Rio Grande Parks Adapt to New Demographics
It’s no secret that RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley whose livelihoods depend on the annual influx of Winter Texans are facing several challenges.
Many of today’s winter visitors are younger and more mobile than their counterparts of years past, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“They may go to Arizona this year, Texas next year and Florida the next year,” said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 74 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.
Snowbirds who don’t have a history of spending their winters in the Rio Grande Valley are also more likely to be frightened by publicity about violence in Mexico, even though cities in the Rio Grande Valley have less crime than other popular winter resort destinations in other states.
Despite these challenges, RV parks and resorts across the Rio Grande Valley are finding that they can continue to grow their business base for the winter season if they offer lots of organized activities and continue to invest in new amenities for their parks, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
These new amenities include walking areas and agility courses for people with dogs as well as special pet-related activities.
“Dog parks are a big deal,” said Jacqueline Gomez, who is the marketing director for Llano Grande Lake Park Resort & Country Club in Mercedes, Victoria Palms Resort in Donna and Alamo Park Mobile Home & RV Park in Alamo. She said each of the resorts has two, off-leash dog areas.
The dog park at Bentsen Palm Village in Mission has become so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.
“About 70% to 75% of our guests have dogs, so these kinds of amenities are important,” said Juanita Carvajal, Bentsen Palm Village’s general manager.
Of course, while pet friendly amenities are attractive to Winter Texans, that’s not the only attraction at Bentsen Palm Village. The 250-site resort recently set aside an open area of the park where its guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“It’s like a community garden,” Carvajal said, “but we give each guest a 10 by 10-foot section where they can put a stake with their name on it. They often grow kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions and radishes. Sometimes, they grow so much they bring it into the office to share.”
Bentsen Palms also markets its proximity to the World Birding Center while also highlighting the rare birds and other wildlife that make their way into the park.
But while nature oriented activities are always popular, RV park and resort operators are finding that other types of organized activities are also critical for today’s Winter Texans.
El Valle del Sol in Mission offers more than 100 activities each week for its guests. “Winter Texans want to be active,” said park manager Irma Sanchez.