David Teel, President and CEO of the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA). TTIA represents an array of travel and tourism-related business in our state, including hotels, airlines, attractions, campgrounds, convention and visitor bureaus, advertising firms, restaurants, travel agencies and tour operators.
Mr. Teel shared his thoughts on the current state of the travel and tourism industry and its importance to the Texas economy.
What are some of the new destinations and travel hot spots here in Texas that are keeping the industry growing?
David Teel: This year in particular, 2012, has been one of the most robust years in my days in this industry that I’ve seen. We had the new Pleasure Pier come on-line down on the seawall in Galveston.
It’s really a kind of throwback to the old boardwalk kind of experience. And it’s on the site of what used to be the old historic Flagship Hotel. So the foundation is still there and what was unique about that was that in its day the Flagship was, I think, the only hotel, at least in this country, that was built over water. Of course, the last hurricane down there kind of did away with that, but Landry’s moved in and refurbished that … The Pleasure Pier has been going great. It’s been very popular there and it’s added a new dimension to the landscape there in Galveston, which they’ve needed after that last hurricane.
It’s a welcome addition to their tourism. SeaWorld, of course, added their Aquatica Water Park – a major addition to an already significant attraction. The Schlitterbahn resort hotel on South Padre Island, they went in and bought what I think was the old Holiday Inn down there and put in a 221-room hotel and indoor waterpark that’s pretty much adjacent to their outdoor waterpark.
What should every Texans know about their state’s travel and tourism industry?
David Teel: I think people should know that we are predominately a small business/entrepreneurial industry.
That means that a lot of those half million to a million jobs that we talked about are driven by small business. Yes, we have some huge employers like the airlines and the SeaWorld’s that employ thousands of people.
But it’s still all about the small businesspeople — people in our communities throughout the state who are hiring workers, who are communicating with consumers and generating travel. And that travel not only generates revenues for those businesses, it’s creating jobs in those communities and there’s a domino effect with the tax revenues that are generated of that business.
There’s no better tax for a Texan to have than one that’s paid by somebody else. And that’s what travel-generated taxes are. It is such a value to a community because you’re bringing visitors into a community and those visitors are helping keep your property taxes lower, your sales tax rates lower because they’re providing additional revenues that help fund your schools, pave your roads and pay for public safety.
A lot of times people see us as just being a fun, family entertainment-driven industry, but, in fact, we’re business – as much a business as anybody else.