Waco has been experiencing a tremendous upswing in tourism of late. The growth has been so significant that Waco currently ranks #2 on TripAdvisor’s “Top Destinations on the Rise – United States” list. This is due in large part to the massive success of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s hit HGTV show Fixer Upper.
In 2017, the Gaines’s Magnolia Market at the Silos averaged 30,000 visitors per week, or nearly 1.6 million per year. To put this into perspective, that is more than both Monticello and Mount Vernon combined, which receive approximately 500,000 and 1 million visitors each year, respectively.
According to The Waco Tribune-Herald, hotel occupancy hit a record-high 77 percent for Q1 2018. Likewise, hotel revenue rose from $4.1 million in April 2017 to $5.2 million in April 2018, a 27.5 percent increase. Waco is now behind only Midland and Beaumont/Port Arthur in hotel occupancy, and this will likely change in the near future as more hotels are built and tourists are de-incentivized to stay in other cities within McLennan County.
Magnolia Market is not the only thing attracting tourists to Waco, though. BSR Cable Park, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, Mayborn Museum, Hippodrome Theater, the Dr. Pepper Museum, and Baylor University, among others, all bring attention and attract tourists to Waco.
All of this has had a significant impact on Waco’s economy. New home construction is increasing, home sales are rising, property values are skyrocketing, and the economy is red-hot. Waco’s unemployment rate currently stands at 3.4 percent, far below the national rate of 3.8 percent, which is already exceptional.
This confluence of events and attractions spearheaded by the Gaines’s tremendous success and entrepreneurship has done, and will continue to do, more for the greater Waco area than government ever could. Chip and Joanna Gaines should be lauded for their driving of growth in the region, and governments should take note of what can happen when the free market is left to its own devices.
Waco’s government in particular should take note of how powerful the free market has been in its revitalization, rather than government intervention. Because of this, Waco officials should act swiftly to lower property taxes in order to encourage further growth in the region. Thus far, they have not.
From 2017 to 2018, property taxes decreased by only 2 cents per $100 of property value. Meanwhile, county tax revenue increased by $473,326 – up .63 percent from last year. As private enterprise is the reason for Waco’s recent growth, one must wonder why its government has yet to get out of its way?