You have to live in a “whole other state” in order to see the majority of the tourism efforts of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism.
That’s because the focus of that division is attracting visitors from elsewhere in the United States as well from around the world to visit the Lone Star State.
Even so, most Texas residents are familiar with the state’s marketing campaign, “Texas… It’s a Whole Other Country,” Nate Gieryn, travel research manager for the division, told members of the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce at their monthly luncheon Friday.
“Our main purpose is to promote Texas as a travel destination outside the state,” Gieryn said, and it does so through advertising, public relations and marketing, and travel research. The latter is Gieryn’s specialty.
Gieryn said tourism accounted for $63.2 billion of direct travel spending in Texas in 2011, and generated $4.1 billion in state and local taxes — 7 to 8 percent of all state revenue. More than 545,000 jobs are directly tied to tourism, accounting for more than $17 billion in earnings.
That is similar to the economic impact of fields like microtechnology and agriculture in the state, Gieryn said.
The division of the governor’s office works closely with other state agencies — the Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Commission on the Arts, to name two — in marketing the state, he added. A new campaign is expected to be unveiled this winter, with a redesigned website and other additional features, but the “Whole Other Country” slogan will be retained.
The division doesn’t ignore the in-state tourism potential, Gieryn said, because it represents about half of the tourism dollars spent each year.
Business travel is also important, he said, as it accounts for about 30 percent of the total visitors and 40 percent of the dollars spent.
Most visitors from outside Texas are from the United States, but the state is a top 10 destination for international travelers. Typically, he said, international tourists will plan stays in states like California, New York or Florida on their first trips to America, but Texas is often included on any subsequent visits.
The state’s 90 state parks attract in 7.5 million visitors each each year.
“They are a tremendous tourism generator for rural areas of the state,” Gieryn said.
He urged members of the audience to visit two sites, www.TravelTexas.com, and www.travel.state.tx.us for additional information.
In remarks prior to Gieryn’s presentation, Brownwood Chamber Tourism Manager Sunni Modawell repeated statistics she has presented before the Brownwood City Council and Brown County Commissioners. Tourism spending was up 4.7 percent in Brown County between 2010 and 2011, totaling $48.7 million. A total of 620 jobs were tied to tourism in Brown County, representing local earnings of $14.2 million.
Modawell recognized Kim Peterson, who chairs the annual Brownwood Reunion Celebration, and said the annual event which was held last weekend has become a key attraction for tourism here. Estimates placed the three-day attendance between 20,000 and 30,000.
“There were huge numbers all across the board,” Peterson told chamber members. Several food vendors sold out and had to restock, and concerts were standing-room only.