It’s appropriate that the “week” Gov. Rick Perry has designed Texas Tourism Week covers a span of nine — instead of seven — days. Any tourist knows you take in two weekends on any week of traveling. Texas Tourism Week coincides with National Tourism Week in which cities, states and travel-related businesses celebrate the value and economic impact of tourism. This year’s theme is “Tourism: America’s Front Door.”

The theme emphasizes the point that “you are welcome here,” according to Julie Chase, tourism director in the governor’s economic development and tourism office. Texas hospitality is world famous.

Stretching the observance a few days in also appropriate, because the tourism industry actually never closes. It’s just that during this week, Texans are being encouraged to visit their neighbors throughout the state and rediscover all Texas has to offer. And that’s more than most families have had the opportunity to explore, ranging from the plains of the Panhandle Plains to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, and from the piney woods of East Texas to the mountains of Big Bend.

Texas travelers will find everything from unique historical and cultural attractions to scenic natural wonders.

Tourism is a powerful economic development tool in Texas, generating 514,000 jobs based on 2005 statistics. Travelers generated almost $50 billion in direct travel spending that year. Texas is one of the most visited states in the nation. When residents of the other 49 plan their trips, this is one of the most-desired destinations.

But Texans themselves can be tourists right in their own home state. They can even be tourists in their own hometowns, if they desire. Brown County holds a wealth of historical locations and museums available for visitors, and you don’t have to be an out-of-towner to take it all in and learn a great deal about the place where you live.

If a trek away from it all is in your plans for Memorial Day or a summer vacation, you can’t beat a Texas location. With spring turning to summer, a stay at the coast or in the West Texas mountains could be the perfect retreat — and travel times are minimal.

Meanwhile, though, it’s time to get out the welcome mat. The tourists are on the move, and many of them will be knocking on our community’s collective door.

Brownwood Bulletin