Gulf of Mexico
Jennifer Reynolds / Galveston County Daily News

TX - Galveston Sees Boon in COVID Call of the Wild

What’s clear from this year is that people want to visit Galveston.

The spring brought closures that left island beaches and streets empty; but summer brought a surge of day-trippers.

Despite pandemic-related lockdowns, people traveled to the island from across Texas this year in search of outdoor space within driving distance of major cities. The travel shielded the island from some of the worst economic effects of the pandemic, though industry-wide, businesses are reporting reduced revenues.

In fiscal year 2019, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees collected $12.05 million in hotel occupancy tax. This year, it collected only about $10.33 million, less than what it collected in 2017, according to records.

The park board, which manages island tourism, hasn’t yet calculated exactly how many visitors traveled to Galveston this year. Before the pandemic, the island was attracting well more than 7 million visitors annually.

But the park board does know more Houston, Dallas-area and Central Texas residents have been driving to the island, park board CEO Kelly de Schaun said.

“Many Texans who would normally fly to a beach destination like Mexico, Florida or the Caribbean decided to stay closer to home,” de Schaun said. “Galveston is the closest beach to many of our drive markets.”

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