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Leadership Update


Space Center Houston 8 Things We're Excited About in 2016

From performance spaces to outer space, the year ahead in Houston is full of exciting additions, renovations and openings that are sure to make headlines.

As the city prepares to host some major events in coming months, there's an energy and drive to complete major projects and put the best spotlight possible on Houston. Check out some of the highlights on the horizon in 2016 for the Culinary and Cultural Capital of the South.

Read more here.


Enterprise Development
Partnerships & Events

The inaugural SpaceCom Conference was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center November 17-19, 2015. With over 1,700 attendees, more than 100 exhibitors and 50 credentialed media, the first year was an unqualified success.

SpaceCom will be held annually and is one of Houston First and GHCVB’s proprietary events. It is a partnership with leading trade show production company National Trade Productions and is in collaboration with NASA-Johnson Space Center. The event focused on the commercialization of space and included industry leading companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and others.  Additionally, with the help of the Houston Airport System, the first ever global SpacePort Summit was held at SpaceCom.

An agreement was also reached with Asian carrier EVA Airlines on a landmark partnership that provides resources to Houston First, but also includes benefits that will enhance efforts of the Tourism Department in promoting Houston in Asia.

In other news, Houston First and United Airlines reached an agreement to extend the partnership between the organizations for another year.


Visitors Center

With the closing of Paradies Gift Shop, the Visitors Center is now providing an assortment of snacks, candy and sodas with the goal of significantly increasing sales during 2016.



For the second year in a row, The Hilton Americas-Houston finished in the top spot in scores for Loyalty and Guest Experience for Hilton's worldwide big box hotels during 2015. A special thanks goes out to Hotel Manager Jacques D’Rovencourt and his team for their impressive work. In addition, the hotel exceeded the 2015 budget for actual group rooms booked reaching $183,000 (from their $180,000 budget) and 2015 actual net income reaching $43,820,312 (from their $43,794,906 budget).

Remodeling of the hotel lobby restrooms on the east side of the hotel is in progress and scheduled  to be finished at the end of the 1st quarter of 2016.

Hilton remains on TripAdvisor’s list of the best hotels in Houston Top 10 Rank.

In December 2015, the hotel hosted the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Following the conference, Hilton received a letter proclaiming the success of their conference and complimenting the wonderful service Hilton provided during their event.


Cultural Programs: Christine West is the newest member of the Houston First team and will work to enhance the presence of local Houston art and culture into Houston First assets.

City Hall North Wing: Renovation is scheduled to complete by the end of January 2016.

City Hall 2     City Hall


Cultural Facilities
Sales and Marketing

The following shows were booked in the month of December:

  1. University of Houston: Moores Society 29th Annual Dinner & Concert Gala – January 28, 2016 at Wortham Center
  2. Indo-American Association: Bollywood & Hollywood Brass Extravaganza – February 29, 2016 at Cullen Theater
  3. St. Thomas Episcopal Church & School: Sounds of Scotland  – February 29, 2016 at Jones Hall
  4. Northern California Chinese Culture & Athletic Foundation – April 17, 2016 at Cullen Theater
  5. Cookie Joe’s Dancin School: Recital Week – May 31 to June 4, 2016 at Cullen Theater
  6. Amy Blake’s Academy of Dance: Recitals – June 16-19, 2016 at Cullen Theater

Ticket sale trends for Shen Yun, which ran December 22, 2015 to January 2, 2016 at Jones Hall, are as follows:

  1. 12,136 tickets were sold to 12 performances (down slightly from 2014)
  2. 55% average capacity per show
  3. 84% online sales
  4. 13% box office sales
  5. 3% phone sales


Theater District Parking

Houston First’s Theater District parking group provided the following summary of activity within the garage and on surface lots:

  1. Revenue and expenses in November: $873,895 (less sales tax) revenue and $209,807 expenses
  2. Contract parking revenue in November: $431,690

The Alley Theatre's lobby entrance in the garage was upgraded with a lighted entrance sign.

Garage way finding was upgraded in accordance with the Theater District's master plan and included changing the color coding across parking levels from nine colors to three colors. There is now a green garage, yellow garage and blue garage.

Emergency phones were also upgraded to digital and 46 additional cameras were installed at each phone as well as at two of the busy stairwells below Tranquillity Park into the garage.

Sunset Coffee Building

Construction is expected to be complete by the end of March 2016 at the Sunset Coffee Building, at which time the sale closing process for Houston First will take ownership. The building should be fully open and operational in July 2016. 

Sunset Coffee Building Construction

Houston First Outdoors

No updates this month.

Miller Outdoor Theatre

Contractor J. R. Clancy from Syracuse, New York is replacing the counter weight system originally installed in 1968 at Miller Outdoor Theatre. J.R. Clancy has been in business for 131 years since it’s founding in 1885. The team is pleased to report the project is on schedule. Over nine miles of cable and wire rope have been removed for salvage.

Miller Outdoor construction

Jones Hall

Jones Hall hosted a total of 36,502 arts patrons at 27 performances during December. The Symphony's Very Merry Pops and their family show, Frosty and Frozen Christmas, were the most popular performances during the highly successful holiday season. Shen Yun also returned for performances during the final two weeks of 2015.

Wortham Theater Center

Wortham Theater Center hosted 82,047 patrons at 53 events during December.

The Houston Ballet presented its annual Nutcracker Ballet in December. The 2015  production of The Nutcracker bids farewell to Ben Stevenson’s beloved production. Created by Artistic Director Emeritus Ben Stevenson, the Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker has been Houston’s premiere holiday tradition since 1987. The Houston Ballet reports over 1 million people have seen this production since its launch 29 years ago.

In 2016, Houston Ballet will premiere a new version of The Nutcracker by Artistic Director Stanton Welch which will also feature new sets and costumes.

The Houston Grand Opera presented The Little Prince for the second year during the holiday season. This new holiday tradition will continue in 2016 with the scheduled production of It’s a Wonderful Life.

All holiday performances attracted large crowds of family and friends visiting to enjoy holiday decor throughout the facility. In particular, the grand Christmas tree and beautifully decorated gingerbread house were major draws for attendees before and after performances.

Talento Bilingue de Houston

In December, painting took place across Talento Bilingue de Houston's (TBH) public, rehearsal and administrative spaces. Additionally, new artwork was placed on display in the lobby area. Finally, the TBH web site has been updated to emphasize focus on the organization's vision and mission in the Hispanic community and throughout Houston.


Convention Facilities
George R. Brown Convention Center

No updates this month.

Construction Status

The following is a full discussion of these important activities in this downtown neighborhood:

Construction inside the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) continues to move forward, and outside construction on Rusk Street continues. Currently, driving lanes along the garage are being formed for concrete.

The Partnership Tower construction continues to progress. In the crosswalk to the office tower, all the glass is installed and the chilled water lines from the GRB run through the ceiling area. The chiller installation in the main plant is about to begin. The massive 27 ton chillers are being lowered to the main plant which is 24 feet below ground.

Additionally, mechanical construction in the office areas is moving along and air conditioning ductwork is being installed.

Lastly, the parking garage floors are poured and lighting is installed.

GRB Construction GRB Duct Work GRB Chillers





Destination Sales

The Destination Sales team booked 732,967 room nights for future meetings in 2015, a 29% increase over the 569,440 nights booked in 2014 and the largest number ever logged by the organization. The sales team’s efforts secured 460 meeting and convention groups from US and Internationally based organizations. The most significant market success was attributed to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), medical and education industry related meetings.

The citywide convention sales team continued to pursue new meeting and event opportunities for our convention campus securing over 230,500 room nights for Houston. Overall tentative development for the month of December generated over 224,000 possible room nights for future years with conferences utilizing one of our major convention facilities. The non-citywide sales team secured nearly 22,000 definite room nights for future conventions while adding an additional 67,000 new tentative room night opportunities.

The international sales team generated four leads representing 59,784 possible room nights for future years. Significant bookings include the Masjid Muhammadi ASHRA meeting with 25,000 attendees.

Additionally, members of the Destination Sales team participated in International Association of Exhibitions and Events as well the Holiday Showcase. These events feature meeting executives from around the country that plan significant events in the corporate, association and specialty markets.


Destination Services

The Destination Services team conducted planning site visits in December for upcoming conventions including:
NCAA Final Four (4/2016); TASA/TASB (9/2016); American Nurses Association (10/2017); Healthcare Design Expo & Conference (11/2016); FIRST Robotics (4/2017) and True Value (2/2016).

The team also hosted the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and traveled to Philadelphia to promote attendance for the American Epilepsy Society coming to Houston in December 2016.

The Destination Events team provided logistics and expertise for the following organizations: Destinations Texas Tradeshow in San Antonio, GHCVB Annual Membership Appreciation in Houston, IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) in Baltimore, Corporate Partnership Post Familiarization Trip in conjunction with Marriott Marquis and Holiday Showcase in Chicago.

The Employee Engagement team coordinated Toys for Tots in addition to delivering a holiday treat to all employees.


In the month of December, the Tourism Department continued the promotion of Houston as a leisure destination in top markets around the world, with the following activities:

Local Initiatives Update: Marketing Matching Grant Program:  From the 27 proposals received, 14 matching grants are being awarded in January to local organizations during a special event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Houston and Beyond:  The team is also working with fourteen CVBs in the area to set up a joint marketing program to promote the Greater Houston region.

Domestic Leisure Travel: Continue working with online travel agencies to increase travel by targeting specific markets, initiatives currently in place with Expedia and Trip Advisor.  

Trade Shows: Tourism conducted a sales and media mission to Auckland, New Zealand along with Houston Airport System and Air New Zealand to present Houston as a desirable travel destination in celebration of the new direct flight.  More than 200 travel professionals were trained and meetings with leading media were held both in Auckland and in Perth, Australia.

Media Visits: Media visits were supported and/or hosted from Taiwan, UK and New Zealand, plus one group of travel agents from Beijing, China.

International Media Value for December: $340,348; International audience: 6,537,106.


Corporate Affairs

No updates this month.

Public Affairs

In the month of December, The Public Affairs team successfully sponsored the outgoing elected official’s farewell luncheon, as well as hosted the Mayor’s new city council member orientation. The team also worked on plans for the Houston First orientation for new City Council members.

Initial meetings for Connectivity and Promise Task Forces were held. In addition, Public Affairs sponsored “Houston & the Legislature: What’s Next,” a Texas Tribune event featuring a discussion with Senators Paul Bettencourt and Sylvia Garcia led by Evan Smith, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Tribune.

Marketing and Communications

During the month of December, several stories ran as a result of public relations pitches and Visit Houston activity including pieces in USA Today, Today Show, Travel + Leisure, Texas Monthly, The Tennis Channel, Consequence of Sound, VICE (Noisey), Daily VICE, Brooklyn Vegan, Paper Magazine, Reuters, Southwest Spirit, Yahoo Travel, Washington Post, First to Know, The Cultureur, Global Traveler USA, International Traveller, Public Radio International, Great Day Houston, Luxury New Zealand, New Zealand Herald, TV New Zealand, Stuff (New Zealand) and Vacation Idea.

Our network of websites generated over 470,000 visits in the month of December. Media value was $3.7 million with an audience of 330 million people nationally.

December's video chat was conducted in partnership with the Houston Ballet and featured the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is part of a monthly series with Houston celebrities and attractions.

Lastly, the team hosted 10 press visits to promote Houston including media with Maxim, Vice, Conde Nast Traveler, Thrillist, Creators Project, Consequence of Sound and Paper Magazine.

Film Commission

During the month of December, Houston hosted 20 film and video productions resulting in 81 filming days with direct expenditures of $2,479,000 and an economic impact of more than $7,437,000. Some of these projects include:

Commercials: Cancer Hospitals of America, Adidas, and Reliant.

Television Series: Sisters In Law, H-Town Hustle, A Month In My Life, I Am Cait, Call To Cosplay, He Said She Said, Greenhorns and a Swedish TV series.

Feature Films: Orphan Train

The staff attended the Women In Film and Television-Houston quarterly meeting and holiday reception. Staff also attended the Southwest Alternate Media Project Board of Directors meeting as well as Houston Cinema Arts Board of Directors meeting and “Hispanicize,” a Latino and multi-cultural media professionals networking event. We also sponsorship of screening and reception for Houston-filmed documentary OFF THE MENU: ASIAN AMERICAN.



New members joining the GHCVB in December included: Brazosport Convention & Visitors Council, Michael's Cookie Jar, Down House, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, D&T Drive Inn, Santikos Palladium AVX Entertainment, iFLY Houston, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Lawless Spirits & Kitchen, Hunky-Dory Tavern, Foreign Correspondents, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, TransPak, Shiftgig, Houston and Beyond, Alvin Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Huntsville-Tourism & Cultural Services Department, Port Arthur Convention and Tourist Association, City of Tomball, Bernadine's, Treadsack Management. Click here for a complete list of GHCVB members.

Finance & Administration

Community Outreach activities for December 2015 included:
Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Supplier Diversity & Procurement Business Expo, National Hispanic Professional Organization Membership Meeting, Greater Houston Black Chamber Hall of Fame Induction Awards, City of Houston Meet the Buyer Business Expo, City of Houston Champions of Diversity Awards, Holiday Tree Lighting and Kwanzaa Celebration Event, Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum and Success in Business Forum.

Technical Outreach activities for December 2015 included:
C’est Bon Seasoning, Project Management Group, LLC, Holley’s Restaurant, Regional Consulting, Executive Benefit Solutions, List Translating Services, DEC Consulting, Latavco Consulting Group, Paradigm SES, Breakthru Ventures, Duke Sys, Skyline Building Services, Babak Zamanian, Platino Marketing Group, LP Printing, Global XLR, A-Rocket Moving & Storage, Radio One Advertising, Maldonado Consulting, Bayside Printing, Commercial Cleaning Services, Boral Branders / branding and Marketing, MA State Tax Specialists, RPC Global Technology Store, LCD Concepts, Inc. and Reliant Supplies.

For the full financial management and accountability report for December, click here.


No updates this month.