Select Travel Days



Chef Hugo Ortega Wins James Beard

Chef Hugo Ortega

James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award

Chef Hugo Ortega is bringing a James Beard medal to Houston. After six nominations for the prestigious James Beard Awards, Ortega was named Best Chef Southwest 2017 last night at a black-tie gala in Chicago.

“Oh my goodness, what a moment,” Ortega said upon taking the stage at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He dedicated his award to “the great city of Houston,” his family and staff and concluded by saying: “What can I say? America is beautiful and I’m living the dream.”

Ortega, whose authentic Mexican cuisine shines at Hugo’s, Caracol and the recently opened Xochi, was up against another Houston chef and first-time nominee, Jianyun Ye of Mala Sichuan Bistro.

Read more here.


Enterprise Development
Partnership & Events

Comicpalooza, one of HFC/GHCVB’s joint venture events, landed back at the GRB May 12-14.  The ninth annual show experienced continued growth with over 45,000 attendees, more than 600 exhibitors and 150 credentialed media. The George R. Brown food and beverage revenues reported over $370K revenue over the duration of the event, an increase of 27 percent over 2016. The GRB restaurant tenants also reported brisk sales over the weekend. Comicpalooza has become one of the largest annual shows at the GRB each year and returns on Memorial Day weekend in 2018.

Avenida Houston Shop

Based on their successful debut at LAUNCH, several previous vendors are now being sold in the Avenida Houston Shop including Brenda Grands, Anvil Cards, La Mochi, and Purple Cactus.

Hilton Americas-Houston

No updates this month.

Avenida Houston

No updates this month.

Cultural Development

Art was on the move this month, moving two installations to new locations.

In the Hilton Americas-Houston, a 22-panel painting by the artist D. Bouman was moved from a little seen spot on the second floor to the first floor west lobby. These small individual pieces, when placed together, depict a large tree. In its new location, the paintings reflect the trees just outside the window and bring light and color to what was before a very large dark wall.

The Plexiglas cube, Houston, painted by Gonzo247 is getting a new look. In order to take advantage of the transparency and bold colors of this popular work, the piece was dropped onto a pedestal that better fills the tall narrow space and will soon be illuminated to cast colorful shadows into its surroundings.


Cultural Facilities
Jones Hall

Jones Hall hosted 18 events in May for attendance totaling 21,579. May marked the final performances for Symphony Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski, who retired after 17 seasons with the Houston Symphony.  SPA hosted the 5 Browns and Baylor College of Medicine returned for their annual graduation.

Wortham Theater Center

For May, 15,931 patrons enjoyed performances at the Wortham Theater Center.
The Houston Grand Opera presented Gotterdammerrung and The Abduction from the Seraglio, as well as two free Da Camera performances, A Little Day Music and Vijay Iyer.  The Houston Latin American Philharmonic Orchestra performed their annual Mother’s Day Serenade and ALW Entertainment continues with their Bayou City Jazz Series performances throughout the year.

Sales and Marketing

The Theater District sales team reports the following shows were booked since the last report:

TransCanada USA: Employee Town Hall Meeting – June 28, 2017, Wortham Center
Green Light Events: Big Freedia Concert – July 7, 2017, Jones Plaza
Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston: The Gondoliers – July 21-23, 2017, Wortham Center
Kenneth Freeman: Ultimate Fan Fest – August 6, 2017, Jones Plaza
Legacy Community Health Services: Annual Luncheon – October 3, 2017, Wortham Center
Voice Art Group, LLC: Russian Grand Ballet Presents Swan Lake – October 19, 2017, Wortham Center
American Turkish Assn of Houston: Turkish Festival – November 2-4, 2017, Jones Plaza
City Ballet of Houston: Greater Houston Youth Nutcracker  – November 13-14, 2017, Wortham Center

Tickets for the following shows have gone on sale since the last report:

Gandharva Choir – June 25, 2017, Wortham Center
The Gondoliers – July 21-23, 2017, Wortham Center
Bayou City Jazz Series: Dave Koz – July 23, 2017, Wortham Center
Russian Grand Ballet Presents Swan Lake – October 19, 2017, Wortham Center

Miller Outdoor Theatre

No updates this month.

Theater District Parking

Two large trams were purchased in order to provide transportation to disabled patrons and those that need assistance with carrying packages to the front door of the Federal Courthouse.

Talento Bilingue

The TBH Summer Arts Camp 2017 is in full swing and includes learning theater, visual arts, voice workshops, and various dance classes.  The students are also scheduled for field trips and special guest presentation throughout the summer.


Convention Facilities
George R. Brown/Avenida Houston Plaza

GRB Certified PinThe George R. Brown recently implemented a signature customer service standards program called the “Five Set Standard” to create a unified customer-first mindset for all partners working at the GRB. The GRB’s front line associates have the most impactful experiences with our guests, and keep them thinking Houston First. This two-day training course was attended by nearly 300 associates.

The GRB hosted TXMED 2017 Educational Showcase and EXPO, I-SWEEP 2017, Comicpalooza 2017, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Lone Star Regional Championships, American College of Rheumatology, and several graduations including UTHSC School of Nursing, South Texas College of Law, UTHSC Medical and School of Dentistry and Harmony Schools Graduating Senior Pep Rally with a record May attendance of 115,772.  In June, we welcome Valve World Americas, Texas Association of School Nutrition, National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), Pri-Med Southwest, and EquipoVision Texas Convention.


The GRB is Leading the Way in Innovative Sustainability Initiatives

Congress of District DirectorsThe GRB is one of the top convention centers in the United States and is committed to sustainability.  In May, the recycling diversion rate was 44.97 percent, and nearly two tons of food donated to local charities.

The Convention Facility Services Team recognizes the importance of green efforts and continually seeks ways to reduce its carbon footprint by continuing to educate and encourage employees to use alternative transportation when commuting to work and use less energy by turning off electronics if out of the office more than 15 minutes.

In line with these efforts, the team hosted on May 16 the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress Association for a tour of the GRB. The tour was led by Wanda Adams, Sustainability Manager, Scott Halverson, Aramark Executive Chef, T.J. Shiflet, TD Industries, Henry Gilbert, TD Industries and Kelly Wolfe, Convention Services Manager, and Mark Goldberg, Assistant General Counsel was a presenter. Congressional District Director attendees were:  Mary Cruz, District Director Office of the Honorable Donald Norcross (D-NJ), U.S. House of Representatives, RobynCongress of District Directors Wheeler Grange, and District Director Office of the Honorable Bobby Rush (D-IL), U.S. House of Representatives, Gabriela Marquez, District Director Office of the Honorable Cardenas (D-CA), U.S. House of Representatives, Alan Ott, District Director Office of the Honorable Glenn Grothman (R-WI), U.S. House of Representatives, Royce Michael Reding, District Director Office of the Honorable Billy Long (R-MO), U.S. House of Representatives, Jud Seymour, District Director Office of the Honorable  Buddy Carter (R-GA), U.S. House of Representatives and Sharon West Witiw, Domestic Programs Director U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.

Congress of District DirectorsThe group toured the GRB’s recycling areas, public art including Creatia 2016 (made from recycled materials), and learned about composting from Chef Halverson.

When asked why they chose the GRB for their tour, Robyn Wheeler Grange, District Director stated, “We believe the GRB is leading the way in innovation and how you recycle and divert waste. We are excited to be here to take this information back to Washington, DC."

Avenida Parking

In May, visitors, events and meetings at the GRB utilized 82,420 parking spaces:  Avenida Central Garage:  15,513 cars; Avenida South Garage: 23,158 cars; Avenida North Garage: 31,530 cars; and Tundra Garage:  12,219 cars.

Additionally, for event drop-off and pick-up, I-Sweep and American Association of Critical-care Nurses utilized the south transit center; Image Expo, Comicpalooza, HFC Blood Drive and American Association of Critical-care Nurses utilized the north transit center.



The destination sales department continues to pursue new meeting and event opportunities for our city.

The citywide team generated over 93,880 possible room nights and secured 38,395 definite room nights for future years with conferences utilizing one of our major convention facilities. The non-citywide team secured 18,011 definite room nights for conventions while adding another 55,969 tentative room night opportunities.

The International team secured 3,199 definite room nights for future years and added an additional 1,184 tentative room night opportunities.  

Members of the sales team participated in the Cinco de Mayo Client event in Austin, the TSAE Open House in Austin, IMEX Europe in Frankfurt, Germany, and Marriott Masters in Houston. These events featured meeting executives from around the country, as well as Europe, which plan significant events in the corporate, association, and specialty markets.

Client Services

Client Services conducted three planning site visits for upcoming conventions:  Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (July 2018), National Rifle Association (May 2021), and Experient/Maritz4 (July/August 2017).

Client Services travelled to Orlando, Florida for promotion for Ulta (April 2018) and participated alongside the sales team at the Cinco de Mayo client reception in Austin, Texas.

Event Services

Events Services assisted with ten events in May:  Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Austin, Texas May 4, Comicpalooza stakeholder’s lounge May 9 -11, National Tourism Week’s Spirit of Tourism Event May 9 and Celebration and Marketplace May 12, Matching Grants focus group and the Q2 Sales Blitz May 16, IMEX Europe May 16-18, XDP powered by ASAE in Washington, D.C. May 23-24, the GHCVB Member Orientation Connection May 24, and the Marriott Master’s Reception May 31.

Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture assisted with one event in May: the HFC Blood Drive May 17.

General Counsel

No updates this month


The first phase of the Houston Marketplace is now live. Houston Marketplace is a one-stop-shop for visitors and locals, including a collection of attractions and experiences that allow buyers to build their own unique Houston itinerary from a curated selection available online. Passes are delivered right to the buyer’s phone or email. To see available experiences visit New experiences are being added daily.

Tourism conducted a sales mission to East Canada, hosting two educational breakfasts and training over 100 travel professionals in Montreal and Toronto. The team also participated in the NEXT Travel Exchange, focusing our promotional efforts with tour operators and retail travel agencies in Mexico and South America.

Visit Houston and Beyond revamped its presence on Visit Houston website. The new visitor's center at Hobby Airport is scheduled to open in the Fall. The Marketing Matching Grants will launch its 3rd year of the program in July.

The International PR team hosted Mexican social media influencer, Gonzalo Garcia Vivanco to promote Houston’s culture and outdoor activities. Additionally, the team hosted media FAMs from Mexico with editors from Reforma and El Norte  newspapers. The team hosted Club Reforma for special event featuring chefs Enrique Olvera (Pujol/Mexico City) and Daniela Soto-Innes (Cosme/NYC) benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters. Lastly, the team supported media visits by two writers for French Travel Guide Le Petit Futé and journalists from Publimetro newspaper (Mexico).

International publicity value for May: $2,931,622; Total worldwide impressions: 68.3 million.


In recognition of National Travel & Tourism Week, the membership team hosted two events:

  • May 9- A Spirit of Hospitality event at the Houston Astros game
  • May 12- A National Travel & Tourism Celebration along Avenida Houston

On May 24 the team held a membership orientation connection for new members.

New members in May were Embassy Suites Houston Near The Galleria, Sunny Flea Market, The Black Swan, Grotto – Galveston, Facility Interiors, Ògùn Art + Wine, Five Wood Realty, Lucky Land Houston, BIGGIO'S, Stellar Productions, Grotto The Woodlands, Noé Grill, Café on the Green, Grazia Italian Kitchen - Clear Lake, Grazia Italian Kitchen - Pearland.

Corporate Affairs

The Houston First community relations team along with board members, stakeholders and Houston First staff, participated in the following community investment events during the month of May:

  • Kinder Institute Luncheon
  • Greater Houston Partnership State of the City Luncheon
  • Greater Houston Frontiers Club Banquet
  • Houston’s 17th Annual Diversity Summit
  • Leadership Houston, Creative Economy Learning Session
  • Alley Theatre Ball
  • Asian Pacific Heritage Month luncheon
  • Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston Golf Tournament
  • Greater Houston Partnership State of Houston’s Global Economy Luncheon.
Public Affairs

No updates this month.  

Marketing and Communications

In May, Visit Houston's network of websites generated over 472,000 visits. Media value was $464,000.

Thrillist cited Houston among the top emerging US travel destinations, while Mic magazine lists Houston among the 10 best affordable vacation spots in the US. Voyeur magazine explored the quirkier side of Houston.

Segments across Texas aired in anticipation of Summer travel including SA Live in San Antonio and Good Morning Texas in Dallas.

A page on the newest and newsworthy things happening in Houston appears in the May issue of DuJour magazine.

Travel influencer/blogger Savanna Monroy with Modern Wanderer on two pieces on Houston here and here.

A number of papers including the Times Picayune out of New Orleans have picked up a story on the most authentic dive bars in America, which prominently featured the Lone Star Saloon, just a few blocks away in Downtown.

The Dallas Morning News had this story on Houston as conveyed through literature.  
A recent trade media FAM continues to pay off with coverage of the GRB renovation and Avenida Houston.

The Houston Bridges Project along I-69 continues to get positive press, including this from the Chronicle (full text below) and this from Telemundo.

Rick Ferguson was interviewed for this piece from Movie Maker magazine on the state of film projects in Houston and the importance of incentives.

Several recent stories ran on Launch and our retail efforts with outlets including Local magazine, Fox 26. UK Travel Site Homes and Travel picked up on our announcement of 20 million visitors last year.

Lastly, the team conducted five interviews promoting Houston and hosted two journalists from national publications including Essence Magazine and Ultimate Seekender Team (Hampton by Hilton influencer).

Film Commission

In May, Houston hosted 20 film and video productions resulting in 98 filming days with direct expenditures of $1.198 Million and an economic impact of more than $3,594,000. These projects include:

Commercials: Acura Car, Adidas, Nonstop Chuck Video Game, Major League Baseball and J.J. Watt HEB commercial.
Television Series/Cable Series: Outdaughtered, Vet Life, Expedition Unknown, Texas Metal, The Eleven, Little Couple and My 600 Lb. Life.
Documentary/Industrials: Italian Astronaut, Unbeatable and Life and Death.
Still Photography: Ford Expedition Catalogue shoot.
Music Video: Chingo Bling.

The Houston Film Commission held the following informational presentations:

  • Presentation to legislators on film production in Houston and the need for a viable Texas Film Incentive Program on May 4, 2017
  • Presentation on film production and diversity in Houston to Ryan Williams, a writer for Movie Maker Magazine on May 12, 2017.
  • Presentation on the Houston film industry on “Neal and Libby” podcast on May 23, 2017.
Regional Product Development

Freeway corridor enhancements - Installations to enhance eight bridge fences over I-69 from Tuam Street to Bell Street is complete. The enhancements consist of weaving colorful strips of high-density vinyl into the existing chain link fences. The strips are pre-printed with color on both sides and depict pixilated images based on photographs taken by children. Enjoy the time-lapse video here. (video credit: Nick de la Torre)

Jones Plaza – The re-programming study for re-imagining Jones Plaza is complete. The architectural design team selection is expected to commence in July.  

A new attraction for Houston – Work continues on a market analysis and feasibility study for a new iconic attraction for Houston.  A working group has been formed and meetings with the various leaders and existing attraction operators are being held.

Potential public market – Exploration of potential sites for the establishment of a public market continues with a focus on East Downtown.

Airport corridor enhancements – As part of our efforts to enhance and better maintain our region’s freeway corridors, Houston First has convened a group of 15 stakeholders and are diligently working on beautification, enhanced maintenance standards, and design treatments for special areas such as underpasses.  Discussions are underway with TxDOT to determine how best to implement enhanced maintenance standards.

Finance & Administration

Community Outreach / May 2017: Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum, Greater Houston Black Chamber Luncheon, Construction Contractors College, Black Enterprise Summit.

Technical Outreach / May 2017: Adventus Technologies, Inc., APEX Consulting Group, Inc., B2Z Engineering, LLC, Brand IQ Inc., LLC, DWG CPA PLLC, Garcia & Wright Consulting Engineers, Inc., HENECO Oil and Gas, Infodat International,Inc, K Staffing LLC DBA Kelly Staffing, MBCO Engineering, LLC, OnTime BI, Optimum Consultancy Services, LLC, Signature Electric Services, LLC, T & M Jones Services, Inc. DBA T&M Services, THE HAWKMORR GROUP, LLC (HAWKMORR TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS), The Spearhead Group Inc., The Voice Society, L.L.C., TPMG Construction, Baker-Calvin, L.L.C., Training and Leadership Consulting, V3Main Technologies Inc., Recovery Professionals, Inc. dba Security Professionals of Texas.

The full financial management and accountability report can be found here.

Information Technology

No updates this month.