An online survey by Texas Campgrounds.com has confirmed what many park operators are reporting: There are more Snow Birds or "Winter Texans: this winter than last winter, and they’re staying longer, according to a news release.
The survey found that 52% of Winter Texans plan to spend as much time wintering in Texas as they did last winter, while 35% plan to stay even longer. Only 13% of respondents were planning shorter stays, according to the online survey, which drew 1,250 responses in December and January.
“I was impressed with the fact that 87% of Winter Texans plan to spend as much time or longer wintering in Texas than last year,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which markets campgrounds, RV parks and resorts through TexasCampgrounds.com and TexasCabinRentals.net.
“I think you can attribute a lot of those longer stays to some bounceback in the economy,” he said, adding that colder than normal weather in Texas and other areas across the Sunbelt hasn’t deterred retirees from coming to the Lone Star State because it’s a lot colder up North. “All temperatures being equal,” Schaeffer said, “50 is 50 and 5 is 5.”
But the survey also revealed that many Winter Texans are cutting back other expenses in an effort to spend the winter in Texas. In fact, 37% of respondents said they were cutting expenses because their income had been reduced, while 52% said their income was the same as it was last winter. Eleven percent of respondents said their income had increased.
The survey also produced some unexpected findings, namely, that only a fraction of Winter Texans spend the season in the Rio Grande Valley. According to the survey, 39% of Winter Texans spend the season in the Hill County, with another 38% staying in parks along the Gulf Coast. Only 24% of respondents said they spend the winter in the Rio Grande Valley.
“This survey pretty much shatters the stereotype of where people spend the winter in Texas,” Schaeffer said. “It also suggests that younger winter visitors are coming into Texas and they’re exploring other areas of the state.” In fact, the survey found that only 26% of respondents planned to stay at one park for the whole season, with 74% of winter visitors planning to travel from one park to another throughout the winter season.
“This survey shows that ‘Winter Texans’ are much more mobile than they were in the past,” Schaeffer said. “This is a group that often travels and is increasingly spontaneous about where they go and how long they stay at each park.”
Here’s what the survey showed regarding advance reservations:
- 31% book all of their reservations in advance.
- 37% book part of their winter stay with reservations, and leave time open to travel to parks in other areas as they see fit.
- 32% never make advanced reservations.
And while 47% of Winter Texans spend all of their time in Texas, 53% also visit other states at some point during the winter. Here’s a closer look at those numbers:
- 27% spend most of their time in Texas, but also travel to surrounding states.
- 26% spend some of their time in Texas and also travel to surrounding states.
With regard to the length of their winter stay in Texas, the survey produced the following statistics:
- 15% planned to stay three to four weeks.
- 40% planned to stay one to two months.
- 13% planned to stay three to four months.
- 25% planned to stay six months or longer.
The survey also found that 60% of Winter Texans arrive after Christmas, 13% coming between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and 27% arrive sometime in the fall before Thanksgiving.
In terms of their RV accommodations, the survey found that Winter Texans use the following types of equipment:
- 45% spend the winter in a travel trailer or fifth-wheel.
- 43% spend the winter in a motorhome.
- 12% spend the winter in a recreational park trailer or “park model” and use a car to travel to other locations.