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Mere months after Hurricane Harvey, Houston is open for business.

More than 20 million visitors traveled to Houston, Texas, in 2016—a record number for the Bayou City, a one-of-a-kind destination with world-class arts and pro sports, booming business and shopping, culture-filled neighborhoods and famous cuisine.

Then, Hurricane Harvey struck. The world watched as 51 inches of torrential rain turned highways into rivers, flooding area homes and businesses in late August 2017. Make no mistake: The community rallied together. The city bounced back, fast. A quick tour of Houston today confirms few signs of Harvey's catastrophic damage.

"It was during these difficult times that Houston's true character shined through," said Leah Shah, Public Relations Director, Visit Houston. "We saw neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers."

Houston is open for business, and that includes tourism.

Many of the city's major attractions suffered little damage and reopened shortly after the hurricane—including Space Center Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Natural Science and The Galleria shopping center.

All of the top hotels, award-winning restaurants, famed parks, and sports stadiums are also up and running.

Yet there are still favorite hotspots, such as the city's downtown theater district, that suffered widespread flooding and weren't as fortunate. The damage to Houston's favorite stages requires long-term repair and some creativity, in order to continue the season.

Good thing ingenuity is the arts' specialty! The performing arts live on just as #HoustonStrong as the rest of the city. The Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony were all able to move the season's performances to concert halls around town. Houston Grand Opera built an entirely new venue; HGO Resilience Theater, located inside the George R. Brown Convention Center, serves as the opera's temporary home.

"There are so many reasons to celebrate and visit the fourth-largest city in the United States," Shah said. "One rises above the others: the number of opportunities it has to offer. We're the most diverse city in the country, and we have a variety of customs and attractions for every age and ethnicity. We Houstonians know how to enjoy the city in more ways than one."

Houston continues to entice visitors with its eclectic shopping, professional sports, expansive park, distinguished museums and galleries. Most recently, Houston's innovative restaurant scene has been garnering attention.

With 10,000 restaurants representing cuisine from more than 70 countries and American regions, Houston's palate is diverse—and delectable. Three of the past four winners of the James Beard Foundation's award for Best Chef: Southwest have been Houstonians.

"Houston has anything and everything you could want from a big city with a small-town feel," Shah said.

There's no place like Houston, and the city is striking a stronger and more vibrant pose.

HOW TO HELP

Houston has made tremendous strides in recovery after Hurricane Harvey, yet the efforts are far from complete. "Many residential areas of Houston and its residents are still struggling to rebuild," said Leah Shah, Public Relations Director, Visit Houston.

There are plenty of possibilities to help pave the road to recovery and help those who were affected.

Volunteer time.
Many local organizations need help with removing items from buildings, gutting homes, assisting shelters and more. Volunteer Houston lists available opportunities, so you could find the one that best suits your skill set and time. | http://volunteerhouston.org/

Donate.
The Houston Harvey Relief Fund is a great place to donate money for holistic work, but you could always donate to specific organizations offering specialized services, too. The Houston Hospitality Employee Relief Fund will assist hospitality and tourism-related employees. | https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/

Look beyond Houston.
Houston is famous for Southern hospitality. The city's neighbors to the south, east and west suffered greatly from Hurricane Harvey as well and require aid. Check on opportunities to explore and assist in Beaumont, Rockford and surrounding areas.

Written by Cassie Westrate. This article originally appeared in the Mid-Winter 2018 issue of Agent Life magazine, the official publication of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA).

Photo Courtesy of Visit Houston.

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