WACO, Texas — Over the past few years, Waco has become a hotspot for tourists. Last year, the town's tourism industry took a hit as shutdowns and COVID-19 concerns kept people from traveling.
Numbers from the Waco Convention Center and Visitors' Bureau show that last month, the town saw the most visitors it's seen since summer 2019.
In June, Waco saw more than 203 thousand visitors. That's up from about 93 thousand visitors in June 2020, but not quite the 250 thousand visitors in 2019.
The most recorded visitors to Waco in recent history was in March 2018, when more than 347 thousand people visited town.
This weekend was Sarah Reyes and Esmeralda Noyola's first time in Waco. Like many others, they were in serious need of a vacation after a year of shutdowns.
"We're desperate to get out. We're people of socializing and gathering," Noyola said.
They weren't the only ones exploring the city for the first time this weekend. Marlo Reyes came to town with her daughter from Nebraska.
"I told my daughter, let's go to Waco," Reyes said.
The Waco Convention Center and Visitors Bureau said the number of visitors to Waco in June 2021 was more than double the number of visitors in June 2020. Hotels are reaching more than 80% capacity on the weekends.
"I think there's tons of pent-up demand and people are ready to travel, see their friends and family, or see some place new," said director of marketing for the Waco Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, Carla Pendergraft.
While the Magnolia Silos are typically at the top of visitors' Waco bucketlists, Pendergraft said people usually find out there's more to do once they're here.
"There's a lot of people who have heard about Waco from the shows that they see on TV, but once they get here, they just can't believe all there is to see and do--the Dr. Pepper Museum, the Texas Ranger Museum, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, all sorts of things," she said.
Pendergraft said she predicts the tourism industry here in Waco will be back to pre-pandemic numbers by the end of the year, given that the pandemic doesn't worsen again.