The first wave of “Winter Texans” – RVers who annually migrate from the north to areas like the Rio Grande Valley – has area businesses hopeful that gas prices won’t deter people from making the trek this year.
“We just love it here,” said T.C. Brock, who drove 1,800 miles in his RV to South Padre Island from Idaho last week. “And we’ll do anything to get away from the snow.”
According to the San Antonio Express-News, leaving behind piles of snow and the high heating costs that go with it seem to be the big motivating factors.
Brock, 62, said he paid an average of $3 per gallon for diesel fuel to get to the Rio Grande Valley – the highest per gallon was $3.39 and the lowest was $2.67 – and paid around $900 in total.
“My RV only gets 6 miles to the gallon, so do the math,” said Brock, a retired Army major general.
According to AAA, the average national price for diesel is $3.20 per gallon, compared with $2.20 per gallon a year ago. For regular unleaded gasoline, the current average cost per gallon is $2.70 versus $2.01 this time last year.
Darrell Harmon, the general manager of Fun ‘N Sun RV Resort in San Benito, said only a handful of people have called to cancel their reservations, some citing high fuel costs. But other factors, such as illness, come into play, he said.
About 127,000 “Winter Texans” visited the Rio Grande Valley in the 2004-2005 season, pumping $420 million into the economy, according to a recent report by the Valley Markets and Tourism Research Center of the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.
Harmon reported he already had 103 reservations for this January. Last January he ended up with 213 motorhomes, but he expects to surpass that this season.
“What we’re really seeing is folks are planning shorter trips and staying put longer,” Harmon said. “They’re doing this to save on gas.”
The tourism research center’s associate director, Penny Simpson, said it’s too early to tell if high fuel costs will affect this year’s tourism numbers.
“It’s still cheaper here than there; they end up spending less to have more here,” Simpson said. “But to be honest, I really don’t have a clue. A lot will probably depend on how confident they are in the economy.”