Each year, retirees from all over the U.S and Canada venture to the Rio Grande Valley area to spend the winter. These retirees, known as Winter Texans, provide a substantial boost to the region’s economy. In an effort to better understand their activities, interests and impact on the region, the Business and Tourism Research Center in the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas-Pan American and now The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has conducted research on this market for 30 years.
This year’s study included 744 Winter Texans respondents and 63 RV and mobile home park manager/owner respondents. Winter Texan participants submitted survey responses at a Winter Texan Expo (15.5%), online (43%) or returned by mail a completed a hard copy version of the survey that was inserted in the Winter Texan Times newspaper (41.5%). The results of both the Winter Texan and the Park surveys are summarized here in seven sections: demographic characteristics and stay characteristics, expenditures in Mexico, expenditures in the Valley, Other winter destinations, Internet use and the Park study. Demographic Characteristics
The average Winter Texan participating in this year’s study: • is female (57.2%),
• is 72.3 years of age,
• is married (84.6%),
• is white (97%),
• is retired (91.9%) and has been retired for more than a year (88.6%),
• has at least some college (40.1%) or a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree (32.8%),
• is in a 2-person household (86.8%),
• has an annual household income of $64,500 with 56.2% of Winter Texans having an income between $30,000 to $70,000, and
• comes from Minnesota (16.3%), Canada (14.3%), Iowa (9.7%), Wisconsin (8.8%), Illinois (7.7%), Missouri (5.7%), Michigan (6.8%) and Nebraska (3.0%).
Further, Winter Texans 65 years of age and older participating in this study are, on average, more educated and have a higher household income level than their counterparts in the U.S. population in general. There are fewer Winter Texans in the 65 to 69-year-old age range than in the U.S. population in general but more in the 70-years-of-age or older age range. Stay Characteristics Knowing where Winter Texans live while in the Valley, how long they stay, why they come and what they do while in the Valley is crucial to providing for their needs so they will continue to come and significantly impact the region’s economy.
This is the first winter for 5.4% of study respondents; but overall during their stay in the Rio Grande Valley, the typical Winter Texan in this study:
• has come to the Valley for 11.3 years,
• stayed in the Valley for 133 days,
• owns a Valley residence:
° 50.2% own a mobile home/park model ° 32.2% own an RV
° 5.0% own a house or condo
As in past years, most Winter Texans come to the Valley because of:
• the climate (80.8%),
• cost of living (70.9%),
• friendly people (60.8%), and
• the social activities (48.1%)
The most popular Valley activities for this year’s study participants include:
• visiting flea markets
• visiting historical sites
• attending festivals
• attending music or jam sessions
• going to the beach
• visiting wildlife/nature refuges
Overwhelmingly, the Winter Texan study participants plan to return to the Valley next year (95.5%), suggesting their satisfaction with the area. They reported that poor health (59.3%) or family reasons (28.5%) would be the most likely reasons to prevent them from returning. Economic Impact Included in this year’s report is a study of RV and mobile home parks where most Winter Texans typically stay. Using a listing of parks and information from questionnaires completed by park managers or owners, an estimated 106,000 Winter Texans or 56,700 households were in the Valley during the 2017-2018 winter season. On average, Winter Texans visited Mexico (85.3%) for an average of 5.1 trips during their stay in the Valley. They spent an average of $104 to $151 per trip, depending on the method used for estimation. With about 56,700 Winter Texan households in the Valley, the average, direct economic impact of Winter Texans on Mexico border towns is about $32 million. On the U.S. side, Winter Texan households spent an average of approximately $6,257 on routine, monthly purchases and about $3,058 on major, one-time purchases. This represents an average expenditure in the Valley of about $9,314 per household. By multiplying this average household expenditure times the estimated 56,700 Winter Texan households in the Valley, this study estimates that Winter Texans spent about $528 million, in nominal dollars, while in the Valley in 2017-2018.