|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Chamber using natural attraction to bring in customers from out of town
LIVINGSTON — Partnerships forged between the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce and local volunteer groups seem to be paying off so that local business reap the reward of bringing out of town visitors to enjoy the unique natural attractions found in Polk County and the Lake Livingston area. When gas prices began soaring two years ago, many people in the Houston area cut down on travel, making Lake Livingston an even more attractive destination. The perfect time to ramp up marketing of destinations like the Lake Livingston State Park and the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. But to attract hikers, birders, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts, much of the infrastructure needed upgrades so the Pineywood Lakes Master Naturalists set to work. They performed thousands of dollars worth of volunteer labor to enhance facilities, which will bring in plenty of visitor over time. In the short haul, they have brought in dozens of out-of-town guests for the numerous workshops required to even become certified as a Master Naturalists. Putting Polk County on the map as a training hub for these programs means that other Master Naturalists often drop in to attend programs on Invasive Species, How to Attract Hummingbirds or Recognizing Rare Native Flowers. All three of those programs and many more were offered in Livingston during 2012. The Chamber's nature tourism effort resulted in the production of a trail guide which is distributed to anyone who makes inquiries at the City of Livingston's Main Street office or at the chamber about locations to hike, bike or paddle. The energies of the Pineywoods Bird and Bloom Club were channeled towards rebuilding an existing bird blind at the Lake Livingston State Park and expanding the birding facilities there. The partnership between the Master Naturalist chapter and the Bird & Bloom club has fostered additional volunteer activity. A new group of volunteers solely devoted to the state park has formed which will further boost visits from out-of-town guests. Hotel and motel room revenues generated in Polk County grew by a substantial 39.1 percent during the third quarter of 2012 when compared to the same three-month period from 2011. According to figures posted by the governor's Economic Development and Tourism (EDT) Office, income generated by motels, hotels and bed and breakfast operations throughout the county totaled almost $1.4 million during the July to September quarter, which is the latest period for which information is currently available. The total topped the $988,000 recorded during the third quarter of 2011 by $386,000. The latest gain followed a more modest 6.1 percent growth recorded during the second quarter. Between April and June 2012, the almost $1.1 million in hotel/ motel revenue was up by $63,000 from the same period of 2011. In the 12-month period from October 2011 through September 2012, Polk County hotels generated more than $4.2 million. This is up by $560,000 or 15.2 percent from the nearly $3.7 million listed for the same period one year earlier. Hotels and motels in the Livingston area accounted for the lion's share of the countywide income, with almost $1.3 million listed for the third quarter of 2012. This was up by 40.4 percent or $368,000 from the $911,000 posted during the same period of 2011. During the 12-month October 2011 through September 2012 period, Livingston area motels generated just over $4 million in revenue, according to the EDT report. This was up by $532,000 or 15.3 percent from the same period one year earlier. The report listed the balance of the countywide income as originating in Onalaska area hotels/motels. During the third quarter of 2012, this totaled $95,000, which was up by $17,000 or 23.4 percent from the July to September 2011 total. The EDT report did not list hotel/motel income in the Onalaska area during the first quarter of 2011, but during the nine-month period from January through September of 2012, revenue totaled $227,000. This represented a $27,000 or 13.5 percent growth from the same period of 2011. According to the third quarter 2012 hotel receipts report posted by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, the top five Polk County hotels/motels in terms of total revenue generated include: • Holiday Inn Express, Livingston, $318,187.50. • Best Western Livingston Inn and Suites, $231,754.25. • Hampton Inn, Livingston, $218,747.77. • Super 8, Livingston, $205,633.46. • La Quinta Inn and Suites, Livingston, $193,859.34.