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

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – At the beginning of a recent episode of ABC’s The Bachelor, a contestant shakes her shoulders while squeaking, “We’re going to Houston, baby. I’m ready for some fun in Texas.”

Episodes four and five of the reality dating 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 football game at NRG Stadium to buy more bachelor time. One attendee got to spend her personal date at an outdoor picnic with Blood Bros. BBQ, recognized by Texas Monthly Magazine as one of the 50 Best BBQ Members in Texas.

Each episode offered insights into the city’s food scene, diversity and culture, but 13 investigations found there was a cost in bringing the show to Houston.

Houston First Corporation, the agency charged with marketing Houston and funded with Houston hotel tax dollars, paid the show $240,000 in hotel occupancy tax dollars to film in Houston.

“At the time we made the deal, it was only for one episode, but we got two,” said Holly Clapham-Rosenow, Houston First’s chief marketing officer.

She said it was an even better deal because the city only paid for one episode, but the producers liked it so much that they shot two episodes in Houston.

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

“I think it’s too expensive,” Houston native Sara Perez said. “You’re making enough profit off the show already, so why are you still trying to just charge us for Houston when you come 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 her friends have even tried to get on the show in the past.

Little did she know the city used taxpayer money to complete the deal.

“That’s crazy. I didn’t think they would actually pay to bring her here. I just thought he was something like, you know — Houston, Texas, it’s the big city,” Esperanza said. “That’s a lot of money just to do a show here, but I know they did another show here too.”

The other show she’s talking about is Bravo’s Top Chef, which filmed the entire current season in Houston.

Top Chef’s producers have resisted releasing financial details about how much the city paid them to film a season in Houston, but we know it was also incited by taxpayers’ money.

Still, Clapham-Rosenow said that promoting the city to be featured on a nationally broadcast show is worth the cost and will bring long-term benefits by attracting more businesses and residents to Houston.
She said it would have taken five years to pay for the same publicity the city gets when a show runs for weeks in Houston.

Steven Devadanam, editor and chief of lifestyle website CultureMap Houston, said the value the city gets from participating in national shows like The Bachelor and Top Chef can’t be compared to a 30-second TV commercial that the city is starring in which might generate hopes of someone in another city checking it out and deciding to visit Houston.

“Top Chef isn’t just a postcard from Houston to the country, it’s a storefront and a love letter. You only have to watch a few episodes and you suddenly realize that Houston is the most diverse city in the country. She has an amazing culture history. It’s got the most dynamic food you’ve seen in this city,” he said. “When it gets people here and it gets people out of Austin and it gets people out of Dallas and it brings in tax dollars and it brings food dollars, entertainment dollars, hotel dollars into my town , I am all for it.”

“Huge Impact”

Clapham-Rosenow said the city had been approached about hosting The Bachelor in 2018, but that didn’t happen. A few years later, when Texas lifted its COVID restrictions ahead of other states, she said the same producer the city spoke to in 2018 got back in touch and said they’d like to shoot an episode in Houston.

“They came here with more than 200 producers so the request to help us choose the location was to work with us on a package to subsidize part of the 200 producers that were here for seven to 10 days and that was it the deal we thought was a great return because it would bring in no less than $500,000 in cash,” she said. “It would return the city in a great rebound timeframe and hit more than 6 million[viewers]. .”

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

It even spurred some free publicity, Clapham-Rosenow said. Another show affiliated with The Bachelor is filming a series in the city as the producers loved it here, and this time Houston First didn’t have to encourage them or pay to come. The name of the show has not been announced 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 on food, transportation and other expenses associated with being in town for two weeks.

Chris Niederschulte, general manager of the C. Baldwin, said the show was paid for the hotel’s services like any other guest.

At a time when the workforce was becoming tight due to the pandemic, he said accommodating hundreds of Bachelor producers at the hotel allows him to bring back support staff and hourly workers like bartenders, waiters and maids about three months earlier than he could without could have done to boost 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 are literally a family. You guys spend so much time together so it’s just amazing to bring them all back and see those faces and everyone doing what they are so good at.”

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

“It’s fun and it’s exciting and the employees love it,” he said. “The attention you get through this show is just amazing, not just for Texas, not just for Houston, but for all the places it touches.”
The Bachelor star also took one lucky lady on a single date horseback ride, where the pair apparently stumbled upon an outdoor picnic hosted by well-known Houston grill joint Blood Bros.

Robin Wong, one of the three founders who started the restaurant, said this scene wasn’t quite the chance encounter the producers made it appear on screen.

Wong said when the show was filmed in Texas, the producers knew they wanted to have a barbecue, but they also wanted it to be a family setting, so they hosted an outdoor picnic.

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

Wong said he had to close shop for a day while filming, but The Bachelor paid their business for all the food cooked and served during the picnic.

Still, he didn’t know the city was paying to bring the Bachelor and the Top Chef to town, but he believes it’s worth the expense.

“I find it amazing. I don’t think these shows would have happened without them,” he said. “I’m glad to see Houston is on the map and if that’s what it takes to get it here, I’m all for it because I think later on they don’t have to buy it like that, people will.” already be interested in coming here, so I think it’s great to have that kind of bump or showcase to show people what’s going on here.

Wong said he regularly gets BBQ fanatics, even visiting from Canada and Australia, and is glad Houston’s food scene is being featured on national television.

“Houston is definitely a barbecue destination,” he said. “We have a lot of tourists. We have people coming here who still have their luggage. They say, ‘I just got off the plane, straight from the airport’, because they understand what our hours are.”

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

“Not everyone gets it right the first time they come here, and sometimes it comes down to the producers and the on-site production staff making those decisions and the editors making that decision and doing their homework,” Devadanam said. “The Bachelor could have done a little bit better because he really understood some of the key players in our food scene, but I felt like they were trying to showcase the face of the city.”

Still, Devadanam said bringing popular reality shows like The Bachelor to Houston is positive for the city as it puts them on a national stage.

“We get a lot of traffic from people from other cities visiting our sites and trying to find out where they’ve stayed in a particular city,” he said. “People quickly google the name of the restaurant or hotel in real time as they watch. How can this be translated later? Only time will tell if that person actually shows up, but there’s quite a fuss and it’s raising Houston’s profile as a vacation destination where people wouldn’t have originally considered it.”

We reached out to ABC, which will air but not produce The Bachelor, and had no comment on the incentives. A PR rep from ABC offered to put us in touch with Warner Brothers, the show’s producers. We haven’t heard from Warner or any producer who worked with Houston First on the incentive deal.

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https://abc13.com/where-was-bachelor-filmed-in-houston-scenes-locations-blood-bros-on/11875121/ ‘Here for the right reasons?’ Houston paid $240,000 to bring The Bachelor to Houston

Dais Johnston

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