HOUSTON – Houston’s travel and tourism industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotels, bars and restaurants, and airports that pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the regional economy each year have shed tens of thousands of jobs since March.
But there are some signs that a slow recovery is underway.
Air travel rebounding
In May, daily passenger counts at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport were near 200,000, which was a 90% drop from the previous year. But earlier this week, nearly 900,000 passengers came through the airport. It’s a sign that air travel is heading in the right direction and some of the thousands of jobs lost during the pandemic could soon come back.
Three of the largest airlines in the world, United, American, and Delta, announced they were eliminating change fees permanently.
Still, experts say it could be a couple of years before the industry completely recovers.
Houston hotels still struggling
But the outlook for the Houston area’s hotel industry isn’t as clear.
“The accommodation sector is at nearly a 35% unemployment rate,” said Sawan Patel, who owns several Houston hotels with his father. “It’s obviously one of the most saturated markets in the country.”
According to data from Houston First, revenue from hotel bookings is way down from the previous year, which means a lot of money that usually flows into the local economy and into neighborhoods and communities isn’t there right now. But with air travel on the upswing, the hope is hotels will start filling up with travelers ready to spend money in our stores, restaurants, and other businesses.
Great travel deals available
The good news that there are great travel deals available as airlines and hotels try to boost their businesses. Before you book your trip, you’ll want to check out the guidance from the CDC for traveling. You’ll find everything you need to stay safe wherever you go, as well as any restrictions you might find abroad.
For travel to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, you can find airfare and hotel discounts as high as 70%.
And if you’re looking to stay closer to home, check out some of these deals here in Houston and in popular destinations across Texas.