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By Nick Wolda and Mary Murphy, Visit The Woodlands

The Woodlands has been known as a great place to live since it first opened in 1974, but over the past several years, it’s also become well-established as a great place to work, visit, and hold meetings. This is largely due to world-class hotels, attractions, shops and restaurants in the area, along with promotion of The Woodlands as a premiere business and leisure destination.

Tourism was always part of the vision for The Woodlands. One of the first buildings opened in the area was The Woodlands Resort, initially called “The Woodlands Inn.” What began as a 218-room property evolved into an award-winning resort, complete with 400 guest rooms, five dining outlets, two championship golf courses, and an exceptional waterpark with a 1,005-foot-long Lazy River. Over the years, The Woodlands Resort also welcomed some of most famous names in golf history, as it was the site for the Houston Open for 17 years and now the PGA Champions Tour Insperity Invitational. It continues to draw golfers, conference-goers, and leisure travelers alike, and was named as one of the Top Resorts in Texas by Travel + Leisure in 2022.

The Woodlands Resort
Photo courtesy of Howard Hughes

Of course, this is just one of the attractions that brings travelers to The Woodlands. Tourism got a kick-start in the 1990s, when The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion opened in August 1990. This was shortly followed by The Woodlands Mall opening in October 1994, where 86,000 people lined up to get in and start shopping. People continue to travel from around Texas and the Houston region to visit The Woodlands Mall – and now, Market Street – for exceptional shopping.

Photo courtesy of Howard Hughes
The Woodlands Mall Grand Opening
Photo courtesy of Howard Hughes

A key moment in the history of the development of the Town Center was the creation of Town Center Improvement District, known as TCID, through a legislative process at the state level. TCID was created to enhance public safety for a future growing Town Center as well as provide economic development tools for public/private partnerships. TCID is the predecessor to The Woodlands Township which continues to have public safety and economic development as top priorities.

In 1999, the development of The Woodlands Waterway began. The 1.8-mile-long water feature is a differential advantage to other planned communities in Greater Houston, and has since become an activity hub and the anchor for two exceptional hotels. The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, which was built in 2000, was named the #1 Marriott in North America twice in the last 10 years. The Westin at The Woodlands officially opened in 2016 and quickly became another fan favorite for business meetings along The Woodlands Waterway.

Photo courtesy of Howard Hughes

Another key moment in The Woodlands history was the creation of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2006. The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau (dba: Visit The Woodlands) is the official destination management organization responsible for promoting The Woodlands to drive demand for both hotel and retail tax collections. Its mission is to establish The Woodlands, Texas as a beautiful, lively, and welcoming destination recognized regionally, nationally and internationally for first-class business, convention and leisure travel.

In the 2000s, the development of Market Street, Town Green Park, multiple hotel properties (now totaling 14) and the expansion of The Woodlands Mall outdoors created a vibrancy not seen anywhere in the Greater Houston area. With top-notch hospitality attractions and meeting spaces, tourism continued to increase in The Woodlands.

Seeing an opportunity for economic growth, in 2016, The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau rebranded its name to Visit The Woodlands and moved its focus away from festivals to focus on tourism sales and marketing strategies.

Since then, The Woodlands has seen a great increase in hotel occupancy tax collections and sales tax collections. In the past 10 years, Hotel Tax Collection has grown from $6.5 million in 2013 to an impressive $9.6 million in 2023. This keeps property taxes low for the residents and businesses of The Woodlands, as sales tax and hotel tax collection make up between 55 to 60% of the overall Township budget.

It is estimated that more than 20 million people come through the Town Center each year for shopping, dining, hospitality and entertainment. In 2022, alongside leisure travel, over 2,050 professional meetings and events were held and generated $21.6 million in overall room revenue. 

Today, 70,000 people work in The Woodlands in approximately 2,600 businesses. In total, The Woodlands has 11.4 million square feet of retail space and 12.4 million of commercial office space.

When The Woodlands was first established, there was a vision for a thriving economy, seen in the plan for the Town Center and Village Centers. This has become a reality – one that will continue to grow and flourish in The Woodlands for years to come.


Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:

FOUNDING – Howard Hughes

LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank

HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.

GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School

PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township