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Texas Beach Towns Feeling Impact Of Hurricane Harvey On Tourism Industry

Texas Beach Towns Feeling Impact Of Hurricane Harvey On Tourism Industry
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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many beach towns along the Texas Gulf Coast are struggling to regain composure. Unlike their inland sister cities, cities such as Port Aransas on Mustang Island rely heavily on tourism to spur the local economy.

Federal support and grants are helping cities rebuild, but the economic recovery will certainly take time. In Port Aransas, up to 80% of homes and businesses were destroyed in the Category 3 hurricane, rendering the tourism market temporarily minuscule.

“Port Aransas is built on the tourist dollar,” said James Wheeler Jr., a 38-year-old boat captain who regularly leads deep-sea fishing trips for tourist groups on Mustang Island. “That dollar’s not coming right now.”

According to CNBC, up to $18.7 billion was brought in by visitors to the Texas Gulf Coast. Port Aransas alone was able to make up to $221 million in 2016. However, the tourism industry isn’t only important for bringing in revenue. It’s also important for many American jobs.

In total, the Texas Gulf Coast tourism industry was able to supply jobs to over 170,000 people in 2016 due to its success. Many of those people were veterans, who make up a total population of 1.5 million in the state of Texas alone. But why veterans in the tourism industry?

“Hospitality is about service,” said Neil Tarallo, a senior lecturer at Cornell University, to the Military Times. “And military people understand service at the highest level.”

The tourism industry is beginning to operate again along the Gulf Coast, slowly but surely. Multiple businesses and restaurants have opened once more in Port Aransas, but many of them are only operating part-time. Hotels and stores are covered with debris and shattered glass, which is being taken away gradually by Salvation Army personnel, officials, and volunteers. Compared to the three million people injured in car accidents across the entire U.S. every year, up to 735,000 Texans have applied for FEMA assistance to get back up on their feet.

“You almost feel guilty opening [your business] because there are a lot of stores and places that can’t,” said Sally Marco, a Port Aransas business owner. “But it’s nice to have people smile when they come in.”

Fortunately, one part of these beach towns that hasn’t suffered too much damage is the beach itself. Most of the debris blown through the streets and onto the sidewalks during Hurricane Harvey kept clear of the white sandy beaches. As a result, the tourists still wanting to visit the beach towns of Texas are still able to enjoy one of the best attractions in the area.

There’s a reason why beach towns in Texas, Florida, and California — which boasts approximately 840 miles of coastline — are often so popular tourist destinations. Americans go on vacation to relax and up to 60% of those who visit the beach enjoy doing nothing but that.

Port Aransas residents and tourists have taken to the beaches again, lending themselves once more to the city’s sunny communities. “As these communities begin to open back up — and little pieces will open — the good part about it is, they’ve got a beach,” said David Teel of the Texas Tourist Association. “And it’s a great beach.”