According to the bi-annual survey conducted by the University of Texas-Pan American, Winter Texans who spent the winter season in the RGV in 2013-2014 contributed $710 million to the economy of the Rio Grande Valley during their stay. There were an estimated 99,500 Winter Texans in the Valley during the season.
The survey was conducted with the assistance of the Winter Texan Times and its publisher, Jim Brunson, who published and promoted the survey, and Dr. Teofilo Ozuna, Dean of the College of Business Administration. Dr. Penny M. Simpson D.B.A. compiled the data.
A total of 1394 Winter Texans and 88 RV and mobile home park owners/managers responded. Based on data gathered the average Winter Texan is 71.7 years old, is married (85.9 Percent), is white (99.3 percent), and has been retired for more than one year (89.2 percent).
Winter Texans are better educated than in the past. Most have some college education with 35.9 percent having attended college, while 31.5 percent have a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. Approximately 87.6 percent of Winter Texans are in a two-person household with an average annual income of $59,000. About 63 percent of Winter Texans have an income in the range of $30,000 to $70,0000.
Most Winter Texans come from the Midwestern states of Minnesota, (16.9 percent), Iowa, (13.1 percent) Wisconsin, (7.5 percent), Illinois, (6.9 percent), Missouri, (6.6 percent), Michigan, (5.6 percent) and Nebraska (3.2 Percent).
Another 14.4 percent come from Canada with the majority coming from Ontario (49.5 percent), followed by Manitoba, (30.1 percent), Saskatchewan, (8.2 percent) and Quebec, (6.1 percent).
Proportionally, the number of Winter Texans from Minnesota and Canada are rising.
The typical Winter Texan in the survey has come to the Rio Grande Valley for 11.2 years, stayed an average of 133 days and 91 percent own a Valley residence. About 92.3 percent say they come for the climate, 66.4 percent come for the friendly people, 33.7 percent come for the social activities and 51.9 percent come for a winter vacation. Approximately 96.9 percent of those answering the survey say they intend to return next year and the only reason not to come would be poor health (62.7 percent) or family reasons (37 percent).
The most popular activities for Winter Texans are attending festivals, visiting historical sites, attending music or jam sessions, visiting flea markets, and going to the beach.
The contribution of the 53,000 Winter Texan households to the US/Valley economy was approximately $9640 for routine monthly expenditures and $3730 on major one-time purchases. This amounts to about $13,400 per household creating a direct economic impact of $710 million.
Mexico is still a big draw for Winter Texans. Approximately 86.6 percent crossed the border at one time or another making an average of 5.3 trips across the border. They spent $92 to $170 per trip and had an impact of $31.4 million on the economy of Mexican border towns. Many choose to purchase prescription medicines at pharmacies in Mexico (49.5 percent bought $64.07 in medicine) and get dental work they cannot afford in the United States done in Mexico. Approximately 40.9 percent spent $197.08 on dental work. They enjoy a little shopping (75.8 percent spend an average of $38.74) and often have a meal (68.2 percent spent $25.86) before returning home.
Most Winter Texans are 65 years old or older, and on average, they are getting older. The 2006 survey showed 9.8 percent of Winter Texans were younger than 60 but the current survey shows only 2.7 percent are younger than 60.
The level of education among Winter Texans is rising. This survey indicated 67.4 percent of Winter Texans have a graduate or professional degree or some college credit.
Most Winter Texans own their own homes, mobile homes or RVs in the Rio Grande Valley. Approximately 50.7 percent own a mobile home, 34 percent own an RV, 5.6 percent own a house, and 0.7 percent own a condo.
In 2014 Winter Texans spent more on automobiles, houses/condos, furniture and RVs, plus major appliances but less on mobile homes, medical costs, property appliances, electronics and travel tours. On average, they spent 4.6 percent less on major purchases than was spent in 2006.
Music seems to be a big draw for Winter Texans. Approximately 40.8 percent of Winter Texans participated in jams by attending or playing often. Another 48.6 percent said they sometimes attended jams.
Flea markets were another popular attraction. Approximately 38.2 percent of Winter Texans visit them regularly while another 59.6 percent make occasional visits.
About 19.4 percent of all Winter Texans enjoy bicycling frequently while another 34.9 percent bike occasionally, whether it is a group ride from their parks, rides in the nature centers or simply riding on their own.
Dancing is a favorite type of exercise, whether it is square dancing, round dancing or line dancing with callers, or attending dances in the parks. Approximately 30.6 percent of Winter Texans participate in dances frequently while another 36.4 percent participate sometimes.
The Rio Grande Valley has some very nice golf courses with economical prices. Approximately 23.9 percent of Winter Texans golf frequently while another 14.8 percent golf sometimes.
Crafting is another popular pastime for Winter Texans. Many parks have their own quilting bees. Larger parks offer art and pottery lessons, stained glass and woodcarving classes. Some even offer lapidary shops with a silversmith shop attached.
Approximately 17.3 percent of winter residents work with crafts often, while 45 percent take part occasionally.
The World Birding Center with its nine satellite centers across the Valley is a big attraction among Winter Texans, along with the Valley’s two wildlife refuges, a couple of Audubon sites and other community nature centers. Approximately 12.3 percent of Winter Texans visit these attractions often while another 67.7 percent make occasional visits to these sites. Approximately 7.2 percent Winter Texans are avid birders while another 44 percent have made at least one birding trip.
The Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Island attractions have a special appeal to many Mid-Westerners. Approximately 12.7 percent of Winter Texans enjoy the beach often while another 76.6 percent visit while they are in the Valley. Only 10.7 percent of Winter Texans say the beach has no draw for them. While only 4.4 percent of Winter Texans fish often, at least 30.5 percent have done so at least once while in the Valley.
Approximately 11.2 percent of Winter Texans enjoy visiting historic sites. Another 78.2 percent of Winter Texans has visited at least one historic site In the Rio Grande Valley.
The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville is another attraction that gets visits from Winter Texans. Only 2.2 percent of Winter Texans make regular visits to the zoo but 52.5 percent of all Winter Texans have made at least one visit to the zoo.
While the number of people who travel into the interior of Mexico is down from other years, there has been an increase in trips to other locations in Texas including the Kickapoo Casino in Eagle Pass, the cities of Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Galveston and other locations in Texas. While only 2.2 percent of the Winter Texans take these trips regularly, 63.6 percent of all Winter Texans have participated in at least one travel tour while living in the Rio Grande Valley.
Other draws include the local museums. While 5.5 percent of Winter Texans regularly visit museums, a total of 70.9 percent have visited a local museum at least one. Local libraries are a great attraction. About 11.2 percent of Winter Texans use them regularly while 52.5 percent use them occasionally.
Sports like the local Winter Texan softball leagues are very important to 2.2 percent of Winter Texans while another five percent participate at some time.
Most Winter Texans enjoy at least one festival while spending their winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Events such as the Festival of Lights in Hidalgo and the Texas Citrus Fiesta in Mission attract thousands of Winter Texans each year. BorderFest in Hidalgo and the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in Mercedes, and other events also attract many winter visitors.
Approximately 17.3 percent of Winter Texans go to festivals around the Valley often. Another 72.8 percent enjoy going to at least one festival during their stay.
There are many factors that affect the Winter Texan population. One is the US economy where fewer young people are willing to retire and spend their savings traveling to a winter paradise. From a high in 2009 when the Winter Texan impact was $803 million, there has been a decline to 2014’s $710 million. Survey results show the current Winter Texan population is aging, but local chambers of commerce, RV resorts and businesses are working together through the South Texas Coop to reinstitute a coordinated marketing campaign to help attract newly retired couples to come to the Rio Grande Valley.