The Rio Grande Valley has become the second most popular birdwatching destination in the mainland United States, and state tourism officials hope to capitalize on that attraction.
About 100 local officials met Wednesday for the Texas Tropical Trail Region’s 2014 South Texas Tourism Summit to focus on development of tourism programs.
The Valley’s migratory bird count helps drive a growing nature tourism industry that draws birders, photographers, hikers, hunters and anglers to the region, Russell Gallahan, a senior economic development analyst with the Texas Comptroller’s Office, told officials at the L.E. Franks Tourist Center in Raymondville.
“The Rio Grande Valley is a hot spot for eco-tourism,” Gallahan said.
Teresa Caldwell, state coordinator of the Texas Heritage Trails Program, part of the Austin-based Texas Historical Commission, told local officials that their communities can become the centers for a growing industry known as heritage tour-ism.
Heritage tourism focuses on “traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past,” Caldwell said. Heritage tourism attracts tourists with higher incomes who spend more money during their trips, generating $8.7 billion in Texas in 2013.