The looming threats from Hurricane Laura have resulted in mandatory evacuations in coastal regions of southeast Texas, including the cities of Beaumont, Galveston and other areas. Many of those who are seeking safe environs are headed to the more than a dozen hotels in The Woodlands, which sits on higher ground 40 miles north of the city center.
Officials with Visit The Woodlands, the township’s nonprofit convention and visitors bureau arm, sent out press release and social media alerts offering tips and links about temporary, hotel housing during the storm and aftermath.
Nick Wolda, president of Visit The Woodlands, said no one enjoys the circumstances of the evacuations, but hotels are here as a resource for those in need.
“Well, we hate the circumstances for those evacuating and on the roads right now, but we hope to offer a safe destination to settle quickly without a long time in traffic. Enhanced hotel safety protocols remain in effect. Currently, there are about 2,000 hotel rooms in 13 different properties that are open,” Wolda said in an email. “VisitTheWoodlands.com provides a full list of hotels in The Woodlands with lists of amenities. We recommend that travelers contact the property directly with unique questions.”
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Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office staff has issued numerous warnings to residents about highly congested roads and freeways in the county due to the mandatory evacuation orders in Galveston, Beaumont and other coastal communities. Residents from those areas are flooding northbound routes in an effort to find safe harbor in cities from Conroe to Dallas, northest Texas and in Arkansas.
Those travelers will likely be using township hotels, Wolda added, and full capacity is expected.
“I anticipate all of our hotels will either be sold out or nearly sold out. It’s been a very brisk day of people making reservations,” he noted. “I don’t see it adding noticeable traffic to The Woodlands. Before COVID-19, we would have many nights a year when most of our hotels were sold out.”
Short-term rental option
In addition to the vast hotel options in the township, a large network of AirBnb rentals has blossomed in The Woodlands over the past year. Walter Lisiewski, chairman of the township’s DSC which oveersees AirBnbs to a degree, said there are no restrictions on the rentals in The Woodlands and evacuees seeking refuge can also secure accommodations at local short term rentals. Under township regulations approved in 2019, short term rentals can rent accommodations to guests for up to 30 days.
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Unlike some cities that have placed pandemic-related restrictions on short term rentals, Lisiewski said The Woodlands did not take those steps and does not monitor rentals or set limitations or closures.
“That is not an area we enforce,” Lisiewski added. “They can rent to guests as normal.”
Hotels allowing pets
Many of those fleeing the storm are not just traveling with human companions, but their pets and furry loved ones, as well. Township officials said many local hotels offer pet-friendly options for evaucees with pooches or cats.
“The Woodlands currently has hotel availability with many properties accepting pets,” officials stated in a release.
According to the release, VTW staff had survyed hotels in The Woodlands to check on preparations for evacuees and ensure all information and availability is accurate.
Visitors seeking information on hotels or other lodging in The Woodlands, officials stated that hotel bookings and more information were available online at, www.visitthewoodlands.com/hotels.
Lorrie Parise, a spokesperson for The Howard Hughes Corp. and The Woodlands Development Co., said the three hotels the company owns in The Woodlands are open and ready for guests, albeit with the usual COVID-19 related restrictions and protocols such as wearing face masks or coverings, social distancing and not gathering in large groups.
The three hotels — The Woodlands Resort, The Westin The Woodlands and Embassy Suites by Hilton — all temporarily closed in March during the beginning of the pandemic. By late May, officials with Howard Hughes had reopened The Woodlands Resort and in June and July, the other two properties were back in action for guests and business visitors.