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Water ban could have lasting impact on tourism, hotel owners say - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Water ban could have lasting impact on tourism, hotel owners say

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Many hotels lost a quarter of their guests in a single day after the water ban went into effect. Many hotels lost a quarter of their guests in a single day after the water ban went into effect.
Corpus Christi has made national headlines for its water issues and dozens of negative memes about the city are circulating online. Corpus Christi has made national headlines for its water issues and dozens of negative memes about the city are circulating online.
A hotel group manager says his guests have been comparing Corpus Christi's water problems to those of Flint, Michigan. A hotel group manager says his guests have been comparing Corpus Christi's water problems to those of Flint, Michigan.
Corpus Christi has been trending on Facebook this week because of the water crisis. Corpus Christi has been trending on Facebook this week because of the water crisis.
Hotel owners say the city's repeated water problems could hurt its status as a tourist and convention destination in the long run. Hotel owners say the city's repeated water problems could hurt its status as a tourist and convention destination in the long run.
CORPUS CHRISTI -

The current water crisis has put Corpus Christi in the national spotlight, and not in a flattering way. Hotel owners and managers say yet another round of negative publicity could have a long-term impact on the city's tourist-based economy. 

"We've just taken hit after hit," said Jeff Wilkinson, Regional Director of Operations, US Hospitality. "We had guests talking about us as if we were Flint Michigan."

It is a comparison Corpus Christi is now dealing with thanks to the latest water ban. Wilkinson heard it from guests at the five hotels he manages cross the city. 

"It is damaging," he said. "People are just like - well we don't think we want to come back anymore, they don't even have the water quality that we need."

Yet it is not just tourists whose opinion of the city has been tainted by the tainted water. Corpus Christi is making national headlines, trending on Facebook, and the subject of negative memes. 

"Welcome to Corpus Christi!" one popular meme splashed across the Internet reads. "If you think our roads are bad, just wait till you taste them."

The troubled waters also come with a cost. 

"Right now we're about $20,000 in cancellations and growing," said  Brian Murphy, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Omni Hotel. The water ban caused nearly a quarter of guests to cancel on Thursday alone. 

Just within the first hour when I got here yesterday morning we had roughly 30 cancels," Murphy said. 

The same occurred at all five hotels Wilkinson manages. 

"I would calculate we probably lost $10,000 dollars per hotel. So approximately $50,000," he said. 

Even though it is tainted water, Convention and Visitor's Bureau CEO Paulette Kluge sees the glass half full. 

" it is our slowest time of the year," she said. "Conventions are not going on in December, we don't have meetings in December, trainings don't go on in December. So really it's the slowest time of the year."

Nonetheless, the water ban proved to be a Grinch for Christmas.

"We have several high dollar Christmas parties that are now looking to cancel as well," Wilkinson said. 

Based on previous water boils, the CVB does not believe the current crisis will lead to decreased tourism in the future. 

"We had a water boil earlier this year, and the impact was minimal," Kluge said. "Such minimal impact that I really don't think there will be for the future at all."

However, those in the hotel business take a different view. 

"The measures that we take now financially, they're rather small in comparison to the long term impact this could have," said Ajit David, owner of the Holiday Inn downtown. "When you think about Corpus, you know, you want to think about the city by the bay and that promotes tourism and conventions and more visitors here. Unfortunately, this is not a good image for our city."

Next week, the CVB will get a weekly report that will show exactly how much the tap water ban has impacted hotel occupancy rates. 

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