CERAWeek and RodeoHouston to bring millions of dollars to the city

CERAWeek and RodeoHouston to bring millions of dollars to the city
CERAWeek and RodeoHouston to bring millions of dollars to the city

Two of Houston’s marquee events come together this week, filling hotels, packing restaurants and giving the city the economic benefits of being the world’s energy capital and, for now, its cowboy capital.

RodeoHouston, which kicked off Tuesday at the NRG Center and continues through March 19, is massive in numbers, drawing 2.5 million people and pumping $227 million into the local economy in 2019, according to a study by Economic Analytics Consulting in Houston.

And CERAWeek, the five-day energy conference that begins Monday, is expected to attract a record 7,500 attendees and add $6.5 million to the region’s economy, according to Houston First, which operates the city’s convention venues — as well as showcasing Houston on an international stage .

“It goes way beyond downtown,” Houston First President and CEO Michael Heckman said of CERAWeek. “It’s just been this huge week.”

The sweeping effects of the energy gathering, held at the Hilton Americas, can be seen in the city’s East End at one of its iconic restaurants, Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, said Justin Solomon, director of operations.

“I looked at the reservations for those days, and there’s a day where we already have 200,” Solomon said last week. “Because so far you don’t look like much.”

During a typical Monday through Friday, he said, the restaurant can serve a total of 900 people. But during CERAWeek, business increases by as much as fivefold, even as the concurrent RodeoHouston elevates some of the restaurant’s regulars.

“Just looking at last year, over the five days we probably served close to 5,000 people, and that’s just the navigation site,” Solomon said.

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CERAWeek is one of Houston’s larger recurring conferences, Heckman said. The annual conferences the city hosts are usually in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 attendees. It also attracts those visiting Houston for the first time. This year, for example, Malaysia is sending around 100 participants, the largest delegation in the country’s history.

CERA, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, was co-founded in 1983 by energy expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But the organization’s annual gathering has always been held in Houston, starting in 1981.

The rodeo began in 1932 and has grown to include a carnival, a series of major concerts and a barbecue competition, among other events. It also attracts hundreds of vendors, exhibitors and athletes from across the United States and Canada.

Ryan Soroka, co-owner of 8th Wonder Brewery in EaDo, said the brewery and taproom usually take advantage of the various conferences and conventions held downtown, a short walk or Uber ride away, but CERAWeek is special.

“It seems like oil and gas companies, they really do a lot of social events and mixer events and happy hours. They’re always in a way to win and dine their guests and customers,” Soroka said.

This year, 8th Wonder will arrange an equipment demo day for one company in the beer garden, and has fielded inquiries from others about arranging happy hours or buying beer tokens in advance.

Other gatherings, like the International Quilt Festival in November, he said, are relatively sedate: “I would say the quilt convention is not rowdy.”

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