DONNA — Winter visitors to the Rio Grande Valley generated as much as $1.9 billion during their stay in the region, Welcome Home RGV revealed in an economic impact study presented here Thursday afternoon.

The organization hosted its inaugural State of the Winter Texan Season Luncheon at the Victoria Palms ballroom in Donna where President and CEO Kristi Collier provided data for local officials and representatives from throughout the Valley’s local governments, businesses, resorts and parks.

Welcome Home RGV partnered with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Data and Information Systems Center to compile the report.

The report showed that this season Winter Texans and visiting family and friends contributed an estimated $1.2 billion in expenditures to the local economy. The report broke down those numbers as $825.3 million spent by winter visitors and $360.9 million “was spent by their guests for food, travel, entertainment, lodging, etc.,” according to the report.

In addition, the report estimates that nearly 53,000 Winter Texan households, which averages at least two people per household, visit the Valley, and around 42% stay at hotels when visiting South Padre Island, generating $6.3 million for the Island’s hotel industry alone.

On average, this season also generated a total of $82.7 million in taxes for the region, according to the report.

While the number of winter visitors has been on the decline over the last 14 years, Collier said the Valley saw more winter visitors this season — between Nov. 1 and March 31 — as COVID-19 restrictions continued to loosen.

Now, after two years of social distancing, people are “ready to travel.”

Keith Floyd, Mike D’Agostine, Jeannine Carey-Jados, Dennis Jados and Glenda Dale play a game of pickleball at Casa de Valle RV Park on Thursday in Alamo. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“Last year was a terrible year, we were probably operating at 50% occupancy,” Collier said in a phone interview Wednesday. “This year wasn’t the best year but it was definitely a much better year … we’ve seen a lot of new interest. Thirty-six percent of the people that answered the survey were in their first five years of coming to the Valley — 6% saying it was their first season.”

This year the Valley was a temporary home to approximately 100,000 Winter Texans, some of whom represent a younger demographic, Collier explained Wednesday.

“The winter Texans of today are a lot younger than they’ve ever been. With the ability to work remotely we are seeing a lot younger people coming south than ever before”

After seeing the number of young people who visited the Valley during the winter seasons, the organization is hopeful that this will lead to an increase in winter visitors for future seasons.

Even though the 2021-22 Winter Texan season has come to an end, Collier said the Valley is now entering the “converted Texan” season, a term given to Winter Texans who decided to remain in the Valley permanently.

“We are seeing activities shift to more active activities,” Collier said. “Music is shifting from gospel and country to a little bit more rock and roll … people are wanting more fully furnished rentals or turnkey operations rather than driving their big rig and gas prices are certainly going to change the landscape of how people want to travel.

“Moving forward it will be interesting to see what that does to our season as well.”

[email protected]