The Rio Grande Valley’s Winter Texan population ticked upward last season after nearly a decade of declining numbers. That’s the good news from the latest Winter Texan Survey conducted by the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRVG), according to The Monitor.
The bad news is that household spending appears to be significantly down from the previous season, though officials are not sure why.
According to the latest biennial report published in May, an estimated 106,000 Winter Texans came to the Valley during the 2017-18 winter season. That’s a 10.4% increase from the 2015-16 season, when roughly 96,000 retirees visited the Valley. It’s the first population increase seen in the report since 2009-10.
About 144,000 Winter Texans came to the Valley that year and had been steadily dropping for nine years.
“The cities were not marketing the Valley for 20 years because of budget cuts and everything else,” said Penny Simpson, the survey’s author.
“Our Winter Texan parks have the best resources when it comes to marketing outside the Valley,” said Kristi Collier, whose website, Welcome Home Winter Texans, serves as an online concierge for winter visitors. Collier believes local stakeholders also had a hand in driving the turnaround.
“I would say 99 percent of our Winter Texans are here because they heard about us from somebody else,” Collier said. “Word of mouth is the number one driver of new traffic to the Rio Grande Valley. Still, we are actively working on an ambassador program to educate our residents how to get involved in other (marketing) opportunities up north and spread the message of the Rio Grande Valley and how great it is to winter here.”