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High hotel occupancy, tourists are leading to more short term rentals in Waco, but not everyone is happy

Posted at 8:18 PM, Jul 01, 2019

WACO — Waco has the highest hotel occupancy rate in the state of Texas.

So what does that mean?

It means the Waco area does not have enough hotel rooms to match the amount of people that are visiting. During Spring at the Silos alone, the city expected more than 85,000 visitors from out of town.

As you drive around town, you may see a few hotels being built as a direct response to this steady growth of tourism. But are these hotels enough to meet the needs of the people who visit?

According to the Texas Hotel Performance Factbook, the first quarter of 2019 trumped 2018 in terms of Waco's rental room revenue. And according to the Waco Convention Center and Visitor's Bureau, 2.6 million people visited Waco attractions last year, generating $56 million in tax revenue.

This year, the city is on track to see even more growth.

In the first quarter of 2019, there has been a 9.2 percent increase in revenue; and in total thus far, $24.8 million has already been collected this year.

"Revenues are still climbing so that's good news...we have 654 rooms under construction actively right now," explained Carla Pendergraft, the Director of Marketing for Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

With six hotels currently under construction, and seven others proposed, the city works to meet the demand of its visitors. But in the meantime, many find short-term vacation rentals fit their needs.

Pendergraft said that the short term rentals are on the rise. She said four years ago, you would have a hard time finding one in Waco, but now, it's a different story.

"I think there are 450 on AirBnB alone, and some places only list on other services. Last year, about $3.6 million going into Wacoans pockets, homeowner pockets that was not there just a few years ago," she said.

However, some neighborhoods aren't welcoming short term rentals with open arms. Castle Heights, home of the historic castle recently purchased by Chip and Joanna Gaines, have been resistant to the vacation rental influx.

Some neighborhoods are stirring with resistance toward the mass vacation rental influx. In particular, Castle Height has pushed back. "The community definitely has input into that, and I think it's been so much opposition to the other AirBnB that wanted to go into that area, and that's been respected several times over," Pendergraft said.