One of America’s most vibrant “birding hotspots” is Rio South Texas; a tropical paradise with almost 500 recorded species of bird. The huge number of bird species, alongside the region’s large tracts of nature preserves and ranch land, is attracting a new color to kaleidoscopic Rio South Texas: green! Each year, this border region brings in more than $300 million from nature loving tourists, who flock in from all over the world to view the majesty of the Western Wood-Pewee, fish the Laguna Madre, or go bow hunting for wild Javelina.
This finding comes off the back of a study recently conducted by Texas A&M University’s Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences and Department of Agricultural Economics. Nature tourism has long been an important focal point for the area’s visitor bureaus, and the study’s results demonstrate that these efforts are paying dividends.
In addition to the influx of cash that nature tourists bring to Rio South Texas, these nature lovers also boost local employment. The study estimates more than 4,407 full- and part-time jobs are directly attributable to nature tourism. Given that the survey was conducted during the off-peak season for nature tourism, the resulting figures are likely conservative estimates.
Rio South Texas Economic Council (RSTEC) member and CEO of the Mission Area Chamber of Commerce, Matt Ruszcazak, believes sustainable growth is an important balancing act: “It’s tempting to clear every piece of land for development when your economy is booming like ours, but the benefits that come from caring for nature corridors can also have an impressive and positive economic impact for our area.”
“Once you’ve watched a Yellow-Bellied Kiskadee chase off a Peregrine Falcon, it’s pretty easy to get hooked,” grins Ruszcazak. “This study makes it clear just how positive nature tourism is on a financial level; its effects are not only apparent today, but also set to bring great advantages for the region in future years.”
RSTEC brings together the region’s economic development organizations with a unified, clear vision focused on fostering expansion and relocation efforts by companies seeking an attractive business environment. The Council also works toward furthering educational opportunities in the region to boost the area and provide local companies with a workforce of highly educated individuals.
Source: Rio South Texas Economic Council