Houston First helping generate new records in the sector

HOUSTON (March 20, 2024) – Houston’s travel and hospitality sector showed significant growth in 2023, posting new records on several fronts and continuing an upward trend that’s boosting employment as well as the industry’s broader impact on the local economy.

Early projections indicate more than 51 million people visited the City of Houston last year, up more than 5% from 2022, according to Houston First Corporation, the region’s destination marketing organization. Regional visitation is also expected to post gains when final figures are released later this spring.

“2023 was a great year for our organization and our industry,” said Houston First President and CEO Michael Heckman. “Our 2024 plan builds on that momentum, increasing our work to bring both business and leisure travelers to our city while simultaneously setting a course for what’s possible in the Houston hospitality landscape that will ensure our success now and well into the future.”

Houston hotels ended the year with healthy growth across major indicators. More than 23 million hotel room nights were booked during the year, up 5.2% from 2022. Occupancy market-wide rose 5.6% year-over-year while average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR)—both key measures of hotel performance—rose 6.3% and 12.3% respectively. Overall revenue and in turn hotel occupancy tax collected reached a new record in 2023, up 15% over the previous record set in 2018.

Helping buoy those results were more than 560 meetings and conventions held last year that were by Houston First, accounting for approximately 610,000 room nights. That’s up from 414 meetings hosted in 2022 that resulted in 580,000 room nights.

The Houston First team booked 570 future events during 2023, representing more than 687,800 meeting room nights—well ahead of the goal of 650,000 room nights set at the beginning of the year.

“Our ability to drive results for our hospitality stakeholders hinges in large part on our capacity to bring events both large and small to Houston,” Heckman said. “Our team’s performance this year was fantastic, and it sets the tone for what will be another banner year as we work to capitalize on shifts in the market.”

Meanwhile, Houston’s two passenger airports experienced record traffic in 2023. Just over 60 million people traveled through George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports last year, an increase of 6 million passengers or 11% from 2022. The 2023 figure is also nearly 400,000 more passengers than the Houston Airport System handled in 2019, its previous record year.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector currently sits at just under 350,000 jobs, up 2% compared with a year ago, and more than 9% compared to pre-pandemic industry jobs in 2019. The broad sector is Houston’s fourth-largest industry by employment, accounting for more than 1-in-10 jobs in the region. A forecast from the Greater Houston Partnership estimates leisure and hospitality will add another 10,000 jobs in 2024.

Marketing Efforts and What’s Ahead

Promoting Houston across the U.S. and around the world requires robust marketing and public relations efforts. Houston First hosted 122 journalists who helped generate more than 440 stories on the destination in 2023—a considerable increase over 2022, thanks in part to regional events that helped draw domestic and international media. The VisitHouston.com website generated more than 5.3 million visits and the organization’s social media channels reached nearly 197 million in the U.S. and Mexico. Houston First is also working with digital influencers to help generate content on the destination—31 influencers from the U.S. and Mexico were hosted in 2023, reaching an audience of more than 54 million—up 60% over 2022.

Looking ahead, Houston is poised for another banner year in 2024 with a series of high-profile conferences and events, including the international energy conference Gastech that’s expected to bring more than 14,000 global energy professionals this summer. Several new attractions and experiences will open across Houston—from the interactive arts experience Meow Wolf to the Commons at Hermann Park—along with roughly a dozen new hotel properties representing more than 1,400 new hotel rooms market-wide.

The Big Picture

Houston First will release data on visitation to the region in 2023 as well as the broader economic impact of travelers when it becomes available later this spring.

In 2022, the most recent year complete data is available:

  • 48.7 million people visited the City of Houston
    • 47.7 million were domestic visitors
    • 1.01 million were international visitors, with 650,000 from Mexico specifically
  • 83 million people visited the Houston metro region
    • 80.8 million were domestic visitors
    • 2.3 million were international visitors, with 1.6 million from Mexico
  • Travel and hospitality generated $3.6 billion in state and local taxes
    • The sector generated an overall economic impact of $23.6 billion for the metro region

About Houston First Corporation
Houston First Corporation (HFC) is a local government corporation and the official destination marketing organization for the country's fourth largest city. In addition to serving as operator for the George R. Brown Convention Center and some of Houston's most prominent art, entertainment, and event venues, HFC is focused on promoting the city's vibrancy and rich tapestry of culture. By harnessing the city's collective energy, ambition, and creativity, including its diverse culinary scene, world-renowned performing arts, medical and space innovation, and elite filming locations, HFC is solidifying Houston as a premier national and global destination. For the latest news and info regarding HFC, visit www.houstonfirst.com.

Carolyn Campbell (832) 982-9902
Jennie Bui-McCoy (832) 374-3994

Community Impact & Outreach
Domestic Tourism
International Tourism
Meetings + Conventions