Galveston business owners seeing downturn in tourism

Some business owners in Galveston say they've seen a drop in tourists this summer.

GALVESTON, TEXAS - It's the end of the summer season, and one some Galveston merchants say they’d rather forget.

That's because they say tourism numbers have taken a tumble.

“I think we’re in our 22nd or 23rd year," said Demas Caravageli of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

He told us the 2016 tourist season hasn’t been the “sweetest."

"It hasn’t been our best year, but it hasn’t been our worst, either," Caravageli said.

His family’s candy shop reports a 10 percent dip in profits compared to a year ago.

“You know, I’ve heard people mention that gas prices being really cheap, that maybe people are traveling farther instead of just coming down from Houston," Caravageli said.

He said oil and gas industry issues may have led others to scrap trips altogether.

There’s also a feeling on the island that floods in Houston and Louisiana impacted the plans of many annual visitors.

Meanwhile, on the beach, a highly publicized case of water-borne bacteria may have prompted others to stay away.

"You can see it on the streets, the numbers have been somewhat down," Caravageli said.

“I want to make memories – and that’s why we’re here," said Frankie Neal of Dallas.

He remembered a much bigger crowd on his last Labor Day visit to Galveston.

"It was wall to wall cars, parked – it was a really difficult time to get around," Neal said.

"It's nice, it’s not too crowded, not too bad at all. You have enough room to walk around and just enjoy yourself," said Christina Sanford of Houston.

Some merchants want cruise lines to make Galveston a port of call rather than just a place to board ships.

Maybe that could help turn the tide long-term.

“You know, people aren’t really struggling, but they’re not doing exactly what they’d like to be doing," Caravageli said.

We checked with the Galveston Convention and Visitors Bureau, which won’t have hard data on the entire season until after Labor Day. From April through June, however, it reports hotel revenues were up .5 percent while occupancy was down.

(© 2016 KHOU)


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