Where’s Houston? Somewhere between Kissimmee and Philadelphia

By Mark Yost
The Houston Business Journal

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country, but according to one 2012 survey by Cvent (GHCVB is a member) Houston is ranked 22nd in terms of best convention cities, just behind Kissimmee, Fla., which sits in the shadow of Orlando and Walt Disney World, and just ahead of Philadelphia, home of “Rocky” and the cheesesteak.
Many of these surveys are merely popularity contests, and in that category, Houston seems to be improving.
Houston“Up and coming,” is how John Rose described Houston’s image in the convention world. He is president of J.C. Rose & Associates Inc., a South Carolina firm that provides exhibits to conventions, and a consultant on USA Today’s rankings of convention cities (Houston is 19th in the 2013 survey).
“Houston has a lot to do within very close proximity to the convention center,” Rose told HBJ.
He said that downtown Houston’s concentration of hotels, restaurants and the three professional sports stadiums are amenities that appeal to convention-goers. Working against Houston is the long commute to downtown from the two airports, he said.
But if Houston is improving in terms of its popularity, it has a long ways to go in terms of budget and economic impact.
In 2012, Osceola County saw a total economic impact from tourism of about $3.1 billion, according to the Experience Kissimmee website. Philadelphia claims tourism contributed about $9.75 billion to its economy in 2012.
GHCVB doesn’t give a total economic impact number, but adding up the figures from one of its rack cards, tourism was about a $500 million business in 2013.
Here’s the breakdown:

$345 million from convention sales
$77.6 million from international sales and tourism
$6 million from event development
$47.1 million in domestic leisure tourism
$18.2 million from the Houston Film Commission

Of course, all of those numbers pale in comparison to the big kahunas of the convention and tourism business. Las Vegas (No. 3 on the Cvent list) has an advertising budget of about $90 million that it uses to draw some 40 million visitors a year with an estimated economic impact of $45 billion. Orlando, No. 1 on Cvent list (and most everyone else’s) spends about $35 million touting itself as a great destination, and generates more than half of Florida’s $51 billion of tourism dollars.
GHCVB? It has just $3.6 million to promote Houston as a great convention and tourism destination.

About Mark Yost
Mark Yost is the author of the Rick Crane Noir series, published by Stay Thirsty Press. Rick Crane is the classic, anti-hero private eye in the spirit of Sam Spade and Jim Rockford. He works in the unmistakably noirish underworld of Upstate New York, running errands and fixing problems for Jimmy Ricchiati Sr., one of Upstate New York's most notorious crime bosses. But readers quickly learn that deep down, Rick Crane is one of the good guys. "Cooper's Daughter," the first book in the widely acclaimed series, is a fast-moving tale in which a heartbroken father comes to Rick and asks him to find out what really happened to his daughter, who was murdered and the details buried in the Unsolved Crimes File of the local police department. The second book in the series is "Jimmy's Nephew," which begins with the death of Joey "Boom Boom" Bonadeo, an up-and-coming boxer and the nephew of Rick's underworld boss. What starts out as a routine investigation turns into a case that will test Rick's faith -- in the Catholic Church and his fellow man. Book No. 3 in the series, "Mary's Fate" is due out in August 2015. Mark Yost also writes for The Wall Street Journal Arts in Review page, as well as the Book Review section. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America -- Midwest Chapter, International Thriller Writers, and a number of other author groups. He is also a member of the Amazon Author's Program. Mark lives in the Loyola neighborhood of Chicago, but he and his son, George, call the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn "home."

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