Galveston 5 Years after Hurricane Ike
Compiled by the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tourism Revives Historic Texas Island in Post-Hurricane Ike Era
GALVESTON ISLAND, Texas (September 12, 2013) – There is no question about whether the walls in Galveston can talk.
From the walls of historic buildings where water markers are fastened 10 feet high to show flood damage caused by Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008, to those same walls that now welcome tourists to new, thriving attractions.
These walls tell a story of revival.
Five years after Hurricane Ike caused $25 billion in damages to the Gulf Coast, Galveston has been reinvented as a tourist destination boasting of new attractions, new cruise ships and the best tourism revenues the island has ever seen.
Last summer brought forth a milestone peak season for the island, with Galveston hotels surpassing pre-Ike revenue levels by 11%. This year, the island was recognized as one of the ‘Top 10 Family Vacations in 2013’ by Family Vacation Critic and was named one of the top 5 ‘Best Gulf Coast Beaches’ by Travel Channel.
Here’s a look at how Galveston has changed over the last five years:
- THEN – Hurricane Ike remains the costliest hurricane in Texas history and the fourth costliest hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States, creating approximately $25 billion in property damage to the Gulf Coast according to the National Hurricane Center. Ike created a drastic hit to Galveston’s No. 1 industry: tourism.
- NOW – Last summer, Galveston experienced its best summer tourism season on record, generating $55.3 million in hotel revenue June through August. These numbers surpassed pre-Ike summer revenues by 11%. Total hotel room revenues in 2012 were $126.8 million. Overall, tourism generated approximately $900 million for Galveston’s economy last year, sustaining 9,408 jobs (nearly 1 in 3 jobs in Galveston). The island has seen a year-over-year increase in tourism since 2010, drawing 5.5 to 6 million visitors annually.
HOTELS & ATTRACTIONS
- THEN – Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage to the island’s major hotels, tourist attractions, museums and historic sites, many of which closed for several months following the storm.
- NOW – As of 2013, Galveston has invested more than $125 million in new attractions, including the new $60 million Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park that stands over the Gulf of Mexico. Other new attractions to Galveston include the newly redesigned Rainforest Pyramid and Palm Beach water park at Moody Gardens, Pirates! Legends of the Gulf, Haunted Mayfield Manor, Jet Boat Thrill Rides and Caribbean Breeze Parasailing.
- THEN – Hurricane Ike brought a 17-foot storm surge through historic downtown Galveston, leaving much of the district 10 feet under water when the hurricane settled. The area received the worst flood damage on the island, causing many shops and restaurants to close.
- NOW – Today, downtown Galveston is a thriving destination for lovers of the arts. In 2012, the Texas Commission on the Arts named the area an official cultural arts district as it is home to 20-plus art galleries, two live theaters, including The Grand 1894 Opera House, boutiques, antique shops, regular live entertainment and the nation’s third largest annual Mardi Gras celebration. The district is also home to the renowned Rudy & Paco Restaurant, which in 2012 was named one of the top 100 restaurants in the United States by OpenTable.
- THEN – In 2008, two cruise lines were sailing from Galveston: Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean. After Hurricane Ike, sailings were cancelled for two months.
- NOW – Top cruise lines have an obvious new-found love for Galveston. In 2013, Galveston welcomed three new cruise itineraries to the Port of Galveston, including cruises on the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder and the Crown Princess. These added to the Galveston itineraries also offered by the Carnival Magic, Carnival Triumph and Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.
EAST END HISTORICAL DISTRICT
- THEN – The damaging combination of Hurricane Ike’s powerful winds and waves destroyed many of the majestic Oak trees that once canopied over the streets of the East End Historical District. The damage drastically changed the landscape of the neighborhood.
- NOW – Today, artists have breathed second life into something Mother Nature attempted to destroy. Damaged Oak trees in the East End Historical District have been carved into whimsical tree sculptures. The 30-plus sculptures have become so popular they now make up a formal Hurricane Ike Tree Sculptures Tour. Visitors can take a free walking or biking tour using the tree sculptures map found at www.galveston.com.
- THEN – Galveston’s 32 miles of beaches experienced more than $50 million in damages from Hurricane Ike, including the loss of sand and beach park facilities.
- NOW – Galveston’s beaches have been re-energized as millions of visitors flock to the shore March through September. Approximately $30 million has been invested in sand nourishment and facility reconstruction projects at Galveston’s beaches, including updated facilities and amenities at Stewart Beach, Seawolf Park, the beachfront Dellanera RV Park and Seawall beaches. Most recently, the island’s East Beach unveiled a new pavilion, boardwalk and entertainment stage after a $1.6 million reconstruction project was completed in early 2013. The beach park will host a free, live concert series weekly during the summer of 2013.
Hurricane Ike – 5 Years Later – The Damage
Hurricane Ike – 5 Years Later – Galveston Today
Read all about the proposed Ike Dike here - Ike Dike Book