EDITOR'S NOTE - Long recognized for its vast oil and gas fields and
fertile farm and ranch lands, Texas in recent years has discovered a
new and lucrative natural resource: tourism. It's suddenly become a
dynamite business, overtaking agriculture and ranking second only to
energy and petrochemicals.
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - From a
balcony atop a high-rise luxury hotel, Larry Todd pointed to the
sparkling waters below and exclaimed:""Just look at that!''
A fleet of sailboats rode the soft coastal breeze along the
shoreline and a flock of seagulls chased a pleasure boat across the
bay, squawking and begging popcorn from passengers.
Tourists poured in and out of the waterfront hotels and
restaurants, and motorists streamed down Shoreline Boulevard toward
the sandy beaches of Padre Island.
""I'd take that image of Corpus Christi Bay and show it to any
city in America or the world,'' sighed Todd.
As the new executive director of the Texas Tourist Development
Agency, he will use just such Texas images in the high stakes,
fiercely competitive battle for national and international travel
Big, big dollars.
Todd said Texas reaped $13.5 billion in travel revenues last year,
should do marginally better this year and could hit the $16 billion
target in 1986 when it celebrates its 150th birthday.
That's a realistic projection because the last session of the
state Legislature committed several million dollars in hotel-motel
tax funds to the agency along with revenues from the sale of
Those monies will be used to advertise and promote both the
Sesquicentennial and tourism in 1986.
""We're excited about getting the money to go out and sell Texas
and compete with other big spenders like Florida, Alaska and New York
... and compete we will,'' Todd said.
The birthday bash was the buzz word in this sundrenched coastal
city last week as Todd came to town to address the conventioning
Discover Texas Association, a unique private-sector organization
dedicated to tourism development.
The statewide, 500-member DTA serves as a dynamic and vital
marketing link between the tourist agency and a sister group, the
travel and information division of the State Department of Highways
""We lend support to state agencies and do those things that they
can't do,'' explained one member.
Along with the Texas Tourist Council, a private sector lobby
group, the organizations have brought Texas from 23rd to third in
tourism revenue, behind only California and Florida and a length or
two ahead of New York.
Before the Texas Tourist Development Agency was chartered in 1963,
Texas was suffering a steady decline in travel receipts. Ranking
23rd, its total travel receipts that year was less than $500 million.
The turnaround has been dramatic.
""It's a dream job now,'' said Todd, 45, who until recently served
as director of programs for the Texas Department of Public Safey.
""My job is to show what an exciting place Texas is ... and to
market what we've got.''
What ""we've got'' is lots, including variety, insists Jim
Battersby of San Antonio, president of Discover Texas.
""There's the tropics of the Rio Grande Valley, and the Gulf Coast
from South Padre to Port Arthur,'' he rhapsodized.
""There's East Texas with its pristine forests and lakes and West
Texas with Big Bend, the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains. There's the
dual cultures of San Antonio and El Paso and all the border cities.
""There's the urban sophistication of places like Dallas and
Houston. There's history and Western culture and the mystique of the
He somehow overlooked the rugged Texas Panhandle and the
magnificent Hill Country, not to mention Billy Bob's, the Fort Worth
honky tonk that's only slightly smaller than Delaware. …