ALAMO, Texas —The pandemic is poised to affect a big economic engine for the Rio Grande Valley, winter Texans. There could be fewer visiting this year.
“What we’re hearing when we get calls or on our Facebook page is that they are anxious to come back,” said Lynn Murray, co-manager at Alamo’s Trophy Gardens RV Resort.
With a year-round population, Murray said trophy gardens has managed to keep its residents safe and healthy during the pandemic by offering outdoor activities.
“They’re still distancing themselves at the pool,” she said. “Still distancing themselves at the golf course.”
For the most part, their usual guests are returning. But with non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada barred, there is some uncertainty.
“We’re really concerned about our Canadians not being able to come down again because of the border issue,” she said. “And then, are they going to be able to get insurance?”
While their Canadian family will likely have to wait for the vaccine before returning, Trophy Gardens said they will be welcoming new American visitors.
“We’ve had a number of new requests of people wanting more info about South Texas,” Kristi Collier, founder of Welcome Home RGV said. “And the good news is, RV sales are on the rise. They’re higher than they’ve been in a long time, and so people are looking for a way to travel where they can be self-contained.”
Collier runs Welcome Home RGV, a newspaper and online resource for all things winter Texan. She predicts the upcoming season will be slower but said she and her team are keeping positive that those who can come down will.
“It’s going to be cold up north,” Collier said. “When you talk about self-isolating, you might as well be able to at least go sit out on your front porch, have a cocktail, if you’d like, watch the world go by in the sunshine.”
Dr. Michael Minor is the chair of UTRGV’s Marketing Department and agrees the Valley may be able to make up a significant portion of its winter Texan population stuck in Canada. But it depends on how the trend of COVID-19 infections plays out.
“A lot of winter Floridians may decide not to come to Florida, but if the situation here is better than in Florida, we may actually see some new visitors who don’t usually come to us,” said Dr. Minor.
With the economy already suffering due to the virus, Dr. Minor said local businesses will still benefit with any amount of winter visitors arriving.
“It’s likely that it’ll help, but we can’t expect the usual boost we get from winter Texans,” Dr. Minor said. “The impact will be less, whatever it is.”