TOURISM IS BIG BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY in Texas, which was the second most visited state in the country (behind California) in 2000 (the most recent year data are available). Most of the traveling—63 percent—was done by Texans, but folks living outside the Lone Star State contributed their share to the economy too. All told, travelers spent more than $40.4 billion in Texas in 2000, according to the Texas Economic Development’s tourism division.
Texas. It’s Like a Whole Other Country.
The state’s 2001 tourism budget of $20.2 million was spent mainly on advertising and promoting slogans such as “Texas. It’s Like a Whole Other Country.” There really is no denying that Texas is as big as some other countries. You can travel north to south for 801 miles, or go east to west for 773 miles. Tourists who travel primarily by automobile have miles and miles of Texas roads to roll along—79,297 miles of highway, to be exact.
But Texas Wants You Anyway
Like the Lyle Lovett song “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” says, non-Texans are welcome any day. In 2000 Lake Charles, Louisiana, drove in the most visitors to Texas via automobile, and Reno, Nevada, flew in the most visitors. Non-Texans spend more money on average than Texans ($114 per day compared with $83 per day), and they also stay longer: Non-Texans stay an average of 4.1 nights compared with Texans, who only rest their boots an average of 2.5 nights.
Our Friends to the South
Mexico is the largest source of international visitors to the Lone Star State; in fact, 3.73 million visitors came to Texas from Mexico in 2000. More than half of those visitors (56.2 percent) went to Houston.
In 2000 Oklahoma and Louisiana did their neighborly duty by sending the most visitors to Texas (tie at 10 percent). Californians made up 9 percent of the travelers to Texas, and neighbor New Mexico made the top four with 6 percent.
Bright Lights, Big Money
Predictably, the larger Texas cities saw the most travelers: The Dallas–Fort Worth area was the most visited, followed by Houston, SanAntonio, and Austin. More visitors mean more money. Dallas received $6.2million from visitors in 2000 (not including money spent on airfare). Here’s how other cities fared: Houston—$5.5 million, San Antonio—$3.3 million, Austin—$2.4 million, El Paso—$714,167, Brownsville-Harlingen—$468,653, Victoria—$124,433, and Texarkana—$101,194.
Texans Share the Wealth
The same big cities that saw the most tourists also proved the most popular starting points for Texans traveling in Texas. Most travel originated in the Metroplex (25 percent), followed by Houston (20 percent), with San Antonio (12 percent) and Austin (9 percent) rounding out the numbers.