Tourism

February 7, 2014

Winter Texan Visitor Numbers on the Decline?

SENIOR.WORKOUT_full-424x237

The Rio Grande Valley has welcomed retirees for decades, and it is still one of the favored winter destinations today. The valley’s population is exploding, and so has our number of winter visitors, but things are changing, and it might not be for the best. Several generations of retirees have made the valley their winter home, and some have moved here permanently. Such is the case of Doug Palmer who first came to the valley 15 years ago, and eventually relocated to Donna, Texas, from the Dallas Fort Worth area.

“I am concerned because I believe the number of winter Texans is declining significantly,” Doug said during a recent phone conversation. Doug knows about the challenges of advertising budgets, for he worked for McDonald Douglas – which merged with Boeing – for 40 years. He reached out to South Texas Tourism Marketing Cooperative (STTMC) to express his concerns. “Why do we see TV advertisement of local RV parks? That money should be spent on TV ads around the Midwest,” expressed a concerned Doug who wondered why local Chambers of Commerce are not doing their job of promoting in the Midwest.

I was very happy to answer that question, for I know the local chambers are doing what they can. About 10 years ago, directors from Hidalgo County Chambers of Commerce and Convention & Visitor Bureaus got together to form the Hidalgo County Tourism Cooperative which is now the South Texas Tourism Marketing Cooperative (STTMC). These area leaders faced budget cuts that limited their marketing efforts targeted towards the Midwest retiree. They knew this could hurt the valley’s economy, so they formed the group assuring this would not happen.  The name changed because Cameron and Willacy counties were invited to join and create a stronger voice that can be heard among the increasing competition of hundreds of destinations vying for the Baby Boomer retirement market. But things outside of STTMC’s control have surfaced, such as the violence in Mexico, the health of retirees now in their 80s that cannot make the trip south, and the changing culture of the baby boomer generation who, according to recent studies, opt for shorter stays and are far more active.

STTMC, of which I am a part of in the capacity of director, works closely with Dr. Simpson of the University of Texas – Pan American, to stay on top of changes that will inflluence our marketing efforts.  Dr. Simpson is a marketing professor, associate dean of the College of Business Administration and the Valley’s Markets and Tourism Research Center’s director. “We will find out soon on how we are doing,” said Dr. Penny Simpson adding that the 2014 survey will be available this summer. She also stated that at this point it is hard to say what is going on, for some parks are full while others are expressing concerns. For STTMC, one of the toughest challenges is raising awareness about the importance of financially supporting outside the valley marketing efforts, and this is what I explained to Doug who, exasperated perhaps, reached out to us with plenty of good ideas.

Doug, 81, believes Winter Texan visitor numbers are down by about 20%, and said we should have TV advertising all over the Midwest, and we should sit down and brainstorm on how to lure the younger retirees who are not coming to the valley.

Doug Palmer

His statement is supported by the charts included in this post from UTPA’s latest study. He believes the entertainment currently promoted here is not good for the younger folks, and he suggests tapping on Branson’s shows, which are closed during the winter, and bring them to the valley. STTMC follows studies on generational culture changes that show younger retirees favor 1960s music such as the Beatles. When asked about suggestions to bring in members and increase STTMC’s budget, Doug believes we should publish economic impact charts on every local newspaper, and even get city leaders on a bus and take them on a tour of the valley’s RV parks so they can see the empty spaces, and talk to park owners and managers.  “Find out about the Monitor’s circulation during the winter months vs. the rest of the year. Find out about employment rates between October and April. Talk to restaurants like Cheddar’s, and ask them about the economic impact brought in by retirees, they will gladly support your efforts,” said an enthusiastic Doug.

We all seem to share the same sense of urgency, and STTMC is committed to reaching out to everybody that is interested in growing this market in the 21st century. STTMC believes the valley has all the resources needed to appeal to younger retirees, but we need the financial resources and the community support. One important thing to point out is that STTMC is the only organization that promotes the entire region; there are no divisions here, for we know visitors will come and travel all over the valley during their stay. It is unreasonable to think this is not the case. Studies show that area hotels also benefit from the retiree market, for those who travel to visit a potential relocation city –whether for permanent or semi-permanent retirement – spend an average of 3 to 4 nights at a hotel. In addition, friends and family of Winter Texans visit and stay at our local hotels.

STTMC knows promoting the valley in the Midwest and Canada, from which we are seeing an increase in visitors, is important for the valley’s economy. Our hotels, restaurants, hospitals, medical offices, golf courses, entertainment and shopping venues among many service providers; all benefit if STTMC does a good job. STTMC is also aware that not all retirees choose to stay at an RV Park, but rather invest in real estate, so the valley’s affordable real estate is also promoted. I hope by now readers have a good idea of the paramount effort marketing the valley is; we have so much to offer.
Because of the enormity of the Baby Boomer market, cities like Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and many others have launched expensive advertising and marketing campaigns; we cannot be left behind.

Current members of the South Texas Tourism Marketing Coop are the Hidalgo County Pumphouse, The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce, the McAllen CVB, The Alamo EDC, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Partnership, and the Harlingen CVB.

We invite all Winter Texan and full-time retirees to log on, and answer a few questions that will positively impact the valley’s perception of this important market. The featured photograph comes with great advice on how to stay fit during the winter by Assure. All charts were provided by Dr. Penny Simpson.

Year

Number of WTs         

Average

  expenditure per household per visit   

Direct Dollar contributions

(in millions)

1986-87

71,000

$     2,591.55

 $    92

1987-88

76,000

$     4,052.63

 $  154

1988-89

79,000

$     4,050.63

 $  160

1989-90

81,000

$     4,765.43

 $  193

1990-91

79,000

$                  -

-

1991-92

84,000

$     4,761.90

 $  200

1992-93

87,000

$     5,103.45

 $  222

1994-95

97,000

$     5,154.64

 $  250

1996-97

120,000

$     5,316.67

 $  319

1998-99

124,000

$     5,306.45

 $  329

2000-01

143,000

$     4,601.40

 $  329

2002-03

123,000

$     4,065.04

 $  250

2004-05

127,000

$     6,614.17

 $  420

2005-06

127,000

$     9,976.38

 $  634

2007-08

127,000

$     9,555.00

 $  607

2009-10

144,000

$   10,700.00

 $  803

2011-12

133,400

$   11,000.00

$  765

Facebook Comments

comments


About the Author

Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts,nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most important, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .




Visit Art.com
 
 

 
White Tailed Deer

Public Hunting Opportunities at Laguna Atascosa

Just in from the folks at Laguna Atascosa Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR) will be accepting hunter applications during the month of August for archery and firearm hunts that will take place during the months of...
by Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
0

 
 
greyhound-bus

Greyhound First Company to go South of the Border

Today we read  in the New York Times and we hope some routes will eventually include cities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For the first time ever, the intercity bus operator Greyhound has started service to Mexico. The ...
by Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
0

 
 
green jay

Why is the Rio Grande Valley so Rich in Birds and Wildlife?

If you Enjoy Bird Watching and Nature, South Texas is Waiting for you! Texas offers the richest bird watching in USA – 630 species, more than any other state. The Lower Rio Grande Valley offers the richest birding in Texa...
by Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
0

 

 
Futurism

Can Important Art be Found in the Rio Grande Valley Art Walks?

I recently stumbled upon this post that I found extremely interesting because it provides important tips for artists to consider when participating in an art walk or open studio events. The italicized paragraphs below belong to...
by Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
0

 
 
Violent Cities in Texas

The Rio Grande Valley much Safer than the rest of Texas.

How I wished I had read Dan Solomon’s story published January 23, 2015 by Texas Monthly online edition before my RGV promotional trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The title of the article is “The FBI’s List of th...
by Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
0

 




Visit Art.com

0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>