HOUSTON – The number of visitors to Houston reached 17.5 million in 2015, up from 14.8 million the year before, according to data released this week by Houston First Corporation.

The record new figure, which is compiled from several sources including the national research group TNS Travels America, puts Houston much closer to reaching 20 million visitors by 2018—a goal set forth by Houston First and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau a year ago as part of a broad new tourism initiative. The figure includes both domestic and international visitors coming to Houston for both business and leisure.

“This figure shows that our efforts to bring more visitors to the city are proving successful,” says Dawn Ullrich, CEO of Houston First. “We are investing more resources than ever before in promoting the destination, in the region, around the country and abroad. That, coupled with economic factors, has led us to where we are—much closer to our goal.”

The growth is due in part to low gas prices that have aided drive travel primarily from markets elsewhere in Texas. Air travel is also on the rise, up 3.7% in 2015 to 55.1 million, according to figures from the Houston Airport System. International air traffic alone increased 9.5% and Houston remains the second-fastest growing destination in the U.S. for overseas travelers, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

“The hospitality industry is a vital component of the Houston economy. Whenever we see an increase in the number of visitors to the city, we know it means that more people are coming to experience our restaurants, museums, hotels and attractions,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston First’s efforts to increase the city’s visibility as a destination appear to be paying off. It’s great news as we develop more hotels and prepare to welcome the Super Bowl in 2017.”

Travel related spending in Houston hit $17.2 billion in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. The hospitality industry supports more than 135,000 jobs in the area and generates tax revenue of $1.4 billion.

“The alignment between Houston First and Visit Houston, and the additional resources it brought to bear, has helped us hit this incredible milestone,” says Mike Waterman, president of the GHCVB. “There is no doubt that the attention the city is receiving from national and international media, coupled with our strong sales effort, will continue to generate strong results.”

Earlier this year the GHCVB released record figures on convention sales and website visitation. Nearly 733,000 room nights for future conventions were booked in 2015, a 29% increase from 2014. Online traffic to the VisitHouston.com network of sites reached 6 million last year, up from 4.6 million in 2014.

About Houston First Corporation and Visit Houston
Houston First Corporation operates the city's finest convention and arts facilities to position Houston as a world-class destination. In 2014, Houston First and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau aligned their operations to create a single clear voice representing the city under the brand Visit Houston. Houston First owns the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel and manages more than 11 city-owned buildings, plazas and parking facilities. For more information, visit HoustonFirst.com and VisitHouston.com.

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To interview Mike Waterman, president of GHCVB, contact:
A.J. Mistretta
713-437-5206
amistretta@visithouston.com