Survey gives voice to Winter Texans

The biennial survey of Winter Texans — one of the most definitive sources of data for business and community leaders — is now available for those wishing to participate in the study.

A hard-copy print version is available in the Winter Texan Times. For Winter Texans with Internet access, the same survey can be found online at www.utrgv.edu/wintertexan.

The survey that occurs every two years was started in 2006, said Penny Simpson, a professor of marketing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and director of the Business and Tourism Research Center.

The more participants in the survey, Simpson said, the better the research.

“This gives the Winter Texans a voice in the community,” Simpson said. “When we can report that their economic impact is $800 million annually, it tells community leaders and business leaders that this is a serious market that they need to accommodate — money speaks.”

The most recent studies have shown a decline in the number of Winter Texans coming to the Valley. That also has reduced their annual economic impact in the Valley as well, according to the Business and Tourism Research Center.

In 2013-14, an estimated 100,000 Winter Texans made the Valley their winter home, down from 133,000 in 2011-2012 and significantly off the high of 144,000 in 2009-2010.

Dollar-wise, their annual economic impact on the Valley has dropped from more than $800 million a year to $751 million in 2011-12, and down to $710 million in 2013-14.

These declines have not gone unnoticed.

Simpson says the numbers are galvanizing support for better and more collaborative, regional marketing to reach potential Winter Texans in the Midwest, the Plains and in Canada to get them to visit the Valley.

“What the trend really seems to indicate is that our Winter Texan population is aging, and as they age, whether for poor health reasons or other reasons, they’re not coming back and not being replaced by others,” Simpson said.

She said it is frustrating for business and community leaders in the Valley because survey data shows that 96 percent of Winter Texans who visit the Valley once “plan on coming back.”

“They visit, they love it, they return,” she said. “We’re just not getting those new ones.”