Editor’s Note: As the 2009-2010 winter vacation season winds down, The Valley Town Crier, McAllen, Texas, asked some local experts on Winter Texans in the Rio Grande Valley to share their insights on new trends among the annual visitors.
Kristi Collier is a columnist who knows about Winter Texans. Her company, Welcome Home RGV, is known as the self-proclaimed chamber of commerce for Winter Texans.
“I’ve worked with Winter Texans for 13 years,” Collier said. “I’ve put together a little directory for Winter Texans and some coupon books.” Collier began her quest serving Winter Texans because she wanted to inform them about the different activities that take place around the Rio Grande Valley. Activities, she said that “thousands of Winter Texans weren’t aware of.”
“There’s a real need for a directory because a lot of them come down here clueless,” Collier said. “They don’t know anything about the Valley. We have a directory that’s Valleywide.”
Businesses across the Valley and across the border are anxious to tap into the Winter Texan market. The 2008 Winter Texan Report by the University of Texas-Pan American found that the average Winter Texan household spends about $9,555 during a typical stay in the Valley.
One of the ways Collier has been able to keep up with all the different trends that Winter Texans are rolling with, is her active participation in their communities.On a recent bike trip for example, she took them across the Rio Grande River via the Los Ebanos Ferry and they’re first stop was a bar.
“The typical Winter Texan is the little old lady driving 10 mph down the highway,” said Collier about what the natives seem to think about Winter Texans. “Well the Baby Boomers are retiring and a lot of them have been exposed to the Valley because they’re parents wintered here and so we’re finding that there is a shift in the typical Winter Texan.”
Collier also explained that Winter Texans are a lot younger, they have a lot more money and they’re not afraid to spend it.
“The older ones, who a lot of them lived through the depression, they save everything and they’re not real spenders,” Collier said.
Cory Reed, park manager for Citrus Mobile Park in Edinburg, said that one of the new trends she is seeing is that Winter Texans are leaving much sooner than usual.
“The younger Winter Texans are more transit,” Reed said. “They dont’ stay as long and they move around more. I’ve had a lot of people that have left already.”
Another thing that Winter Texans have told her is that if there is no wireless Internet connection at the park, they are going to look for somewhere else to stay.
“Something that we haven’t had to deal with before is that they all have to have their wireless Internet,” Reed said. “It’s an important feature for the park. I’ve had several people tell me they’re not going to come back next year if we don’t get it fixed.”
Because some people are only staying for two months, they’ve had to turn away people who might have stayed for four months.
“I foresee at some point we’re going to have to redo our rent structure,” Reed said.
Rod Graham is the webmaster of the Winter Texan Connection and he has also noticed that Winter Texans are younger and are a bit more computer savvy so he created his website to help people learn about what’s going on in the Rio Grande Valley.
“It seems as though that more (people) are retiring from blue collar jobs and are coming down,” Graham said. “Where as 10 years ago you could just about say that the majority of Winter Texans retired from farming. Now we’re seeing a lot more coming from office jobs and things like that.”
The 2008 UTPA study reported that the average Winter Texan household income is around $50,000 with 69% of respondents’ incomes falling in the $20,000 to $60,000 range.
Another thing that Graham has noticed with the larger RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley is that there isn’t a decline in business.
“They’re (RV parks) not saying they’re (Winter Texans) not coming,” Graham explained. “RV Parks are saying they’re full.”
Graham also notices that more and more Winter Texans are buying property here and flying back and forth instead of driving back year after year.
“Over the last 10 years it’s been RRV after RV on the road,” Graham said. “It seems as if they’re buying mobile homes in the parks, either have a car or have a car back here and fly back and forth.”
On average, a typical Winter Texan has been coming to the Valley for 9.1 years, and stays for around 4.2 months, UTPA reported.
Whether it’s a bar where every hour is happy hour or just relaxing on a golf course one thing is for sure, Winter Texans are here to stay four months out of the year and they’ll keep coming back because of people like Collier and Graham who make they’re stay perfect.