Spring Break has more than a $200 million impact on the growth and popularity of South Padre Island, according to a new study by The University of Texas-Pan American.
Overall, an estimated 186,000 spring-breakers visit South Padre Island during Spring Break in March. Approximately 130,000 stay in island hotels, motels and condominiums, 23,000 lodge in other types of island housing, and the remaining 33,000 stay elsewhere.
Spring-breakers spent an estimated $156 million during the 2000 season, the survey notes. The total impact to the South Texas economy - including direct, indirect and induced effects - was $204 million, and 4,276 area jobs were created during the Spring Break period.
According to the survey, the typical spring-breaker is single, age 21, a first-time visitor to South Padre Island and a male college junior from a Texas university. He will travel by car with five other people and spend about $800 during a five-day stay.
The most popular reasons for coming to South Padre are recommendations from friends and family, inexpensive cost, close proximity to home and the opportunity to be with friends.
Information from family and friends is the best source of information about the island, followed by the Internet, campus newspapers and television.
While at South Padre Island, spring-breakers primarily relax at the beach, enjoy area nightlife and associate with the opposite sex. More than 75 percent are likely to return in the near future.
Meanwhile, compared to the last South Padre Island survey in 1988, there were 19 percent more first-time visitors in 2000, and 29 percent more visitors lodged on the island. There was a 13 percent increase in airplane travel to the island and a 23 percent decrease in automobile travel.
Also, there is a greater presence of spring-breakers from outside the Rio Grande Valley than in 1988. For example, there were 161 colleges represented in 2000 compared to 102 colleges 12 years ago.
Fourteen UTPA students, with help from 21 UT Brownsville students, interviewed about 590 spring-breakers in March.
The questionnaire had 25 questions covering a wide range of topics, such as number of visits to South Padre Island, planned length of stay, number in traveling party, activities participated in and areas visited, and total planned expenditures.
The primary purposes of the survey were to learn why visitors selected South Padre Island over other locations, the economic impact of Spring Break and whether spring-breakers plan to return next year, said Dr. Vern Vincent, University professor and director of the Center for Tourism Research.
The Center for Tourism Research addresses social, cultural, environmental and economic issues related to the tourism industry locally, regionally and nationally. Its studies have addressed Winter Texans, Mexican Nationals, ecotourism and more.