As senior vice president of tourism for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jorge Franz's job is to draw more visitors to the Bayou City. But he's not deterred, even though Houston is not considered a top getaway spot.
"This is the greatest job on earth. I'm the luckiest man on earth. To be able to do this is a lifelong dream for me," he says.
The bureau has embarked on a multi-million dollar campaign to boost tourism, with slick TV ads emphasizing that Houston has a lot to offer to leisure travelers. The goal is to boost the number of tourists from 14.8 million in 2014 to 20 million by 2018. (More about this is an upcoming column.)
When asked to list 5 attractions he would show a visitor, Franz admitted that's a hard task "because I love everything Houston has to offer." But he quickly came up with these must-visit destinations. (Sentences in italics are descriptions of each attraction from GHCVB information.)
Founded in 1900, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's collection numbers more than 56,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present.
"I would start with the Museum of Fine Arts. I'm a huge fan of the museum. I think it's really one of the best in the country. It actually has the largest collection in the southwest United States. It's just one of my favorites."
This 480-acre living history site, with more than 100 years of Texas history, offers hands-on experiences and costumed historical interpreters. Representing the second and third generations, the Davis Mansion (a museum) presents Victorian Texas in all its splendor and the business ventures that sustained that grandeur.
"When a lot of people think Texas, they think cowboys. I love the George Ranch Historical Park. It's a little bit like colonial Williamsburg, where you can actually go and experience Texas history from the 1830s to the 1950s. I just love the people there. It's a great story of how Houston and Texas became Texas. That's pretty cool. I think a lot of people in Houston don't know that story."
A 570-foot obelisk capped by a giant star marks the spot where Texas won its independence from Mexico.
"I visited the San Jacinto Monument a few weeks ago. I think it's a beautiful, beautiful monument, and again, it tells a great story."
In his first solo venture, Chef Chris Shepherd imparts his extensive knowledge of locally-sourced food, fine wine and passion for the city of Houston on a menu inspired by the city's cultural diversity.
"I'm a huge fan of Underbelly. It's a fantastic restaurant. And we have 10,000 like it. It's hard to pick one obviously."
A jewel in the crown of the downtown Houston skyline, Minute Maid Park has become a welcome home for the Houston Astros and has ushered in a new era of major league sports in the city.
"It's a beautiful park; not as recognized at it could be. It's a classic stadium. It's built out of a former train station. I think it speaks volumes because when I was younger and when they voted for that stadium, I was convinced there was no way that a stadium could help revive a downtown. And it did. I think it's amazing that something old like that can become new again."
What would you show a visitor to Houston? Let us know in the Comments section below.