Victoria hotel industry booms; tax receipts up 42% over last year


Dec. 10, 2011 at 6:10 a.m.
Updated Dec. 12, 2011 at 6:12 a.m.

Looking to book a room in the Crossroads? That's fine, if you can find one.

With oil and gas activity and other projects in the works, demand is up for available rooms.

Victoria brought in $1.56 million in hotel occupancy tax income during fiscal year 2011, said O.C. Garza, communications director for the city of Victoria. That's a 42 percent increase from 2010's $1.09 million and the most ever collected, as far as the city is aware.

The city's fiscal year ended in October.

Garza attributed much of the growth to ongoing Eagle Ford Shale drilling, the incoming Caterpillar plant and travel generated by Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria.

"Basically, every sector of the Victoria economy seems to be really booming right now," he said.

There are specific criteria regarding how a city can spend its hotel occupancy tax money, Garza said, noting expenditures must directly enhance and promote the convention and hotel industry. That can include both historic restoration and renovation and promotion of the arts, as well, as long as it directly promotes tourism and the hotel industry.

Upcoming improvements funded by the taxes, for instance, include upgrades to gateway signs at city entryways and to those that direct people to attractions.

"It's one way to step up the quality for what we hope will be increased travelers to Victoria," he said.

Increased hotel demand is a positive for the region and likely means more development down the road, said LaRue Roth, manager of the the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Already, she said, new hoteliers are looking at Victoria, with some hoping to locate close to Caterpillar. The Convention and Visitors Bureau also plans to do its part to continue the growth trend, bidding for sporting events, group meetings and more.

On the flip side, however, Roth said no one has the crystal ball. That means no one knows exactly what the future holds.

"How many hotel rooms is too many rooms?" she asked. "When will the economy tip? I don't know."

Victoria's Comfort Inn, 1906 Houston Highway, sees a steady flow of guests who work in the oil field, area plants and construction, said Mike Patel, with the company. Traffic slowed somewhat after Thanksgiving, he said, but he expected it to pick up in the coming weeks.

Room prices are one way the hotel remains competitive, Patel said, noting some potential customers call looking for weekly rates as low as $280 or $300.

"We don't do weekly rates," he said. "But we do extended stay by putting our price down to a rate where people can afford to stay."

The hotel charges $99 per night for one person staying in a single-bed room.

Cuero hotels are virtually full to 100 percent, said Randall Malik, executive director of the Cuero Development Corp. One hotel, the Best Western at 308 Park Heights Drive, is even expanding to meet demand.

"So, it's good news," Malik said. "We've got a lot of people staying in Cuero and shopping and eating in our restaurants, which is certainly a big boost to the economy."

Another indicator also points to the city's recent growth.

The Texas Department of Transportation's recent traffic count study for State Highway 72 shows the count jumped from 3,200 vehicles per day last year to 7,130 a day in 2011.

Cuero's Wildflower Inn & RV Park, 2117 N. Esplanade St., sat at 100 percent occupancy until recently, owner Pradip Vora said. Recently, however, he said it dropped to about 80 percent.

The drop is likely a seasonal issue, he said, noting he expects traffic to pick up again in January or February.

Regardless, he said business is up enough to keep the staff busy.

"It's been good," he said. "All over, it's good. This area is better than others."

Goliad has two current hotels and another in the works, said Mona Faust, executive director of the Goliad County Chamber of Commerce. Business is good, she said, but RV parks have seen the regular seasonal slow-down that comes at the end of the year.

"That's typical of the oil field," she said. "At the end of the year they're running out of budget, but on Jan. 1, they're gearing up and going strong."

Business has slowed for Goliad's Antlers Inn, 1013 U.S. Highway 59 South, said Rajesh Bhakta, with the company. Although the hotel receives overflow from those in the oil and gas industry sometimes, it's typically just one or two days a week.

"The oil and gas industry is not in Goliad County," he said. "It's in Kenedy and the Seguin area. We always have vacancies."



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