While many universities across the country—Yale University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Rice University to name a few—have canceled or shortened spring break to mitigate the threat of COVID-19, most Texas universities are carrying on as planned.
Since Gov. Greg Abbott did away with statewide COVID-19 restrictions, just days before spring break week, Galveston officials said they saw a massive crowd kicking off spring break weekend on Saturday. A pandemic taboo, tens of thousands flocked to the famous spring break destination, Galveston Beach, to relax.
It wouldn't be the first time, spring breakers have gathered despite a pandemic. Last year actually brought the most people to the Galveston Beach than some past years, says Chief Peter Davis of Galveston Island Beach Patrol.
Davis said he is expecting large crowds, though it is still too early to tell how many beachgoers are expected on the island.
"We were packed Saturday—I mean, the island was completely full," Davis told Austonia on Monday. "I think we had bumper-to-bumper traffic for probably five or six hours in the afternoon."
Davis said for the past two years, Galveston has had 7.2 million visitors, so the conversation of keeping people safe has been ongoing since before the pandemic even began.
Beaches have always been a popular spring break destination for college students. And for local university students, the drive up to Galveston is just over three hours long.
The University of Texas at Austin did not change the spring break schedule, though they recommended students get tested one to three days before traveling and after, quarantining for ten days if not. But the university, ultimately cannot control what students do during their break.
Although weekend crowds draw in anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 people, Davis said the beach is actually probably one of the safest places for people to go.
"I think the beaches are back into popularity again. It kind of waxes and wanes but I think we're seeing a surge of interest in going to the beach (with COVID putting) limitation on other types of recreation," Davis said. "They all come basically down the same highway, go to the same gas stations and restaurants and they all funnel through, so the beach itself might be fairly easy to stay distant and to kind of maintain those precautions."
There are still a few weeks in the spring break season, Davis said, and with a lot of vacation areas, they can't regulate as easily, like Airbnb rentals and less populous beaches, keeping people safe is difficult. Davis said he expects the crowds to get rowdy, but he is glad that they have been safe so far.
(Galveston Beach Patrol/Instagram)
Beachfront Business General Manager Charlie Rightly said being on the beach, business has been pretty steady for him. Since the restaurant is an open-air patio, they let customers decide whether or not they want to mask.
"Everybody's pretty spaced out and everything (on the beach)," Rightly said. "The city's doing a lot of that by just implementing where they put out the umbrellas."
And aside from taking COVID precautions, Davis mentioned not to swim alone and be careful of rip currents as you swim—believe it or not, there is more danger at the beach than just catching a deadly virus.
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Airbnb is moving to make its COVID-induced ban on house parties permanent—but from the affordable housing shortage to
"Under 25" bans, the short-term rental service may be losing its shine in Austin.
In 2019, the company moved to prohibit “open-invite” parties that were advertised on social media and “chronic party houses." By 2020, its ban broadened to all parties and events "until further notice," which was officially coded into policy Tuesday.
From August 2020 to January 2022, Airbnb denied over 48,000 reservations in Texas from serial party offenders, and around 3,300 reservations were declined through the "Under 25" system in Austin.
For some Austinites, the party ban may be the last straw.
Society has progressed past the need for Airbnb's https://t.co/44rTBDQPX1
— Caleb (@ipleadthef1th) June 20, 2022
But Airbnb has already caught plenty of flack for its possible contributions to the nation's housing shortage.
In Austin, short-term rentals are required to be registered through the city. And while the city reports around 1,900 rental units in the rental registry, according to city demographer Lila Valencia, data collection site Inside Airbnb has tracked close to 12,000 in the area.
Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox said that too many Airbnbs in Austin could shrink the available housing market.
"If the housing units (have) been taken off the market, that's displacing people, it's making housing more scarce. And it's probably driving the cost of housing up," Cox told Austonia.
Short-term rentals could also eat into new housing in Austin, from apartment buildings to accessory dwelling units on single-family properties.
"If new housing has been built, and it's being tied to Airbnb, that's also really just servicing the tourism industry as opposed to the housing needs of the city," Cox said.
Because a large portion of its customers are tourists, Airbnbs may also tend to crowd around desirable areas, such as downtown or South Congress. South Congress's average rent now rivals New York City, according to Austin Business Journal.
"When that happens, you're taking away housing units in an already densely-populated area where there is more of a shortage of housing," Valencia said. "And so then the people who historically once lived there are no longer able to afford to live there, and the unit itself isn't even going to somebody who could afford to rent it on a more permanent basis, but rather to people who are coming in and visiting for a weekend or two."
Despite the pandemic—and growing frustration among homeowners and renters—Airbnb saw a record year in 2021. But two of Airbnb's billionaire founders have quietly sold $1.2 billion in company stock in the last year, a possible premonition of what's to come.
And while some have created an Airbnb "empire"—one company owns 338 available listings in Austin—many priced-out Austinites are fed up with big investors' influence in the tight housing market.
These are not imperialist conquerors; they’re over leveraged milk toast millennials who probably borrowed money from their wealthy boomer parents and be bailed out by the same #housingmarket#airbnb#recessionpic.twitter.com/K6DM8bT730
— Texas Runner (@OGtexasrunner) June 21, 2022
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Enjoy live music all weekend long and check out the hotels’ state-of-the-art amenities between sets. Make a splash in the pool, enjoy outdoor fire pits, or challenge your friends in a yard game while enjoying a weekend full of live music! Did we mention the package includes deluxe accommodations and a bucket of beer? Oh, and if you needed more convincing, this pet-friendly hotel means the whole family can join in on the fun.
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With unique programming at each of Valencia’s properties, there’s something for everyone to enjoy all summer long.
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