Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Winter Texans' Arrived Early This Year

SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Winter visitors from the northern states and Canada have been filling up Rio Grande Valley campgrounds and RV resorts earlier than normal this year, and many park operators say they expect a very strong winter season.

"More parks have indicated they are near capacity earlier this season than ever before," said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), the Arlington-based trade association that publishes the annual Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide.

"We're booked solid for January, February and March," said Jack McMullen, general manager of Palm Gardens Manufactured Home and RV Community in Harlingen. He said some of the surge is due to the growing number of RV parks in Florida that are being sold to real estate developers for other uses or converted to RV resorts that sell rather than rent theirsites.

As a result, McMullen said, Canadians are actually coming into Texas from two sources -- Florida as well as Canada itself.

Canadians are also finding it more affordable to spend the winter in Texas because of favorable exchange rates. "What cost them $130 last year only costs $100 this year," said Sherry Caris, sales manager for the 1,200-site Llano Grande Lake Park Resort and Golf Course in Mercedes, which also serves as a dealer for both park model and manufactured home builders.

Another factor driving the early return of Winter Texans is cold weather up north. "It has seemed like every year the season has been getting a little shorter because we've had warmer winters. But cold weather up north is changing that this year," said Ed Welliver, owner of the 250-site Oleander Acres RV Resort in Mission.

For statistics and other information involving camping trends in Texas and New Mexico campgrounds and RV resorts, please contact Brian Schaeffer at (682) 518-1989 or visit the website of the Texas Association of Campground Owners at http://www.texascampgrounds.com.
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