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Hurricane Gustav

Gustav brings no surge in tourists

The Galveston County Daily News  Sep 02, 2008

Hurricane Gustav may have spared the Texas Coast of its winds and rain, but the threat of the storm kept tourists away and business slow during the normally bustling Labor Day weekend.

“It’s very empty,” Bath Junkie owner Ellen Bubenik said. “We’ve not had much business at all. It’s been painful.”

Bubenik, who owns a bed-and-breakfast as well as the downtown bath shop, said she normally makes her entire staff work Labor Day to meet holiday crowds. On Monday, she sent everyone but one clerk home instead.

Bubenik said Houston residents kept their weekend reservations at the bed-and-breakfast, but people from outside the area were squeamish about the storm. Hurricane Gustav came ashore in central Louisiana on Monday morning as a Category 2 storm. Although the storm wasn’t forecast to hit Galveston, some visitors canceled hotel reservations instead of coming and risking the chance that the storm’s track would shift.

“Houston people don’t freak out; they’re used to it,” Bubenik said.

At the San Luis hotel, Galveston Holiday Inn and Galveston Hilton, occupancy was down about 15 to 20 percent compared to Labor Day weekend last year, marketing director Lauraleigh Vogel said.

“We did pretty well, all things considered,” she said. “It wasn’t a complete wash.”

The canceled hotel reservations and lighters crowds drew some Houston-area residents to the island, though.

“Everyone else left, so we figured it might be a good day to come,” Humble resident Tonia Smoot said.

Tourists might have dodged Gustav, but surfers came to Galveston beaches in droves, hoping to ride Gustav’s waves.

Clear Lake resident Cole Wilson said he came down to Galveston to surf but would have otherwise spent the day in Houston.

“We didn’t just try to surf, we did surf,” he said. “The waves were huge.”

Lifeguards saw tons of surfers but otherwise light beach traffic, Galveston Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis said.

In Yaga’s, 2109 The Strand, few shoppers stopped to browse inside the store Monday afternoon. Owner Joe Flores said sales were below what he expected but still better than the alternative.

“We made some sales, and I’m glad we had the business,” he said. “It could be worse. We could’ve had a hurricane.”

Gustav brings no surge in tourists

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