Texas Takeaway

With Martha Chapman

Chris Radley, Account Manager for Texas at VoX with Carina Boukary-Mory, repping Houston, also at VoX

Debra Bustos of Economic Development & Tourism at TravelTexas.com with Patrice Bell, repping San Antonio, with VoX

The lovely room at the Windsor Arms in Toronto

Big hair.  Big hats. Oil wells and Tex-Mex food.  There you go:  Texas in a nutshell.

Well, not exactly.  As a group of Toronto-area tour operators, retail agents and media learned this week at a breakfast hosted by Texas Tourism, Texas is a state of contrasts.

I asked Debra Bustos of the Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism sector what she thinks the most surprising thing about Texas is and she told me: it’s the diversity. Geographic, cultural, culinary and yes even music: there’s a lot to discover in Texas.

Somewhat larger than Alberta, Texas is promoting the concept that it’s “a whole other country”.  There are seven distinct geographic regions, from the dramatic hill country to the laid-back beaches of Galveston. Ecotourism is on the rise, with the state being a mecca for birdwatchers.

There are a surprising 180 wineries across Texas – and no shortage of restos: Houston alone boasts 10,000 eateries representing 70 different cuisines.

And for clients who are hoping to stretch their loonie a little further in the Lone Star State, recommend they check out getting a CityPASS to Houston (US$56 for admission to five major attractions such as the Space Center) or Dallas (US$46 gets them into four attractions including the Perot Museum of Nature and Science).  Shoppers can check out the tax-free shopping at many malls, where they’ll be eligible for a refund on their 6.5% state tax. 

There’s no need to rent a car in Houston when you can tour via its efficient METRORail public transit. And everyone loves San Antonio’s biggest attraction which is totally free: the idyllic River Walk, now 24 km long and sparkling after US$350 million in expansion and refurbishment.

With direct flights from Canada as short as 3 hours 45 minutes, why not suggest Texas for a weekend getaway for your clients? Some 450,000 Canadians visited the state last year (leaving behind an impressive$350 US million), a number which tourism officials are hoping to grow this year and into next.

According to Bustos, “We like to say you get more bang for your buck in Texas!”

San Antonio’s River Walk: great strolling, dining and people watching!

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