Waco Tours sees new surge of tourists following period of decline

With more people visiting Waco Tours in the past month, they aim to continue COVID-19 guidelines and keep the integrity of their tours at the same level. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Caitlin Erramouspe | Reporter

The tourist industry in Waco took a hit a year ago when COVID-19 shut down state and local businesses. Tourist hot spots became quiet, which meant Waco Tours also had to close their doors until late May of 2020.

A year later, the touring company is beginning to see more and more tourists flocking to Waco.

Melinda Seibert, vice president of development for Waco Tours, said the company went through a lot to get back into the flow of working and welcoming tourists.

When Governor Abbott first reopened businesses to 50% capacity, Waco Tours began their Classic Tours and River Tours again.

“We started back at lower capacity with a very specific safety protocol for the protection of our Waco Tours team and our guests. Tourism was lower throughout our city in 2020, but guests were still making their way to Waco somewhat,” Seibert said.

Seibert said Waco Tours wanted to take every precaution it could when opening their tours.

“[We] participated in the Waco Safe pledge, as we followed all their protocols. We trained our staff for safety, had staff and guests wear masks, socially distanced, and had hand sanitizer available. And of course, we would sanitize our vans/boats after each tour,” Seibert said.

Heather Venable, tour manager for Waco Tours, said she believes despite COVID-19, the integrity of its tours remained the same. She said the staff of 30 has seen more people visiting this past month.

“People are still coming, but obviously a lot more hesitant,” Venable said. “March is always the start of the busy season, so we’ve been real thankful this March things have started to pick up again and things are starting to look more normal. People are doing more travel and the vaccines are making things a little more safer.”

The two types of tours offered are the Classic Tour, which accommodates 12 guests and gives a general Waco overview and the River Cruise, currently ranked as the #1 Boat Tour in North America by USA Today’s 10Best, a sunset cruise for 15 guests on the Brazos and Bosque Rivers.

“One of my favorite parts the of the tour is really helping people open their eyes a little wider to see that Waco is not only the home to Chip and Joanna Gaines, who are wonderful people, but there’s a whole community of people in Waco who are of the same type of high-caliber as Chip and Jo,” Venable said.

The recent increase in demand for tours has led to a need for more tour guides.

“We are excited for what’s to come, and we are even preparing for our next round of interviews in a few weeks because we know we need more on our team to meet the overwhelming demand for a Waco Tours experience,” Seibert said.