HOUSTON (March 29, 2018) — More than 21 million visits to Houston occurred in 2017, a figure that reflects significant growth toward a benchmark goal of 25 million visits by 2020. 
An estimated 21.8 million domestic and international combined visits occurred in the Bayou City during the 12-month period according to figures compiled by OmniTrak’s TravelTrakAmerica and Travel Marketing Insights. Houston First Corporation, which in partnership with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau is responsible for growing convention and tourism business in the city, released the numbers Wednesday, March 28 following its annual Tourism Summit on March 27.
The overall figure is drawn from a three year rolling average, with an estimated 18.3 million domestic business and leisure travelers according to figures compiled by OmniTrak. The domestic numbers show a 6% increase over 2016. Most notably, Millennials continue to advance Houston’s numbers domestically. This trend is echoed in both 2017 and 2018 Omnibus studies, also conducted by OmniTrak, which gauges sentiment and intent to travel. 
Of the 18.3 million domestic visits to the city in 2017, approximately 80% were overnight visitors and 20% came for day trips. Roughly 73% of the domestic total came to Houston for leisure activities, while 15% were here for business and 12% characterized their trip outside of these two categories.
“On the heels of a highly successful year for Houston, beginning with the Super Bowl and ending with a World Series championship, it is no surprise that our city continues to capture the attention of more and more people who live elsewhere,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We have bounced back from Harvey, but it is the diverse and welcoming nature of this city that shines brightly across the country and now draws visitors in increasing numbers. Travel is a vital part of our Houston economy. The tourism industry supports more than 140,000 jobs in our region and contributes $16.5 billion to the local economy. These new tourism figures indicate we are headed in the right direction.”
A preliminary estimate of 3.5 million international visits is projected for 2017, with final numbers expected to be available in the 3rd Quarter of 2018. This figure will represent a 3.5% increase over 2016, according to the preliminary research provided by Travel Market Insights Inc. Mexico is estimated to register a 1.5% increase, while Canada is estimated to register a significant increase of up to 37%. This is good news for Houston, since preliminary figures for international travel from Mexico to the United States show an overall decline of 9%. Many factors contribute to the growth, including major events like the Super Bowl LI and the World Series, an increased number of passengers from Mexico flying into Houston and focused marketing efforts like the HolaHouston campaign.
"We are excited to know our efforts to position Houston as a world class destination have been validated. When you take a closer look at who’s coming to Houston, we are pleased to see an increase in our international visitors. We are also encouraged to know Millennials, especially, are giving a nod to our welcoming and diverse culture, food and entertainment by expressing a desire to visit. We continue creating new and better ways to tell our city’s story so that we reach visitors near and far to let them know Houston should be at the top of their to-do list,” said Houston First President and CEO Brenda Bazan.
Meanwhile, annual room nights booked for future conventions rose to 802,859 in 2017, representing a 5% increase over 2016, and traffic to the VisitHouston.com network of websites rose to 7.4 million, representing a 9% increase over 2016. 
“It is nice to see the team’s hard work paying off with these record numbers,” said Mike Waterman, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This will be the third straight year both the Tourism team and Sales team have broken prior year records. Houston’s recent 2 billion dollar investments to improve the visitor experience and enhance our tourism offerings are clearly paying off.” 
In addition to a plethora of praise surrounding a successful Super Bowl LI, Houston has recently received a number of accolades as a destination. Insider magazine ranked Houston among the top 20 city’s every foodie should visit in their lifetime. Upscale magazine touted Houston as a top 10 city for Millennials to love. Netflix host Chef David Chang of the series ‘Ugly Delicious’ called Houston “the most exciting food city in America”.