PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Tourism is a big part of South Texas' economy, but the tourism industry has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s especially true in Port Aransas, where business owners want to be heard.
Most years, Port Aransas would be coming off another successful Sandfest. But city leaders shut down Port A’s tourism industry after Governor Greg Abbott’s stay at home orders in response to the coronavirus. Business owners don’t know how long they’ll last.
“We were just destroyed less than 1,000 days ago, but here we are, in our fourth week without any income at all,” said Jay Honeck.
Honeck and his wife Mary own Amelia’s Landing, an aviation themed hotel. They survived Hurricane Harvey, but the governor’s orders closed their hotel and others to anyone but essential workers. Their only guests these days are a couple leftover ‘Winter Texans’.
“That was money collected a long time ago,” said Honeck. “It’s been a bleak month.”
Honeck started an online petition to reopen Port A. So far, it has more than 500 signatures. He’s also planning what he calls a “friendly” protest Tuesday.
“We just drive around town, we’ve got signs, maybe beep a couple horns, and end up a city hall to let the politicians know what they’ve done to us,” said Honeck.
Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan, a small business owner himself, is sympathetic.
“I understand exactly where we are at as small business owners,” said Bujan.
Bujan says he respects Honeck’s right to protest, but with the exception of restrictions on beach access and a ban on short-term rentals, the city is following the state’s lead. He’s also in favor of reopening the city safely.
“I’d love to open everything up, believe me, because I know our folks are hurting,” said Bujan. “The only way that can be done is by the governor.”
Last week, Governor Abbott laid out his plans to “Reopen Texas”. Announcements for the next round of openings are expected next week. Honeck hopes the tourism industry gets good news.
“The city, the whole island is dying, there has to be a middle ground,” said Honeck. “We have to find a middle ground where we can all be safe and employed.”
Tuesday’s protest is set to start here at Amelia’s Landing at 1 p.m., anyone wishing to join should meet around 12:45. Again, Honeck stresses he wants this protest to be a friendly one.