The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau Announces Acquisition of Waterway Cruisers

The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors has selected a company for the acquisition and operation of all six of the 35-foot commercial passenger boats, known as the Waterway Cruisers, by a group out of Waco, Texas, effective April 1, 2016, subject to final approvals.

The decision came after an extensive five-month period of time with the submission by two separate proposals received in accordance with its Request for Quote and Request for Expressions of Interest to provide tourist-oriented Waterway Cruiser Service on The Woodlands Waterway.

The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, a 501 (c) (6) nonprofit organization, has owned six (6) 35-foot boats (Cruisers) it was given that are used to provide a tourist-oriented public transportation service along the 1.4 mile Woodlands Waterway Corridor. The service has been provided by Brazos Transit District via an interlocal agreement with The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau and was set to expire March 31, 2016. In addition to waterborne transit, the corridor supports rubber-tire trolley service via a transit way as well as pedestrian activity through a dedicated network of multi-use paths. The corridor is home to more than 8.5 million square feet of office space, the world’s number two outdoor amphitheater (The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion),  international corporations employing more than 25,000 people, millions of square feet of retail, over 2,000 residents, a convention center, two hotels, and more than 3,000 restaurant seats. The Woodlands Waterway is also the setting for numerous events and festivals including The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, which is ranked in the Top 10 nationally; The Red, Hot & Blue Festival, Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas North American Championship, Lighting of the Doves and numerous concerts and fireworks shows.

The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau Chairman of the Board Gordy Bunch said the unanimous decision from the CVB Board of Directors would lead to a win-win for both the CVB and the new operators. Specific terms of the deal are not yet available until all approvals are reached, but the CVB Board of Directors deemed the selected proposal to offer the most favorable terms available for disposition of the Waterway Cruisers.

"Providing all necessary approvals are reached, this decision today by The Woodlands CVB Directors keeps an amenity known for many years in The Woodlands,” he said. "We look forward to the creative ideas to be generated by this deal as the CVB continues to market The Woodlands Waterway and The Woodlands 2,200+ hotel rooms for meetings, conventions and leisure travel visits.”

The Waterway Cruisers have been in existence since 2004, first beginning as a private operation by Water Taxi, Inc. out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For several years, The Woodlands Development Company owned and operated the boats until the company gifted them, free of charge, to The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit organization charged with the responsibility to position The Woodlands as a regionally, nationally and internationally recognized destination for leisure, convention and business travel. No property tax funding was ever used in the operation; however the CVB did utilize hotel occupancy taxes.

The boats have been operated by Brazos Transit District and have been averaging 33,985 riders a year over the past five years, running a schedule of Friday, Saturday, Sunday with extended hours during special events and holidays. In 2015, the service had 33,193 riders.

The group plans to enhance the Cruisers’ existing service by expanding marketing efforts through private and public events such as lunch cruises with a variety of menu selections, sunset dinner cruises, conference and convention activities and celebrations such as birthday parties, reunions, corporate outings, weddings and more.

"We’re excited to partner with The Woodlands community to make the Waterway Cruiser program a valued amenity for residents, visitors and corporate and convention groups,” says partners Capt. Michael Wilson and Lisa Spitz who represent a similar service in Waco. "We look forward to providing excitement to The Waterway in conjunction with major community events and concerts.”

"Captain Mike and Lisa have a strong background in boat operations and the hospitality industry that gives them an opportunity to make the Waterway Cruiser program successful,” says Nick Wolda, President of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The CVB will still oversee operations of the Cruisers until March 31, 2016, at which time the new group is expected to take over operations. For more information about future plans for the Cruisers and events, contact Lisa Spitz at 832-458-3006.