland...l-guide/houston

We should probably ask ourselves, why have I chosen the vacation spots that I did (besides family). For me it was to experience a different culture, history, food, fun and to see beautiful nature. Lots of people go to relax, too (of course in a beautiful place).

These seem like some pretty foundational reasons to go, did I miss any?

It seems that Houston should identify what they have in these categories that other cities do not and of course, get the word out. It probably depends what kind of traveler you're advertising to as well. People from a small town might not be as interested as someone from a big city.

2.2 million in the greater metropolitan area???? Good grief. How can they get simple facts sooooo wrong?

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  • 3 weeks later...

610 AM has been talking a lot yesterday and today about whether Houston is a destination city or not. They're point is that they love living here and it's a great city but it's not a destination city. It's funny how so many callers are not getting their point, thinking that their just basing the city in general. They even played a clip of Texans owner Bob McNair commenting on getting the super bowl and that Houston is not a destination city.

It's interesting to hear the opinions of people unlike us, who talk about this on a regular basis.

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I figured out what would instantly make Houston a destination city. Purchase the Mona Lisa. I'm not saying who should buy it, it just needs to be done. If its a billion, then buy it. Just think about how many people in the States who will never go to Europe but could easily come to Houston.

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I figured out what would instantly make Houston a destination city. Purchase the Mona Lisa. I'm not saying who should buy it, it just needs to be done. If its a billion, then buy it. Just think about how many people in the States who will never go to Europe but could easily come to Houston.

Seen it - thrice. Not impressed any of these times.

I'd much rather have any of the following:

  • The Garden of Delights by Bosch
  • The Surrender of Breda, Christ on the Cross or Las Meninas by Velazquez
  • Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee [...] by Dali
  • School of Athens by Raphael
  • Guernica by Picasso
  • Danae with Nursemaid by Titian

And, of course, these are only within the Western traditions. Actually, that's a thought... build a great ("even better") collection of Eastern/Asian art. For a billion dollars, you could probably get a large collection of amazing works by Eastern artists - landscapes, painted mandalas, sculptures, etc. Currently, I believe the best such collection in the US is at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Although, I'll say that the Arts of Asia galleries at MFAH are really quite well done - and growing. If anyone hasn't seen the permanent installation Odyssey by Cai Guo-Qiang in the Arts of China gallery, I strongly recommend it. (Each of the Arts of Asia galleries will eventually have a site-specific installation created by a contemporary artist. The next will be a piece by Korean artist Do Ho Suh, to be installed this year.)

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Seen it - thrice. Not impressed any of these times.

Why three times? I found the Mona Lisa very underwhelming the one and only time I saw her. Now, the statue of David - that's what I'm talkin bout.

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Yeah, I saw Mona Lisa as well and was not that impressed. Of coursed I'm not big into art so I'm probably just ignorant about it.

But it's the most famous painting in the world. There may be others we like more or think are better but the mass population knows the ML, they don't know those others.

But yeah, David is awesome. Much bigger and impressive than I expected.

I spoke with a coworker about this and I think they're right. France probably has too much national pride to give it up.

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Why three times? I found the Mona Lisa very underwhelming the one and only time I saw her. Now, the statue of David - that's what I'm talkin bout.

First time was when I was relatively young. The next time was when I decided to see it again while in Paris - in order to see if my initial impressions were a product of my youth. The third time was when I visited with my wife for the first time.

And, yes - David is an impressive sculpture. But, generally, I'm more inclined to like sculpture over painting.

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I don't want Houston selling itself to the world right now, maybe in like 20 or 30 years from now because it has some things it needs to address.

- Houston needs a world class theme park, for entertainment. A theme (like eco friendly) that it beats other places in the world at. (Think EQA style/size) Not just for outsiders to see but for locals first and foremost.

- Houston needs better mass transit. I would like to see the lines going to both airports, a commuter line up to Conroe and one to Galveston. Commuter rail going to Katy, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, League City, Pasadena, Baytown, and all that.

- Houston needs to become more structurally dense. Doing a fly over of Houston during the day, it looks really underdeveloped because of low density structures with parking lots in front of them. More midrises in the inner loop (at least the western half) and more density and infill is needed.

- Houston needs to make its attractions look more attractive. JSC is awesome (but can be boring also). They need to redesign the building to look like a space center not a warehouse. Houston can also start showing its pride in its Space City theme. The new ballet building for example is a simply fantastic, that should be the bench mark for Houston to develop its future venues like for its attractions.

- Houston needs to start appealing more to the press as a destination city, not just a place to live and work like the way it has been doing with all the Forbes lists.

- It needs a nightlife district with diverse and varied options for everyone. It needs to market that district and try to get outsiders from the state and region to come on out there. It needs something unique to it.

- Come on, at least consider making an Ike Dike system. It would be great to have one of those ready for the future.

- Clean up the beaches, get rid of the silt and all the waste that comes from the Mississippi River.

- Start developing along the coastline of Brazoria County, highrise condos along the beach front.

Also starting to care about being a backdrop setting for films might be a great option too.

Anyways, most of these wont ever happen but its my wish list. I would want Houston selling itself to the world after it looks more formidable as a "destination" city. Something Houston needs to start getting done.

Edited by Sellanious Caesar
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I don't want Houston selling itself to the world right now, maybe in like 20 or 30 years from now because it has some things it needs to address.

- Houston needs a world class theme park, for entertainment. A theme (like eco friendly) that it beats other places in the world at. (Think EQA style/size) Not just for outsiders to see but for locals first and foremost.

This would be to attract whom, precisely? The universally renowned deep pockets of large families in east Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas?

- Houston needs better mass transit. I would like to see the lines going to both airports, a commuter line up to Conroe and one to Galveston. Commuter rail going to Katy, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, League City, Pasadena, Baytown, and all that.

Yes, of course. Tourism is contingent on their ability to commute to our bedroom communities and refinery towns.

- Houston needs to become more structurally dense. Doing a fly over of Houston during the day, it looks really underdeveloped because of low density structures with parking lots in front of them. More midrises in the inner loop (at least the western half) and more density and infill is needed.

Tall buildings attract enplaned tourists, as do shrubs to gnats. We want flying human gnats, why precisely?

- Houston needs to make its attractions look more attractive. JSC is awesome (but can be boring also). They need to redesign the building to look like a space center not a warehouse. Houston can also start showing its pride in its Space City theme. The new ballet building for example is a simply fantastic, that should be the bench mark for Houston to develop its future venues like for its attractions.

Right, it has nothing to do with the experience and everything with how to do with what it looks like when you pull up into the parking lot.

- Houston needs to start appealing more to the press as a destination city, not just a place to live and work like the way it has been doing with all the Forbes lists.

Of course, ignore our comparative advantages. Tilt at some windmills. Do what is least expected, insanely.

- It needs a nightlife district with diverse and varied options for everyone. It needs to market that district and try to get outsiders from the state and region to come on out there. It needs something unique to it.

Never mind that we have such a thing. And we shouldn't promote it, just make a different one that we also won't promote.

- Come on, at least consider making an Ike Dike system. It would be great to have one of those ready for the future.

I like do that idea. Galveston Bay is the nation's fourth largest yachting destination, but a hurricane can wreak havoc on that and many other amenities. Besides which, the insurance premiums placed upon property owners throughout coastal counties would be dramatically reduced, benefiting the region tremendously.

- Clean up the beaches, get rid of the silt and all the waste that comes from the Mississippi River.

Is that where you think it comes from? No wonder your other suggestions seem so amateurish.

- Start developing along the coastline of Brazoria County, highrise condos along the beach front.

Do highrise condos cause tourism or do tourists cause highrise condos? And seriously, why should such things be built at the furthest possible place from a major airport? How does that aid our regional tourism? Besides, some people like those beaches because they are remote. Highrises are not the solution to every problem.

Also starting to care about being a backdrop setting for films might be a great option too.

Ah, so that's how people figure out where they'll be vacationing, these days. I would've figured differently, but clearly you're the expert.

Anyways, most of these wont ever happen but its my wish list. I would want Houston selling itself to the world after it looks more formidable as a "destination" city. Something Houston needs to start getting done.

Do we, though? The way I figure is, tourism just isn't that important to begin with. We have certain comparative advantages, tourism is not among them, and we should focus on those sectors for which we can exert the greatest leverage. And then we should promote competition between airlines so that we can fly to other places when we feel like it, for cheap.

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This would be to attract whom, precisely? The universally renowned deep pockets of large families in east Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas?

Me. My friends. My family. Everyone else in the Houston area that goes to San Antonio for theme park related activities and of course east Texans, west Louisianans, and anyone else.

Yes, of course. Tourism is contingent on their ability to commute to our bedroom communities and refinery towns.

Oh come on now. Are you saying having an extensive LRT and CRT system isn't a good thing for those wanting to take another means of getting around other than a cab, car, or shuttle? I mean having commuter rail from SL to Houston doesn't really sound all that bad to me. Will it ever happen? Of course not, this is Houston, a place where transit advocates just talk.

Tall buildings attract enplaned tourists, as do shrubs to gnats. We want flying human gnats, why precisely?

Never said tall buildings, although you're thinking on the right track those would be nice too. I would rather just settle for midrises in inner loop over skyscrapers. Mixed use midrises that add to pedestrian activity with stores on the first couple of floors.

Right, it has nothing to do with the experience and everything with how to do with what it looks like when you pull up into the parking lot.

It does have something to do with the lack of activities around there. I mean there's NASA and what else? What can you possibly do there after all the tours? Some more options for food, shopping, entertainment don't at all seem like a bad idea to me. Why would they be so bad to you?

Of course, ignore our comparative advantages. Tilt at some windmills. Do what is least expected, insanely.

What exactly is our advantage?

Never mind that we have such a thing. And we shouldn't promote it, just make a different one that we also won't promote.

Where?

I like do that idea. Galveston Bay is the nation's fourth largest yachting destination, but a hurricane can wreak havoc on that and many other amenities. Besides which, the insurance premiums placed upon property owners throughout coastal counties would be dramatically reduced, benefiting the region tremendously.

Yes, this.

Is that where you think it comes from? No wonder your other suggestions seem so amateurish.

Well yeah of course my suggestions seem so "amateurish" because maybe they're just my ideas. I wasn't trying to seriously sell all these ideas to anyone, simply answering what I would do.

Do highrise condos cause tourism or do tourists cause highrise condos? And seriously, why should such things be built at the furthest possible place from a major airport? How does that aid our regional tourism? Besides, some people like those beaches because they are remote. Highrises are not the solution to every problem.

Well that's tough for those people. Maybe they will like the quiet Matagorda County better. As for the highrises, yes they should be built. Galveston would never build them, we all know that. Brazoria County has nothing to lose here, I mean the beaches aren't even that great. They're murky, dirty, and look like chocolate milk. The least they can do is open up to being a coastal residential area. They can attract retirees that want to be far from the city but close to the ocean.

Ah, so that's how people figure out where they'll be vacationing, these days. I would've figured differently, but clearly you're the expert.

Well no, its not the only way to figure anything out but you cant deny that it does help in decision making. I mean, when you watch movies and see the typical areas of New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, even Austin or Atlanta in a movie scene. What goes through your mind? Is that not advertising the city and its amenities to a larger audience?

Do we, though? The way I figure is, tourism just isn't that important to begin with. We have certain comparative advantages, tourism is not among them, and we should focus on those sectors for which we can exert the greatest leverage. And then we should promote competition between airlines so that we can fly to other places when we feel like it, for cheap

Why isn't it important?

It's good that Houston has these 'comparative' advantages but it would be better if Houston could add tourism as one of its 'comparative' advantages. :D

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Me. My friends. My family. Everyone else in the Houston area that goes to San Antonio for theme park related activities and of course east Texans, west Louisianans, and anyone else.

How much money does your family spend on such trips that gets captured by San Antonio? And besides, if we had theme parks here, you'd stop being a tourist; it'd just be a purchase, and one that probably costs less than my bar tab on a steak night.

Oh come on now. Are you saying having an extensive LRT and CRT system isn't a good thing for those wanting to take another means of getting around other than a cab, car, or shuttle? I mean having commuter rail from SL to Houston doesn't really sound all that bad to me. Will it ever happen? Of course not, this is Houston, a place where transit advocates just talk.

Although the impact of rail transit between the airports on tourism would be debatable, you suggested that access to Baytown would be beneficial. That indicates to me that you aren't thinking before typing. And as for Sugar Land...what's in Sugar Land? What tourist cares about Sugar Land?

Never said tall buildings, although you're thinking on the right track those would be nice too. I would rather just settle for midrises in inner loop over skyscrapers. Mixed use midrises that add to pedestrian activity with stores on the first couple of floors.

That tall buildings (midrises or highrises) have to be mixed-use is overrated. It's mostly just important that there's density with retail nearby. What you're suggesting is so formulaic. Its nothing special. It's just so....blaaah.

It does have something to do with the lack of activities around there. I mean there's NASA and what else? What can you possibly do there after all the tours? Some more options for food, shopping, entertainment don't at all seem like a bad idea to me. Why would they be so bad to you?

Since when is Houston lacking for food, shopping, or entertainment? (And the answer for a post-NASA tour can vary from the Kemah Boardwalk for a family to San Leon for more adult venues.) To quote a former HAIFer, "Houston is a city that eats prairie and poops restaurants." And hell, I was over at my neighborhood bar on Thursday evening, just randomly, and a Food Network camera crew showed up. I'd say we're doing alright. The best I can figure, Houstonians just aren't very good tour guides. Most of us don't know about San Leon. We don't know about the Bellaire corridor, we don't know about the 'Bargain Mile' on Harwin. We think we know what isn't downtown or [fill in the blank], but we don't appreciate what actually is.

What exactly is our advantage?

Science, technology, engineering, and math professions. And bars. Houston's purpose is to make things that transcend the bounds of our planet's habitable zones (sea, space, or crust), to cure those individuals in the habitable zones, and to get positively sloshed at the end of the day. We do it well, and (unlike tourism) the places where we have a comparative advantage are capable of generating a huge number well-paying jobs. And bars. (We're a mecca for alcoholic nerds.)

Where?

Everywhere. Look around you. Learn your city.

Well that's tough for those people. Maybe they will like the quiet Matagorda County better. As for the highrises, yes they should be built. Galveston would never build them, we all know that. Brazoria County has nothing to lose here, I mean the beaches aren't even that great. They're murky, dirty, and look like chocolate milk. The least they can do is open up to being a coastal residential area. They can attract retirees that want to be far from the city but close to the ocean.

Who should build them? Why? Galveston doesn't build highrises. Developers build highrises (and single-family homes on stilts and hotels), but only when people will buy them or lease units in them. And people are generally less inclined to do that just so that they can live near silty water, as you pointed out.

Well no, its not the only way to figure anything out but you cant deny that it does help in decision making. I mean, when you watch movies and see the typical areas of New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, even Austin or Atlanta in a movie scene. What goes through your mind? Is that not advertising the city and its amenities to a larger audience?

If it's a movie that's set in a city that I'm familiar with, I'm usually dissecting it for ridiculous bullcrap all the way through. If they identify where they are and I'm not familiar with it, then I tend to dismiss the identity of the place they're in as having been just as contorted as the movies featuring cities that I'm familiar with, and generally unreliable. If I'm not familiar with the backdrop and they don't identify where it is, then I tend to view it as generic urbanity (which was probably the artistic intent). It could be somewhere in Los Angeles, it might be a city in Australia, it might just be CG. If I weren't familiar with Houston, then for all I knew it could be Houston. Ho hum. There's no association.

Why isn't it important?

The tourism industry (as you've typified it) creates crappy, miserable, soul-crushing jobs. I want better for my city.

It's good that Houston has these 'comparative' advantages but it would be better if Houston could add tourism as one of its 'comparative' advantages. :D

If my grandmother had a ****, she'd be my grandfather.

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How much money does your family spend on such trips that gets captured by San Antonio? And besides, if we had theme parks here, you'd stop being a tourist; it'd just be a purchase, and one that probably costs less than my bar tab on a steak night.

We normally go to either Austin or San Antonio on average 4 times a year, twice alone in the summer months. I mean can you really say that not having a theme park like EQA is better than having one?

Although the impact of rail transit between the airports on tourism would be debatable, you suggested that access to Baytown would be beneficial. That indicates to me that you aren't thinking before typing. And as for Sugar Land...what's in Sugar Land? What tourist cares about Sugar Land?

You want to talk about improving more global connections through IAH/HOU but you want to completely bypass Sugar Land and Fort Bend County, which is racially the most diverse county in the American South, followed by Robeson County in North Carolina, Harris County in Texas, and Arlington County in Virginia. Why do people even visit Houston in the first place? Business and families. So is it possible that improving transit from the airport to Fort Bend and throughout the city would better serve visitors here to visit their family (which many of them will have in Montgomery or Fort Bend) from overseas? Should we not think of their transportation ease or is the common logic that when you have family arriving at the airport they better just get a cab, learn how to use a METRO bus (or an overpriced shuttle service), or you have to pick them up each and every single time?

No really it would be better to have an extensive CRT and LRT option here. Chicago's got a great thing integrated with Metra and CTA. Why is it wrong for Houston to want that?

That tall buildings (midrises or highrises) have to be mixed-use is overrated. It's mostly just important that there's density with retail nearby. What you're suggesting is so formulaic. Its nothing special. It's just so....blaaah.

Okay then, lets hear it. How would you want to envision the inner loop as (particularly the western half) in regards to density?

Okay if not midrises or high rises, what can Houston build to increase density/structural density?

Like this? (Rome): http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Maybe this? (Paris): http://upload.wikime...8/8f/Metro6.jpg

Or this: (Madrid): http://upload.wikime..._Skyline_II.jpg

I want Houston to be more urban, to have the structural density other great cities have. In the US alone there's New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia, even Seattle and Atlanta have more of it than Houston (or Dallas) do. Have you seen a flyover of New York showing how built/developed it is? How about Los Angeles or Chicago?

Seems like everyone wants to be in that club but Houston.

Since when is Houston lacking for food, shopping, or entertainment? (And the answer for a post-NASA tour can vary from the Kemah Boardwalk for a family to San Leon for more adult venues.) To quote a former HAIFer, "Houston is a city that eats prairie and poops restaurants." And hell, I was over at my neighborhood bar on Thursday evening, just randomly, and a Food Network camera crew showed up. I'd say we're doing alright. The best I can figure, Houstonians just aren't very good tour guides. Most of us don't know about San Leon. We don't know about the Bellaire corridor, we don't know about the 'Bargain Mile' on Harwin. We think we know what isn't downtown or [fill in the blank], but we don't appreciate what actually is.

Houston doesn't lack food, I never said that. Nor does it lack shopping, although it has no street shopping scenes. Highland Park area and Montrose come close but even then they still lack the options the malls have and well, its a mall. There's nothing special about shopping in a mall, every city has those, they vary in size but offer the same exact thing. Houston cant get any streetside shopping? Something like Newbury Street in Boston?

Appreciating the quality of Houston's offerings isn't really easy. Its got high quality things all over, the ballet, opera, symphony, theatre, but to quote what a local artist in downtown told me "whats there to inspire you inside if you cannot be inspired by whats outside". Meaning yes, that bland ugly generic building that the space center exhibits are in do cut way from the potentially "best" possible experience people can have.

I don't know, its been years since I've last been to JSC but last time I walked out of the JSC building I remember seeing roads and prairies, definitely not Kemah or anything else you're talking of. Those things require A( having knowledge that they exist closely to JSC (most tourists wouldn't know). B) Having transportation, which again most tourists wouldn't have. Which is why I suggested LRT and CRT at metropolitan level, not only for tourists but for residents to use.

Science, technology, engineering, and math professions. And bars. Houston's purpose is to make things that transcend the bounds of our planet's habitable zones (sea, space, or crust), to cure those individuals in the habitable zones, and to get positively sloshed at the end of the day. We do it well, and (unlike tourism) the places where we have a comparative advantage are capable of generating a huge number well-paying jobs. And bars. (We're a mecca for alcoholic nerds.)

Science, I wont argue with you here. I'm not familiar enough with this in Houston but it does have an emerging biotech scene and is already a big player in nanotechnology.

Technology, in what sense? Compared to whom? Boston? Silicon Valley? Washington DC? Seattle? Dallas? New York? Chicago? Yes Houston is great but its no industry leader in technology. Maybe you're speaking of technology manufactured rather than technology being tech?

Who should build them? Why? Galveston doesn't build highrises. Developers build highrises (and single-family homes on stilts and hotels), but only when people will buy them or lease units in them. And people are generally less inclined to do that just so that they can live near silty water, as you pointed out.

Who should build them? Developers should.

Why? Why not? Why did Florida build them all over its coastline? Because there was a market for it, demand for it. Texas has the potential to market itself to the same market if it wants, but it doesn't to the extent of Florida. Why? Why not add another piece to the economy and while your at it why not develop the metro?

Galveston doesn't build highrises but their stuck in the past idealism sure kills highrises when developers propose them.

This market isn't the most appealing for coastal living, the water conditions already show that but the potential for those wanting to living on the coast is always there. Having a coastline is never a disadvantage. My only point is that the Houston area can do some good by taping that market.

If it's a movie that's set in a city that I'm familiar with, I'm usually dissecting it for ridiculous bullcrap all the way through. If they identify where they are and I'm not familiar with it, then I tend to dismiss the identity of the place they're in as having been just as contorted as the movies featuring cities that I'm familiar with, and generally unreliable. If I'm not familiar with the backdrop and they don't identify where it is, then I tend to view it as generic urbanity (which was probably the artistic intent). It could be somewhere in Los Angeles, it might be a city in Australia, it might just be CG. If I weren't familiar with Houston, then for all I knew it could be Houston. Ho hum. There's no association.

It's worked well for New York. New York doesn't really have the best beaches in the US, nor the best topography or weather but people still flock there to see it and its world class offerings. A lot of people learn of those things from movies, its one of the leading methods that New York uses to advertise and export itself to the world.

I'm not saying Houston should strive to be like New York or Orlando or Las Vegas but it should strive to at least compete with Boston or Chicago which are both more on the national map and have a large pull with regional tourists in the midwest and New England with a steady/respectable international tourist base. Atlanta is similar with the southeast.

There's nothing wrong with wanting this for Houston. I'm not asking to loosen its hold in energy, technology, aerospace, science, math, logistics, or anything else but simply asking to add in another to the list of things it can excel at, which is tourism.

The tourism industry (as you've typified it) creates crappy, miserable, soul-crushing jobs. I want better for my city.

Well, the tourism industry doesn't have to be the only industry creating jobs in Houston. Never said Houston should abandon what it has now for tourism but it can certainly add tourism in.

Edited by Sellanious Caesar
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We normally go to either Austin or San Antonio on average 4 times a year, twice alone in the summer months. I mean can you really say that not having a theme park like EQA is better than having one?

EQA is a forest that just got bought by a homebuilder and will be made into subdivisions. Okay, sure. So, "Houston should build it," is your response. Except that Houston isn't a person. It is not concious or self-aware. The real world is not Sim City; and there are cheats codes, but they trigger lengthy litigation against the municipality. Try the code for infinite money and see what the secret service does to you. These things come about organically. You can't simply want them into existence. But again...if you could, then your visits would not be tourism. Seriously, what would we be drawing from? Field trips from Beaumont? I'm not saying that such a thing should not be welcomed, but I am saying that it should not be persued. Not with money. Obviously, money wasn't enough.

You want to talk about improving more global connections through IAH/HOU but you want to completely bypass Sugar Land and Fort Bend County, which is racially the most diverse county in the American South, followed by Robeson County in North Carolina, Harris County in Texas, and Arlington County in Virginia. Why do people even visit Houston in the first place? Business and families. So is it possible that improving transit from the airport to Fort Bend and throughout the city would better serve visitors here to visit their family (which many of them will have in Montgomery or Fort Bend) from overseas? Should we not think of their transportation ease or is the common logic that when you have family arriving at the airport they better just get a cab, learn how to use a METRO bus (or an overpriced shuttle service), or you have to pick them up each and every single time?

Yeah, pretty much. Transit for tourism sounds nice just the same as random amusement parks and highrise clusters built by a fictitious entity sound nice. The problem is that there’s no money for it and that the return on investment is just horrible. I’d be perfectly willing to discuss in good faith getting them to the urban core or to the Bellaire/Harwin corridors or to NASA/Kemah or to Galveston in a more organized fashion. Getting them to Sugar Land is absurd. If people living out there expect frequent visitors and don’t like to drive to IAH, then they don’t need to live out there. Maybe Sugar Land should subsidize commuter flights to IAH or commuter rail to the urban core if its that important to them.

No really it would be better to have an extensive CRT and LRT option here. Chicago's got a great thing integrated with Metra and CTA. Why is it wrong for Houston to want that?

Money. See previous comments.

Okay then, lets hear it. How would you want to envision the inner loop as (particularly the western half) in regards to density?

I would acknowledge that most of the inner loop was built out as suburbs with small lots that will never be capable of being assembled into lots large enough for intensive vertical development. Commercial parcels will get taller, slowly. Consequently, there will be islands of density, and then very little. My vision doesn’t matter. That’s the stark reality.

Okay if not midrises or high rises, what can Houston build to increase density/structural density?

Like this? (Rome): http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Rome was built before the invention of the train, car, or elevator. We should not aspire to be so backwards.

Maybe this? (Paris): http://upload.wikime...8/8f/Metro6.jpg

The portion of Paris pictured was brutally re-shaped by a military dictator to make it more difficult for his citizenry to overthrow him…also prior to the invention of the aforementioned technologies. Also, look out onto the horizon. Paris has vast multi-ethnic suburbs of ugliness, poverty, and despair. I do not envy them.

Or this: (Madrid): http://upload.wikime..._Skyline_II.jpg

Admittedly, I don’t know Madrid’s history as well. But I can see that there was never a Montrose underneath it or a deed-restricted Boulevard Oaks out there in the mid-ground of the photo.

I want Houston to be more urban, to have the structural density other great cities have. In the US alone there's New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia, even Seattle and Atlanta have more of it than Houston (or Dallas) do. Have you seen a flyover of New York showing how built/developed it is? How about Los Angeles or Chicago?

There’s a lot to like about Houston when you compare it to those cities. I feel like I’d rather live here than in any of those, and particularly Dallas.

Seems like everyone wants to be in that club but Houston.

Good. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One should not aspire to flatter another, but to become flattered by another.

Houston doesn't lack food, I never said that. Nor does it lack shopping, although it has no street shopping scenes. Highland Park area and Montrose come close but even then they still lack the options the malls have and well, its a mall. There's nothing special about shopping in a mall, every city has those, they vary in size but offer the same exact thing. Houston cant get any streetside shopping? Something like Newbury Street in Boston?

I’d never heard of Newbury Street, and so I looked at some photos. However, I don’t really understand what makes it so special. Between the RO Shopping Center, Highland Village, Upper Kirby, and Rice Village, it seems like we’re doing pretty well. Plus, I think we have better streets, parking, and fewer crazy drivers.

Appreciating the quality of Houston's offerings isn't really easy. Its got high quality things all over, the ballet, opera, symphony, theatre, but to quote what a local artist in downtown told me "whats there to inspire you inside if you cannot be inspired by whats outside". Meaning yes, that bland ugly generic building that the space center exhibits are in do cut way from the potentially "best" possible experience people can have.

Artists say lots of things. They’re a pretty cranky bunch, in general.

I don't know, its been years since I've last been to JSC but last time I walked out of the JSC building I remember seeing roads and prairies, definitely not Kemah or anything else you're talking of. Those things require A( having knowledge that they exist closely to JSC (most tourists wouldn't know). B)Having transportation, which again most tourists wouldn't have. Which is why I suggested LRT and CRT at metropolitan level, not only for tourists but for residents to use.

Science, I wont argue with you here. I'm not familiar enough with this in Houston but it does have an emerging biotech scene and is already a big player in nanotechnology.

Tourists in Houston should be renting cars with GPS systems and Googling for tourist destinations in Houston. It’s just stupid not to. To that end, I have proposed in the past that rather than investing in huge capital projects, we should simply have an online framework for regional tourism (kind of like a re-deployed Yelp) and that we should be subsidizing car rentals instead of building transit for tourists. It’d be cheaper and more effective at getting them where they would want to be that they don’t know exists.

Technology, in what sense? Compared to whom? Boston? Silicon Valley? Washington DC? Seattle? Dallas? New York? Chicago? Yes Houston is great but its no industry leader in technology. Maybe you're speaking of technology manufactured rather than technology being tech?

Technology is more than an Apple logo.

Who should build them? Developers should.

Maybe you should become a developer, then. Let me know how that works out for you.

Why? Why not? Why did Florida build them all over its coastline? Because there was a market for it, demand for it. Texas has the potential to market itself to the same market if it wants, but it doesn't to the extent of Florida. Why? Why not add another piece to the economy and while your at it why not develop the metro?

You suggest that we do what Florida did? There was a market for it? The most prolific buyers of Floridian highrises are banks and, too often, the FDIC.

Galveston doesn't build highrises but their stuck in the past idealism sure kills highrises when developers propose them.

Galveston has a track record of being very two-faced toward new highrise proposals. That’s for damn sure.

This market isn't the most appealing for coastal living, the water conditions already show that but the potential for those wanting to living on the coast is always there. Having a coastline is never a disadvantage. My only point is that the Houston area can do some good by taping that market.

There is a gulf separating those that want to live on the coast from those that can afford to live on the coast in a highrise. But again, I’m not sure who this “Houston” is that should be tapping the market. If people want it and can afford it, then it will happen. If people don’t want it, then it shouldn’t happen.

It's worked well for New York. New York doesn't really have the best beaches in the US, nor the best topography or weather but people still flock there to see it and its world class offerings. A lot of people learn of those things from movies, its one of the leading methods that New York uses to advertise and export itself to the world.

New York City does not need to advertise itself to the world. And besides, we’re talking about apples and oranges. Next, you’ll be comparing Discovery Green with Central Park.

I'm not saying Houston should strive to be like New York or Orlando or Las Vegas but it should strive to at least compete with Boston or Chicago which are both more on the national map and have a large pull with regional tourists in the midwest and New England with a steady/respectable international tourist base. Atlanta is similar with the southeast.

I know that Atlanta has pull within its sphere of influence (and for African-Americans), but I wouldn’t think of it as exerting any significant pull on the Northeast or the Midwest except as a place where layovers happen.

There's nothing wrong with wanting this for Houston. I'm not asking to loosen its hold in energy, technology, aerospace, science, math, logistics, or anything else but simply asking to add in another to the list of things it can excel at, which is tourism.

Well, the tourism industry doesn't have to be the only industry creating jobs in Houston. Never said Houston should abandon what it has now for tourism but it can certainly add tourism in.

You’re proposing that Houston should do [this] and Houston should do [that], but forcing the subject rather than allowing market forces to effect gradual and organic change on the urban landscape would require money. Houston cannot print money. If we subsidize one sector as massively as you suggest, then we must acknowledge that another sector or the economy as a whole shall suffer.

As an example, you propose that Galveston should build more highrises. Developers in Galveston have difficulty keeping new beachfront midrises from foreclosing out (i.e. Diamond Beach), such as it is. A residential midrise would typically cost between $40 million and $60 million. However, Galveston only collects about $21 million in property tax revenue, so they’d have to increase the property tax rate by a factor of five to finance one diminutive and uninspired highrise on their own each year. The total property tax rate for a property owner in Galveston is currently 2.8803%, with the City’s share being 0.5591%. So, it would have to increase to 5.1167% for Galveston to finance one more highrise per year. If I were a Galvestonian or a business owner down there, I wouldn’t be for very long. I’d move to Tiki Island or Bayou Vista right quick. Even La Marque would start looking desirable by comparison. There sure wouldn’t be any new private sector development, and good luck getting bank loans to refinance residential real estate in such an intentionally bloated housing market. It would be beyond stupid. It would be catastrophic to that economy.

There’s more to it than simply getting out of the way. It gets to where you have to ask, is that something that we’d even want.

If that’s what you want, then paint a pretty picture of it and hang it on your wall. Same goes for Houston.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think that Free Press Summerfest is potentially a major asset to future tourism. It's only four years old, but it's already moving into the second tier of national festivals and it has a lot of upside.

Festivals like ACL and Lollapoloza have had a major impact on the perception of their cities. A move by Summerfest into the top tier could really help to change overall perception of the city.

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The cities we're discussing were all built out, to their city limits, before the mass adoption of automobiles. After that, the US had a public policy aneurysm and forgot how to make livable cities for most of the 20th century. Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Las Vegas reflect it the most. While this mode has some advantages, one of the disadvantages is a real lack of walkable character that make them awful places to visit as a tourist who wants a vacation without the complications of driving in a unfamiliar city.

Some of this can be remedied by a good fixed, frequent transit system. Fortunately, even though Houston is very auto oriented, most interesting things are relatively close to each other -- 6 miles from DT to Uptown, 3 miles from DT to TMC, 2 miles from DT to Museum District -- and are pretty easy to link up with an LRT system. The University Line and Uptown Lines would be massive improvements to making Houston friendlier to tourists. I'd also love to see a fast interurban Houston-Galveston train sometime, but that's a little more fanciful than eventual completion of our LRT system.

I also think Houston is doing better than Dallas at organically increasing density. And I think Atlanta might be flawed in ways that are difficult to fix -- outside of the small downtown street grid, it's pure suburbia in every direction right out of the gate, with limited arterial streets. I had a flight out of Atlanta at night just a few days ago that had a long, slow arc around the city at takeoff. It's really striking how quickly the density decreases to nothing.

Dallas and Atlanta also both lack the diversity and cosmopolitan character of Houston.

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The cities we're discussing were all built out, to their city limits, before the mass adoption of automobiles. After that, the US had a public policy aneurysm and forgot how to make livable cities for most of the 20th century. Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Las Vegas reflect it the most. While this mode has some advantages, one of the disadvantages is a real lack of walkable character that make them awful places to visit as a tourist who wants a vacation without the complications of driving in a unfamiliar city.

Mass adoption of automobiles but also the mass adoption of air conditioning probably had a huge effect on the postwar development of the cities you mentioned. And I'm not sure that I would use Las Vegas as an example of a city where tourism doesn't work well. That's about all they have there. I submit that 85+ degree temperatures has more to do with a lack of walkable character than anything having to do with a car.

Some of this can be remedied by a good fixed, frequent transit system. Fortunately, even though Houston is very auto oriented, most interesting things are relatively close to each other -- 6 miles from DT to Uptown, 3 miles from DT to TMC, 2 miles from DT to Museum District -- and are pretty easy to link up with an LRT system. The University Line and Uptown Lines would be massive improvements to making Houston friendlier to tourists. I'd also love to see a fast interurban Houston-Galveston train sometime, but that's a little more fanciful than eventual completion of our LRT system.

Again, walking and carrying stuff is hard. Especially if you have kids or if it's raining, etc. etc. The problem that the Houston-Galveston train ran into in the '90s (besides crappy, slow track) is that you wind up on the wrong side of the island with no car. Getting to the beach is a hassle. If all you want to do is go to the Strand, then I guess it's OK, but seriously, it's way easier to drive there.

Anecdotes don't equal data, of course, but the last time my family was in Chicago, we were there as tourists. I think we can fairly safely agree that Chicago is a legitimate tourist destination. My wife, being kind of a greenie, was very excited about the possibility of taking commuter rail and the El to get around. We stayed in a northern suburb hotel and tried to work out ways to get where we were going using mass transit. We were very disappointed to see that it was a lot faster and a lot cheaper to drive, even with parking costs. Pretty much everywhere. And, by the way, if you were to ask me what the coolest thing about Chicago is and what I would go there to see, very high on my list would be historic architecture. The stuff that Houston seems to happily throw away. The best city I've been to for tourist-friendly mass transit is probably Washington DC. Maybe New York, but taxis are still easier. That's just a car you don't have to park yourself.

I also think Houston is doing better than Dallas at organically increasing density. And I think Atlanta might be flawed in ways that are difficult to fix -- outside of the small downtown street grid, it's pure suburbia in every direction right out of the gate, with limited arterial streets. I had a flight out of Atlanta at night just a few days ago that had a long, slow arc around the city at takeoff. It's really striking how quickly the density decreases to nothing.

Dallas and Atlanta also both lack the diversity and cosmopolitan character of Houston.

Density has nothing at all to do with tourism. In fact, it can easily make drawing tourists harder if it's too hard to get near your attractions. I would argue that if you don't already have something with real historical significance that is going to draw tourists (USS Constitution, Liberty Bell, certain famous museums) then you are better served putting your attractions out where there's plenty of cheap land and parking.

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Are there any other ideas on what we can do to make Houston more touristy?

Put kiosks on every other corner of downtown selling t-shirts with Mayor Parker's picture on it saying "My (fill-in-the-blank-with-relative-not-close-enough-to-buy-you-anything-nice) went to Houston and all they bought me was this lousy shirt"

That should be sufficiently touristy.

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This ad so lame it practically makes my eyeballs bleed. The logic here is similar to wearing a tee-shirt made up to say “I’m really a very cool person” in the expectation that people will then come up to you and say “I see by your shirt that you are very cool. Will you be my friend?” One would have to be fairly delusional to believe that this communicates anything other than that Houston must be extremely insecure in its identity. I wouldn’t think that the truly funky among us feel compelled to advertise the fact, much less using such an inane typeface.

And what is with parking the Art Car in front of the St Regis hotel? Are readers supposed to infer that those funkified Houstonians stay at five-star hotels? If anything, the crowd at the St Regis is probably fairly funk-free, almost by definition.

My guess is that the people who believe that this actually constitutes effective image building are precisely the same crowd that thinks dubbing an area “Eado” is a good idea; that funkiness can somehow be magically conjured up by marketing gimmicks.

I came back to look at this stupid ad and I threw up again. Ugh.

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Are there any other ideas on what we can do to make Houston more touristy?
sell tickets for astrodome tours, being that it's the world's largest airconditioned dilapidated structure, the tickets would sell themselves, and we would let people take as many photos as they want, encouraging flash photography, as this will only help to degrade the structure that much faster.
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Put kiosks on every other corner of downtown selling t-shirts with Mayor Parker's picture on it saying "My (fill-in-the-blank-with-relative-not-close-enough-to-buy-you-anything-nice) went to Houston and all they bought me was this lousy shirt"

That should be sufficiently touristy.

actually.....I think the idea of trading on Mayor Parker's persona as 21st century-fun-loving-openly-gay-mayor might have some legs, if done correctly. Did any of you see last week how she was clearly loving that photo op with the roller derby?

This isn't necessarily related to the mayor, but Houston's obvious tourism niche that we could be doing a lot more to develop is gay-friendly travel. Emphasis on the food scene, secondarily boutique hotels, top-flight arts and museums, shopping. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Houston these days (at least on the high end of the food chain) seems very tolerant. With great value for the travel dollar to boot.

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Did y'all notice how she and her partner were simultaneously riding a giant motorized banana in the art car parade? This was done in public! That should've merited some Daily Show action, right there. I even went so far as to look for a way to submit the photo to Jon Stewart, but couldn't find a way to do so.

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Niche- That photo was my FB status for well over a month. I loved that she rode in a banana. I knew Annise way back in the 80s when I was doing some PFlag speakers bureaus. Trust me, while she doesn't appear "hip" she knew full well what she was stepping into. She scored some bonus points in my book...

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Niche- That photo was my FB status for well over a month. I loved that she rode in a banana. I knew Annise way back in the 80s when I was doing some PFlag speakers bureaus. Trust me, while she doesn't appear "hip" she knew full well what she was stepping into. She scored some bonus points in my book...

Mine too. ...both Facebook and for the bonus points, actually. There was no way that she would've been blind to the joke, and I respect any politician that is willing to troll the majority of their own constituency. That was awesome.

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  • 2 years later...

lmao. i dont mean to bring up any off topic discussions in this thread, but it seemed like the best place for this given the title.

has anyone ever seen or heard of WonderWorks? its a fantastic little touristy operation of fun and games with hands on learning/education mixed in, mainly geared towards kids but i had a great time when i went (i was probably 23 at the time). the elevated/multi level ropes course is loads of fun, though since then ive started to see ropes courses in more locations, like Moody Gardens.

http://www.wonderworksonline.com/


 

 

 

WonderWorks bills itself as an amusement park for the mind, featuring over 150 interactive exhibits. It’s 55,000 square feet of fun for the whole family… And don’t forget to stick around for Terry Evanswoods’ thrilling magic show, sure to delight the mind and play tricks on the eyes.

Take your time and enjoy WonderWorks for all it’s worth. It’s a go-at-your-own-pace attraction where you can try out every single exhibit as many times as you want! Get your fill of each of the exhibits while you’re there, there are no limits. It’s a great place for families looking to keep their kids enthralled and entertained for hours! On average, people can spend two hours just going through all the exhibits once. Feel hurricane winds, the shaking of what an earthquake feels like, flip upside-down on a bicycle-like contraption, see how hard you can throw a baseball, design a own virtual roller coaster and then ride it, try laying on a bed of nails, and more! WonderWorks is a must-stop in Pigeon Forge, TN.

wonderworks1.jpgA word to the wise, it can get crowded, so pick a good time to go when you do. Try early mornings or late after dinner. I would avoid Fridays and Saturdays unless you’re prepared to deal with an influx of people.

A few more tips:

  • Wonder Works coupons and discount tickets can be found on their website.
  • Don’t eat anything too heavy beforehand. There are rides that spin and flip, so try to eat after you go on any of the rides.
  • There are a lot of photo opportunities at WonderWorks (bed of nails, spacesuit), so pack your camera.

 

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  • 5 months later...

Tourism board unveils aggressive agenda for drawing visitors

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/economy/article/Tourism-board-unveils-aggressive-agenda-for-6229965.php

 

Can't access the article but am curious. Anybody know what the aggressive agenda is exactly?

 

 

edit: google finally let me read it.

Edited by LarryDierker
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