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Tourism in Waco quadrupled since 2014, city expects more growth

The city said more than 2.7 million tourists visited Waco in 2018, and November was its 81st consecutive month of economic growth.

WACO, Texas — New numbers the city of Waco provided show 2018 was a successful economic year for the city.

The city said more than 2.7 million tourists visited Waco in 2018, and November was its 81st consecutive month of economic growth.

Of those tourists, 1.6 million visited Magnolia Market, the city said.

The Waco Convention and Visitor's Bureau said the 2018 numbers indicate that tourism in the city has quadrupled since 2014.

"We have some preliminary numbers in that show that Waco tourism is up six percent year over year," said Carla Pendergraft with Waco CVB. "Remember, that's on a huge base that we have now. Four years ago, we were at about 650,000 visitors a year."

It's no secret that the Magnolia Market has been a main attraction for visitors. The Waco Chamber of Commerce said there are more than 1,100 hotel rooms slated to be built to meet tourism demands.

Staff at the city's visitor center said a number of companies plan to bring their businesses to Waco in 2019.

"Guest Family Barbeque is going to open their brick and mortar, and that's a big deal because of all the barbeque places in Texas," Pendergraft said. "That's one of Texas Monthly's Top 50."

Todd Bertka is the CVB's new director. He said he plans to combine visitors on business with the city's current leisure tourists.

"By allowing this destination to be discovered from a meeting and convention standpoint, medical meetings, dental conferences, more of these business type of meetings can attract a larger spend," Bertka said.

Pendergraft also said Waco is becoming more than just a small town.

"Waco has been here for a long time, and I think it's just on peoples' radar right now," she said. "We see all the time that people say this is on their bucket list, not before they die, but just one of the great places they want to come."

According to the Waco Chamber of Commerce, unemployment in the city was at 3.2 percent in November, and that number was below both the state and national averages.

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