HARLINGEN — Mobile home and RV park operators in the Rio Grande Valley say all indications point to a successful year for Winter Texan visitors.
At South Padre Island, there’s been a 10 percent increase in the number of inquiries from prospective Winter Texans, Lacey Ekberg, the Convention & Visitors Bureau director, said. The CVB has received 5,000 to 6,000 calls per month since July, with most of those calls coming from the Midwest and northern states, including Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota.
Some parks are able to get a hint of the coming season’s success based on previous year park residents who take advantage of “early bird” discounts, or make their reservations far in advance of their return.
Fun N Sun RV Resort in San Benito, for example, offers a rate of $75 for the month of October, park spokeswoman Janie Paz said.
Paradise Park RV Resort, in Harlingen last year offered a 5 percent “Early Bird Special” discount for some visitors who paid by June for the next winter. Other parks’ discount offers vary from year to year.
Winter Texans usually begin showing up in the Valley around Oct. 1, said Penny Simpson, a UTPA professor of marketing and associate dean of the College of Business Administration and director of the Valley Markets and Tourism Research Center.
“It’s just a trickle in October,” she said of the annual migration of retirees. “When they come is tied to the weather. The health of the retirees also determines whether they will return to the Valley each year.”
Some Winter Texans who have visited the Valley for several winters will stay longer and some make the Valley their home base and visit their northern homes during warmer months, she said.
Baby boomers are an increasing presence in the Winter Texan community, Lon Huff, Manager of Sunshine RV Park in Harlingen, said, adding that there’s a “pretty big” contingent of 55-year-old Canadians at his park.
The number of retirees who stay for six months each winter has been increasing each year he has worked at Sunshine RV Park, Huff said. Some owners of park models and mobile homes have added patios, storage buildings and other facilities, as evidence of their longer visits.