“Here for the right reasons?” Houston paid $240,000 to bring The Bachelor to Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — At the start of a recent episode of ABC’s The Bachelor, a contestant shrugs her shoulders as she shouts, “We’re going to Houston, baby. I’m ready for some Texas fun.”

Episodes four and five of the reality show’s 26th season were filmed in Houston in October 2021. During their two weeks here, the contestants stayed at the C. Baldwin Hotel and played a competitive football game at NRG Stadium to buy more time with the bachelor. . One of the event attendees was able to spend her one-on-one date at an outdoor picnic with Blood Bros. BBQ, which was recognized by Texas Monthly magazine as one of the 50 Best BBQ Joints in Texas.

Throughout each episode there were glimpses of the city’s food scene, diversity and culture, but 13 investigators found that bringing the show to Houston came at a cost.

Houston First Corporation, the public agency responsible for marketing Houston and funded by Houston hotel tax money, paid the show $240,000 in hotel occupancy tax dollars to film in Houston.

“At the time we made the deal, it was just for one episode, but we got two,” Holly Clapham-Rosenow, director of marketing at Houston First.

She said it ended up being an even bigger deal because the city only paid for one episode, but the producers liked it so much here that they filmed two episodes in Houston.

Still, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to lure reality TV shows to Houston came as a shock to some locals.

“I think it’s too expensive,” said Houstonian Sara Perez. “They already make enough profit on the show, so why are you still trying to charge us just for Houston, by coming to Houston.”

Erika Esperanza watches episodes of “The Bachelor” whenever it’s trending on social media and remembers when the show was in town. Some of his friends even tried to participate in the series in the past.

She didn’t know the city used taxpayer money to close the deal.

“It’s insane. I didn’t think they would pay to bring them here. I just thought he was kind of like, you know – Houston, Texas, this is the big city,” Esperanza said. “It’s a lot of money just to do a show here, but I know they also did another show here.”

The other show she talks about is Bravo’s “Top Chef,” which filmed its entire current season in Houston.

The producers of Top Chef objected to releasing financial details about how much the city paid to have them film a season in Houston, but we know that was also prompted by taxpayer dollars.

Still, Clapham-Rosenow said publicizing the city’s presentation on a nationally broadcast show was worth it and brought long-term benefits by bringing more businesses and residents to Houston.
She said it would have taken five years to pay for the same publicity the city receives when a show is held in Houston for weeks at a time.

Steven Devadanam, editor and chief of lifestyle website CultureMap Houston, said the value the city gets from being on national shows like The Bachelor and Top Chef can’t be compared to a 30-year-old TV commercial. seconds the city could produce with the hopes of someone in another city looking at it and deciding to visit Houston.

“Top Chef isn’t just a postcard from Houston to the country, it’s a showcase and a love letter. Just watch a few episodes and suddenly you realize that Houston is the most diverse city in the world. country. It’s got an amazing cultural culture. It’s the most vibrant food this city has ever seen,” he said. “If it brings people here and if it takes people away from Austin and that keeping people out of Dallas and bringing in tax money and bringing in dining, entertainment, hotel dollars to my city, I totally agree.”

“Huge impact”

Clapham-Rosenow said the city was approached to host The Bachelor in 2018, but that ultimately didn’t happen. A few years later, as Texas lifted its COVID restrictions ahead of other states, she said the same producer the city spoke to in 2018 reached out again, saying he’d like to film an episode at Houston.

“They came here with over 200 growers, so the request was to help us with site selections, to work with us on a package to help subsidize some of the 200 growers who were here for seven to 10 days and c was the deal that we thought was a great return because it would generate no less than $500,000 in hard cash,” she said. “It would create a comeback for the city in a significant rebound timeframe and would reach over 6 million (viewers).”

In exchange for paying to bring The Bachelor to Houston, Clapham-Rosenow said the city recouped at least $500,000 in direct economic impact.

It even spurred some free publicity, Clapham-Rosenow said. Another The Bachelor affiliate show is shooting a series in the city since the producers loved it here and this time Houston First didn’t have to entice or pay them to come. The name of the show has not been disclosed and the episodes have not yet aired.

City records show The Bachelor spent $325,240 at the C. Baldwin Hotel, where The Bachelor crew and contestants were headquartered in Houston for about two weeks in October 2021. The show also spent money for food, transportation and other costs associated with being in town for two weeks.

Chris Niederschulte, general manager of the C. Baldwin, said the show pays for hotel services like any other guest.

At a time when staff was down due to the pandemic, he said housing hundreds of singles producers at the hotel allowed him to bring back support staff and hourly associates, like bartenders, servers and housekeeping, about three months earlier than it would have been without the show boost in business.

“(It was) a huge impact on people’s lives. They went through something that none of us expected,” he said. “In the hotel, you’re literally family. You spend so much time together, so to be able to bring them all back and see these faces and everyone doing what they’re so good at is just amazing.”

Niederschulte said that after the Houston episodes of The Bachelor aired, there was an increase in visitors asking where certain scenes, like the rose ceremony, were filmed.

“It’s fun and it’s exciting and the staff are excited about it,” he said. “The exposure you get from this show is just amazing, not just for Texas, not just for Houston, but for all the places they touch.”
The Bachelor star also took a lucky lady for a one-on-one horseback ride, where the pair appeared to stumble upon an outdoor picnic hosted by famed Houston-based barbecue group Blood Bros.

Robin Wong, one of the three founders behind the restaurant, said this scene wasn’t quite the chance meeting the producers made appear on screen.

Wong said that with the show filming in Texas, the producers knew they wanted to have a barbecue, but they also wanted it to be a home environment, so they hosted an outdoor picnic.

The restaurant’s logo was blurred and the Blood Bros. did not appear on the show – not even in the closing credits where filming locations were acknowledged. Still, Wong said bringing popular shows like The Bachelor and Top Chef to Houston was a boost for the hospitality industry.

Wong said he had to close up shop for a day while filming, but The Bachelor paid their company for all the food that was prepared and served during the picnic.

Still, he didn’t realize the town had paid to bring the bachelor and top chef to town, but he thinks it’s worth it.

“I think it’s amazing. I think without them these shows wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I’m glad to see Houston (become) on the card and if that’s what it takes to get him here, I’m all for it because I think down the road they won’t have to buy it like People will already be interested in coming here, so to have that kind of bump or showcase to show people what’s going on here, I think that’s great.

Wong said he regularly entertains barbecue fanatics who hail from as far away as Canada and Australia and is happy to have Houston’s food scene featured on national television.

“Houston is definitely a barbecue destination spot,” he said. “We get a lot of tourists. We have people coming here and they still have their luggage. They’re like, ‘I just got off the plane, straight from the airport’ because they understand our schedules.”

Even though Houston First paid for The Bachelor to come to Houston, not all of the scenes were shot in the city. The crew spent time at The Historic Hill House and Farm in Willis and the Pleasure Pier in Galveston.

“Not everyone is successful the first time they come here and sometimes it comes down to the producers and production staff on location making those decisions and the editors making that decision, doing their homework,” Devadanam said. “Where The Bachelor could have done a little better is really understanding some of the key players in our food scene, but I felt like they were trying to highlight the visuals of the city.”

Still, Devadanam said bringing popular reality shows like The Bachelor to Houston is a boon to the city because it puts it on a national stage.

“We get a lot of traffic from people from other cities looking at our websites, trying to find out where they stayed in a certain city,” he said. “People will Google quickly, in real time, the name of the restaurant or hotel while they’re watching. Now, how does that translate later? Only time will tell if that person actually shows up, but there’s quite a buzz and it’s raising Houston’s profile as a vacation destination where people might not have originally thought of it.”

We contacted ABC, which broadcasts but does not produce The Bachelor, and had no comment on the incentives. An ABC public relations representative offered to put us in touch with Warner Brothers, the show’s producers. We haven’t heard back from Warner or any producer who worked with Houston First on the incentive deal.

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