John Harper / The Houma Courier
HOUMA, La. -- Houma hotel rooms are packed to the gills these days, so much so that recent conventions have led some to look as far as Morgan City to find a place to stay.
Hotel revenue has increased at a steady pace over the past four years. Hotels brought in $3.06 million last month, more than any March since the city began keeping track of hotel tax collections.
“Right now we are seeing an extreme number of visitors coming through, more than we had last year. Our numbers as far as tourism are definitely up,” said Sharon Alford, director of the Houma Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The swell in hotel revenue puts the region's hotels on pace to surpass the all-time total in 2010, when out-of-state workers flooded the area during the effort to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Total hotel revenue in the parish was $30.2 million in 2013, just shy of $30.6 million earned in 2010.
On one weekend in March, when the Wildlife and Fisheries summit coincided with the Terrebonne Livestock Agricultural Fair Association rodeo, the city's hotel occupancy neared 100 percent.
“There was one person I talked to, he had to find a hotel room in Morgan City because there was just nothing available,” said local resident Julie Falgout, who attended the summit on behalf of Louisiana State University.
Two hotels, a Candlewood Suites and Hilton Homewood Suites, remain under construction in the Houma area, with completion dates scheduled this year to bring 218 new hotel rooms. A Fairfield Inn and another hotel on Enterprise Drive behind Target are also in the development stages.
Alford said the interest only upholds confidence in the area's future in conventions and tourism.
Weekday business traffic is still the major driver pushing hotel sales figures higher, said hotel manager Lisa Turner, who manages four area hotel chains.
“It's normally a business, oil and gas market here Monday through Thursday,” Turner said.
Still, the convention and tourism business continues to grow. Turner's hotels were at or near capacity throughout the Mardi Gras season and were markedly more crowded than in prior years.
“We want to make sure that we are able to continue that pace,” Alford said. The convention bureau has announced plans to increase its total number of staff while relocating its visitor center to a dedicated building.
“Our region, our parish, our area is growing,” Alford said. “Contributing to this increase is all of the environmental experiences we have; the alligators, the swamp tours, our national rescue bid. All of these things are unique to travelers and are opportunities they can't find back home.”