Some optimistic of Galveston's future

September 5, 2010 3:46:16 PM PDT
It's been almost two years since Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, but the city is making a comeback and is getting an economic boost this summer. But city leaders and business owners say it could be awhile before they're back to where they need to be.

The city is making strides, but many are looking for long-term growth. Folks are encouraged by the recent economic numbers and they're hoping for a complete bounce back.

Those in Galveston say as long as the numbers keep going up, they're encouraged. Galveston remains a popular destination this summer and has seen oil-free beaches; so far, without hurricane damage, this season.

As a result, the tourists have kept coming.

The rolling waves offer a constant invitation for land lovers to jump in. And it's the urge to jump in that's kept Galveston's economy afloat.

"We're here for the whole weekend," visitor Mary Crochet said. "We're staying for three nights here."

Short-term stays for the holiday weekend pushed island hotel and motel occupancy above the 60 percent mark. The economic boost, no matter how modest, is needed.

The hotel occupancy tax, an indicator of economic health, is still 15 percent below 2008 -- the summer Ike hit.

But it's not a double whammy.

The hotel tax collected may be down from two years ago, but it's up 28 percent from last summer.

"Slowly since 2008, we've seen it grow and grow," said Melody Smith with the Galveston Island Visitor and Convention Bureau. "So we're hoping this time next summer we will be able to talk about increases in numbers two years ago."

Many small businesses see the steady but slow increase as hopeful.

"The summer before Ike hit was the best summer ever for Galveston and so that was in the long string of hard work on a lot of people," Business Manager Ken McManus said. "It's hard to get there, so I know it's going to take the same amount of work to get back to that level

It's an optimistic attitude helped in part by out-of-town visitors like Rita Arn and her granddaughter Isabella.

"We're fixing to go to the strand, so we will probably contribute a little to the economy of Galveston while we're here today," Arn said.

The question remains, what will happen after Labor Day weekend and the tourists go home?

Part of the answer is in next month's scheduled Lone Star Motorcycle Rally, which has surpassed Mardi Gras as the island's biggest event of the year.


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