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Corpus Christi’s tourism industry is still hurting because of the pandemic, but it has started to recover. 

Hotel occupancy rates hit the single digits and averaged lower than 20% around Easter weekend in April. Now the rate is roughly 55%, said Brett Oetting, Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau’s CEO/ president. 

Oetting started in his position shortly after the pandemic took off in mid-March. 

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A National Park Ranger places a closed sign below the Padre Island National Seashore sign on Park Road 22 on Thursday, April 9, 2020. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales ordered the vehicle access to parks and beaches closed over the Easter weekend. (Photo: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

Since then, he has worked strenuously to keep the leisure industry afloat, while also keeping the threat of COVID-19 at bay. 

While the state of the hotel and lodging industry has improved dramatically, the rest of the leisure industry, especially bars and restaurants, is still “hanging by a thread,” Oetting said. 

“There’s a still a very large concern with getting our bars opened up before it gets to a point where they’re going to have to go out of business,” Oetting said. “So we’re still trying to work From that standpoint … because they are still some very important businesses, not just to the tourism industry, but just for the community.”

“Some of our favorite bars and restaurants are still closed, and they’re hanging by a thread.”

Corpus Christi’s hotel market will finish the year with about 20% less business compared to 2019. Oetting estimates the bar and restaurant industry could be behind by as much as 80 percent. 

In his new position, Oetting has begun using technology and data to create a strategic plan to improve Corpus Christi’s tourism market and increase leisure opportunities in the city.

That’s exactly what he said he would do when the CVB announced he was the new leader in February. 

Last week, Destinations International, a global organization that provides guidance for tourism markets, gave a public presentation outlining an assessment on how Corpus Christi fares in the market compared to the rest of the U.S. 

The assessment is being finalized and will be available for online viewing by the end of next week. It was based on “hundreds” of people in the industry and community members. 

The grading displayed Corpus Christi’s tourism market falls behind the U.S. average in four areas: 

  • Lack of air service,
  • Lack of a convention hotel connected to the convention center, the American Bank Center,
  • Lack of nightlife and entertainment offerings,
  • And the lack of a more robust downtown where there’s shopping and other activity options other than bars 

The organization has been working with the CVB team to develop a three-year strategic plan for the city’s tourism industry. Oetting will present it to the bureau’s board on Oct. 22 and then make the plan public. 

“If we can work together to develop a plan, we can definitely improve Corpus Christi as a place to visit and as a place to live,” Oetting said. “And that’s what this strategic plan is really focused on — is pulling people together to work together to build a better Corpus Christi.”

Roughly 40 percent of Corpus Christi’s visitors, which mostly drive to the area, come from San Antonio. The city also attracts out-of-state visitors from areas such as Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.

Kathryn Cargo follows business openings and developments while reporting on impacts of the city government’s decisions. See our subscription options and special offers at

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