“A Love Affair 50 Years and Counting”: OTC’s Economic and Cultural Contributions to Houston

By Debbie Z. Harwell

The first OTC met at the Albert Thomas Convention and Exhibit Center downtown (now Bayou Place) with 4,200 in attendance, 125 papers presented, and 38,500 square feet of exhibit space occupied by 200 exhibitors. In need of more space, in 1973 OTC moved to the Astrodome complex, now NRG Park, where it has remained. Local businesses still roll out the red carpet at airports, hotels, restaurants, clubs, tourist attractions, and convention related services, as they should, given that OTC has brought in over $2.5 billion to Houston since the meeting’s inception.

The hospitality industry has been the greatest beneficiary over the years, filling hotel rooms across the region, including some of the city’s biggest convention hotels like the Shamrock Hilton.

But it is also a boost to education, with many programs for local students and educators, and to other elements of Houston’s culture related to the oil industry.

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