Big Bend Conservancy
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An investigation of visitors to the Big Bend area"
Key Results • Most visitors are from the U.S., with only 3.1% being international. Of the visitors from the U.S., the largest proportion (76%) was from Texas. Of visitors from Texas, 34% were from four major cities (Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio). There appeared to be important target areas in the Great Lakes region and New England that provide a high proportion of out of state visits. Florida, and California were also home to relatively large proportions of out of state visitors. • Ninety four percent of all the visitors stayed at least one night with 66% staying two to four nights. • Thirty nine percent stayed at least one night in the National Park, followed by 23% in Marathon, Study Butte (15%), Alpine (14%), and Terlingua (12%). • Highway 385 from/to Ft. Stockton, and 118 from/to Ft. Davis are the primary travel routes into and out of the region. Almost 20% of all visitors used Highway 385 to enter and exit the area. SIDEBAR: I'd expect this % to be much larger to enter and exit the area. I suppose that this can be interpreted to mean that a large % comes in one entrance and goes out the other one. • Marathon was the most popular gateway community with 60% passing through and Big Bend National Park was the most popular stopping point (74% of the sample). • Over 30% of the visitors contacted on-site in Marathon and Alpine did not travel into the south part of the county on this visit. • The benefits they received related first to experiencing nature, followed by being away to relax and to learn about the Big Bend area. Open-ended responses indicated that the natural beauty, solitude/remoteness and low level of commercialization in the area were things most liked. • Winter visitors stayed longer than those in other seasons and were more family and friends oriented while fall visitors were less inclined to be active. • Summer and winter visitors tended to have higher levels of past visits than the other two seasons. • Spring and fall visitors were least likely to want to visit in other seasons while summer visitors were amenable to visits any season. • Day hiking, star gazing, wildlife viewing, and visiting historic sites are the top four activities respondents participated in. Back road driving/jeep touring ranked the sixth with about one quarter of those enlisting a guide service. Ten percent participated in boating/river running with over half using a guide. • Half of all the follow-up respondents had visited the “Visit Big Bend” website, and thought it was useful. Based on zip code information, hits on that site appear to represent where actual visits originate. There appeared to be a higher ratio of visitors to site hits for cities out of state and Texas cities closer to the area. • Visitors (especially spring breakers) scored accommodation (Hotel, Campground, etc.), recreational opportunities and information available about the area as important items, but the accommodations performed below the average for services overall. Food services scored as lower in importance but also performed lower than any other service. Helpfulness of locals and security/safety were rated as performing well. • Respondents were not willing to see much expansion of services in the area. However, spring breakers wanted to see them expanded (mean =3.1: “somewhat”) more than visitors from other times (mean=2.8; less than “somewhat”).• Respondents scored their experience as well worth their time and money. • Most respondents were “likely” to “very likely” to revisit the area. Key RecommendationsCreate a tourism plan for the Big Bend region that sets goals, actions and priorities based on this report and other information available. Develop a standardized visitor survey to administer regularly at businesses.Take advantage of high visitor pass through traffic in Marathon and create a regional visitor center at Highways 385 and 90 to better orient visitors on experiences and services both inside and outside Big BendNational Park Continue to develop and enhance the Visit Big Bend Web Site, as it appears to be an important source of information for current visitors. Develop materials specific to foreign and out-of-state visitors.Develop partnerships among businesses to package experiences aimed at the 40 to 60 age group. These visitors seem to want experiences that are family oriented, provide moderate activity and involve learning. There appears to be interest in the Big Bend experience in the Great Lakes and New England regions. Consider reaching out to those markets.Develop advertising information that encourages current spring and fall visitors to come back in shoulder or off seasons. Educate Texas visitors about the seasonal virtues of the western desert climate compared toother Texas climates (e.g., Houston). Coordinate efforts to stay in touch with current visitors (customers) to develop a clientele of repeat visitors more interested in coming at many times of the year. Work to enhance accommodation and food service offerings without creating a more “commercial” atmosphere. Consider enhancing visitor opportunities related to historical/cultural attractions, stargazing and trailactivities, especially outside the national park.
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