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Economic Development

Texas in Focus: Alamo Region

Industry Profiles

Travel and Tourism Industry Profile

The travel and tourism industry is Texas’ second-most important “export-oriented” industry (i.e., serving consumers outside of the state), ranking behind oil and gas production and related manufacturing. In 2008, the tourism industry’s contribution to the gross state product totaled $23.8 billion. It also accounted for 2.2 percent of all state earnings and 3.8 percent of the state’s jobs. The Alamo region has a higher percentage of overall earnings, 3 percent, and employment, 5 percent, related to travel and tourism than does the state.25

While the industry is of high importance to the overall state economy, it is of even greater importance in non-metropolitan areas.26 In the Alamo region, travel and tourism is most important to Bandera County, where 11 percent of earnings and 17.6 percent of employment are attributable to the industry. Interestingly, Bandera County is one of only three Texas counties in which both earnings and employment for this industry contribute more than 10 percent of the county total (the other two are Brewster County in the Upper Rio Grande region and Llano County in the Capital region).27

The table below shows growth indices for visitor spending relative to the base year of 2000, in which spending values are equal to 100 for that year. The graph compares areas in the Alamo region to the state as a whole. In 2008, the Alamo region received $6.8 billion in visitor spending, up 30 percent from 2000, outpacing the state gain of 23 percent over the same period (as adjusted to 2008 dollars).

The region’s non-metro counties saw the highest increase in visitor spending, at 34 percent. Dewitt County led the region in increased visitor spending, at 65 percent, rising from $26.9 million to $44.3 million. This increase accounted for 24 percent of the total growth in visitor spending among the non-metro counties. Gillespie County’s visitor spending rose by 51 percent from 2000 to 2008, accounting for 35 percent of visitor spending growth for the non-metro counties. Kerr County had the largest amount of visitor spending among non-metro counties in 2008, with $89.3 million.28

Visitor spending in San Antonio exceeded $6 billion in 2008, up 30 percent from 2000. Victoria generated $218 million in visitor spending in 2008, an 18 percent increase since 2000.

Percent of Travel and Tourism Earnings and Employment to
Overall County Earnings and Employment, 2008

Earnings (in millions)
Top 6 Counties Total Travel and Tourism Related Percent of County Earnings
Bandera $145 $16 11.0%
Kendall $624 $18 2.9%
Kerr $1,041 $34 3.3%
Gillespie $441 $22 5.0%
Bexar $48,314 $1,496 3.1%
Comal $2,124 $77 3.6%
Alamo Total $60,084 $1,779 3.0%
State Total $768,203 $16,780 2.2%
Top 6 Counties Total Travel and Tourism Related Percent of County Employment
Bandera 8,300 1,460 17.6%
Kendall 16,090 940 5.8%
Kerr 30,920 1,780 5.8%
Gillespie 16,980 960 5.7%
Bexar 1,015,390 54,540 5.4%
Comal 58,010 2,990 5.2%
Alamo Total 1,362,450 68,000 5.0%
State Total 14,497,000 544,000 3.8%

Source: Dean Runyan Associates, The Economic Impact of Travel on Texas.

The following sites are some of the Alamo region’s top tourist destinations:

The Alamo and Other San Antonio Missions

When many people think of San Antonio, the first thing that comes to mind is the Alamo. This historic Catholic mission, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, was first constructed in 1724 and was home to Spanish missionaries for several decades. The site served as a military garrison during Mexico’s fight for independence from 1810 through 1821. Most famously, the Alamo was the site of an 1836 battle in which fewer than 250 soldiers fighting for Texas’ independence died in an attempt to hold off thousands of Mexican troops. Among those who perished in defense of the Alamo were Jim Bowie, William Barrett Travis and Davy Crockett.

Today, the Alamo is a museum. The building and its surrounding grounds are owned by the state of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The grounds feature an impressive display of artifacts and exhibits that illustrate this seminal period in Texas history. In 2008, the Alamo received more than 2.5 million visitors.29

In addition to the world-famous Alamo, San Antonio has four other historic missions: Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada. Collectively referred to as San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, these sites are operated by the National Parks Service (NPS).

NPS operates a visitor center at Mission San Jose that houses a museum showcasing colonial artifacts and describing everyday life at the Spanish missions. The Archdiocese of San Antonio hosts religious services at the four missions to this day. NPS staff operates guided tours and historical demonstrations at each, and visitors can enjoy attractive and peaceful park settings as they visit the sites. In 2008, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park welcomed more than 1.3 million visitors.

The missions are connected by the eight-mile Missions Hike and Bike Trail. This scenic, paved pathway follows the San Antonio River through historic neighborhoods and natural areas. The hike-and-bike trail also passes other historic attractions such as the Espada Aqueduct, an irrigation system used to channel water to the missions, and the Steves Homestead, a 19th-century mansion now restored as a museum.30

Visitor Spending Growth Index by Area, 2000-2008 (Real 2008 Dollars)

View the table for details.

Source: Dean Runyan Associates, The Economic Impact of Travel on Texas.

View Spending Growth Index Table


SeaWorld San Antonio, owned and operated by Busch Entertainment Corporation, is located 16 miles west of downtown San Antonio, just inside Loop 1604. The park is home to four roller coasters and numerous marine animal shows. ‘Lost Lagoon,’ a water park within SeaWorld, offers water slides and other water-based recreation. In addition, SeaWorld offers educational programs that give children and adults up-close visits with sea animals such as sea lions and beluga whales. The park also hosts day and resident camps for various age groups, from children to adults seeking careers in zoology.

In 2008, SeaWorld received the Water Saving Pioneer Award for its water conservation efforts. Filtration systems strategically placed throughout the park advance the organization’s goal to save 30 million gallons of water each year.

SeaWorld is open from May through December, with seasonal events such as live concerts running from June to December.31

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

The Alamo region is also home to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, a theme park known for its numerous thrill rides and live shows. The park has more than 50 rides and attractions ranging in intensity from children’s rides to adult roller coasters. Guests can also enjoy a water park offering water slides and a wave pool.

The park also stages live shows featuring music, dancing and comedy, including a summer concert series that runs from May 25 to Sept. 7. Due to its outstanding live performances, Fiesta Texas has received Amusement Today magazine’s Golden Ticket Award for “Best Theme Park Shows in the Country” for 10 consecutive years. The park’s involvement in the community extends beyond employment; in June 2009, for instance, the park hosted a walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funding for children with cancer.

Fiesta Texas is a 15-minute drive west of downtown San Antonio.32

San Antonio Riverwalk

One of San Antonio’s most recognizable attractions is its Riverwalk, which snakes through downtown and soon will extend to 13 miles, offering attractions such as hotels, restaurants, shops, museums and art galleries along the river banks.

The Riverwalk was initially built as a flood control mechanism for the city. While its waters flow for just a few miles through the city, the San Antonio River runs for 131 miles before joining the Guadalupe River. In the past, the downtown area was prone to flooding. In 1929, the San Antonio Conservation Society backed a proposal by Robert H. H. Hugman to mitigate the flooding by developing a river system that runs through town. Today, the Riverwalk has evolved into a lively mixed-use area maintained by the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

Admission to the Riverwalk area is free. For a fee, visitors can ride the numerous river cruisers that ferry back and forth along the water. These boats offer tours and service to museums and businesses.33

Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resort

Just north of San Antonio, in New Braunfels, is an award-winning water park and the world’s first “water resort.” Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resort boasts rides, accommodations and eateries for family-friendly fun in the heart of south central Texas.

In 1966, Bob and Billye Henry began building the renowned water park along with their children. They relied heavily on their imagination and their own ideas to develop the original plans. The Henrys have continued to invest in the resort, and today, Schlitterbahn is home to 65 acres of tube chutes, pools and much more. As many as 1 million people visit the park annually during its 110-day season.

Since 1998, Amusement Today magazine readers have voted Schlitterbahn the nation’s best water park every year, and in 2006 the Travel Channel named it the world’s number-one waterpark.34

The Henrys’ enterprise has expanded to include water parks on Galveston Island, South Padre Island and in Kansas City, Kansas. The Schlitterbahn organization is involved with its communities through its Kinderbahn program, which reaches out to local charity groups by donating tickets to send children to Schlitterbahn for days of fun and relaxation.35

River Recreation

The Alamo region includes many rivers that Texans can take advantage of during hot weather. Weekends will find the water crowded with hundreds of visitors floating along the current, lounging on inner tubes.

The Comal River, which stretches only 2.5 miles before joining the Guadalupe, offers a tube chute and gently flowing running water through New Braunfels. Also located in the New Braunfels area is the Guadalupe River, which is very wide with rapids and boulders.36

The area has about 30 tube rental locations employing about 30 people each. Locations along the Comal and Guadalupe rivers rent between 500 and 1,000 tubes daily during peak times.37

The Frio River in Frio County offers 47 miles of cold, slow-moving water and rapids and generally has about half the business of the New Braunfels-area rivers. The Frio is lined with large cypress trees and has very clear water.38

Blastenhoff Beach, Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels

PHOTO: Schlitterbahn


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