Every winter, thousands of Winter Texans fill the Rio Grande Valley with excitement and cheer. These retired seniors come from all over the United States to enjoy the mild temperatures that the area offers. Their presence not only adds liveliness to the Valley, but also has a huge impact on the area’s economy. According to the 2013-2014 Winter Texan Report by the University of Texas-Pan American, Winter Texans add 710 million dollars to the Rio Grande Valley’s economy and spend an average of $13,400 per household during each stay.
Kristi Collier, President and CEO of Welcome Home RGV, fully understands how important Winter Texans and senior citizens are to the area’s economy. After working with this population for many years, she decided to create a marketing agency that would specifically tailor to the growing retired community in the Rio Grande Valley. Welcome Home RGV was established in October 2007 and has been connecting local businesses and senior citizens in the area for over seven years.
Welcome Home RGV is a membership-driven service that provides its members with opportunities to advertise, market and network directly with their target market. “Our business model runs like a chamber of commerce,” explains Collier. “Our business members are those interested in launching their products to Winter Texans and all the marketing solutions and programs we have developed are to meet these needs.”
Winter Texans and retirees have learned to count on Welcome Home RGV as the ultimate resource for recommendations on goods, services, events and activities in the area. Member businesses can take advantage of this and advertise their products through Welcome Home RGV’s annual directory, monthly magazine, website, e-newsletters or social media accounts. Affiliated businesses can also directly network with Winter Texans and retirees during annual events like the Texan Corral, a fun event where recent “Converted Texans” participate in a “naturalization” ceremony where they swear allegiance to all things Texan.
Although Welcome Home RGV serves all senior citizens in the Rio Grande Valley area, it has identified several outreach areas within the target market that are more likely to become consumers of specific products. “We have found niches within the niche,” explains Collier. “We would much rather spend our time marketing to fifty of the right people.” Welcome Home RGV has developed advertising tools that will help their members directly reach people that are potential consumers of their products or services.
Activity and tour directors of the 300 plus RV parks located around the Rio Grande Valley are a perfect example of such niches. Every winter, they are responsible for planning activities, events, outings, meals and tours for the hundreds of Winter Texans and seniors that visit their park. “We educate activity directors year round on the beauty of the Valley and all there is to do in the area so that when residents ask them what they can do, they refer them to our member businesses,” explains Collier. The agency hosts an annual Activity Director Boot camp that highlights areas of interest throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Activity directors participate in activities, such as a visit to the Commemorative Air force Museum in Brownsville, a historical trolley tour through Rio Grande City or a dolphin watching trip in Port Isabel, so they are able to touch, feel, smell and see activities that they can recommend to their residents.
Welcome Home RGV’s Property Manager Trade Show is an event that can greatly benefit member contractors, service providers and suppliers. The event gathers property managers from the over 300 RV parks located across the Valley. These employees are responsible for maintaining and repairing the premises, while supervising staff, guest relations and sales. Vendors are able to present their services and meet face-to-face with these property managers in this fun and engaging event.
Another sector that is greatly impacted by visiting Winter Texans are doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and healthcare facilities. According to the 2013-2014 Winter Texan Report by UTPA, visiting retirees spent an average of $179 dollars per month on healthcare. Volunteer first responders at the over 300 RV parks located can link healthcare providers to visiting retirees. The responders provide emergency medical assistance on site and refer seniors to facilities or doctors where they can obtain additional treatment. Welcome Home RGV provides multiple opportunities throughout the year for members offering health care services to meet with these responders and offer their services.
Through the products that Welcome Home RGV offers, members are able to build their credibility and develop a strong presence in the retiree sector. By marketing to this “niche,” local businesses are able to market their products more effectively at a lower price.