Brazoria County -- Come for the Beaches (Maybe)

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Who needs Miami Beach?

With high gas prices, you can just putter down to the beaches of Brazoria County and save a wad on gas.

That's the sales pitch from tourism officials in the county directly south of Houston.

As proof that Brazoria County hoteliers are profiting from gas-conscious tourists, boosters cite a 65 percent hotel occupancy rate in motels from Brazosport to Manvel and Angleton; the state average is pegged at around 60 percent, they say.

As a Comfort Suites manager put it to the Brazosport Facts:

"We aren't getting people from far away...But we are seeing a lot more people within a 150-mile radius. Instead of going to Miami Beach, they are going to the beach here."

Besides going to the beach, visitors can "go to the statue in Angleton," said another tourism official.

That "statue in Angleton" sits besides Texas Highway 288 and depicts Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas," who founded the first Anglo colony in Mexico in what was to become Brazoria County, which proud bills itself as "Where Texas Began."

Sadly, though, discerning readers who took the trouble to delve further into the local paper's story on the purported gas-price-induced tourism boom in Brazoria County discovered that hotel occupancy doesn't really have much at all to do with statue-gazing or beach-going or any of the other things visitors are enticed to do (bird-watching and fishing, mostly.)

Instead, people who stay in the hotels mostly do so cause they're working in the local petrochemical plants, admitted Edith Fischer, director of tourism at the Brazosport Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Most of the occupancy is industry-driven...As long as industry keeps on growing, we will continue to fill up hotels," she told the Facts.

Hey, but they can still go to the beach and fish, too, right?

-- Steve Olafson

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