Many readers are aware that there is a tourism industry going on in and around Glen Rose, but probably very few are aware of its actual size and significance to the local economy here. Additionally, most readers are probably not aware of the extent to which Glen Rose is not “profiting” like it could be from this. So let me try to explain these statements.
Around mid-2010 an important report on the value of tourism to Glen Rose was released by a consultant hired by the Glen Rose CVB. The study was done in 2009. It delves into many aspects, but some highlights are:
The gross combined annual revenues of hotels in Glen Rose is equal to about $1,700 per resident of Glen Rose per year. This compares to Granbury at $1,405, Stephenville at $344, Cleburne at $164 and Meridian at $107.
Visitor direct spending in Glen Rose in 2009 was about $23.3 million. Adding the additional economic value of tourism spending to this (IMPLAN $1.80 multiplier factor), the total economic impact of tourism to Glen Rose in 2009 was about $42 million.
Tourism direct spending and total economic impact averaged per local resident are statistics that communicate the value of tourism to a community. In the case of Glen Rose in 2009, tourism direct spending was equivalent to $11,021 per Glen Rose resident, and in terms of total economic impact it was equivalent to $19,838 per resident.
These stats exceed those for most central Texas communities and a good part of the rest of the state, meaning that Glen Rose is one of the tourism value leaders in all of Texas.
Why are tourists pouring into — or should I say “through” — Glen Rose? Fossil Rim and Dinosaur Valley State Park are the prime reasons for this, but there are many other important players including Dinosaur World, the Expo Center, Squaw Valley golf course, the Amphitheatre, the re-emerging Oakdale Park and even some stores (e.g. Pie Peddlers) and accommodations (e.g. Inn On The River, Holiday Inn Express) that have received state or even nationwide acclamation through the media. And then there is the Glen Rose CVB that, together with others like Fossil Rim, do a great job of marketing and promoting all over Texas as well as nationally and even internationally.
It’s estimated that about one million tourists visit Glen Rose annually, and it’s increasing. That’s about 350 visitors per year for each resident of Glen Rose! Over the nine days of this year’s recent spring break, Fossil Rim received about 25,500 visitors and Dinosaur Valley State Park received about 20,500. That’s a whopping 46,000 visitors of all ages in nine days, or just over 5,100 per day, or around 1½ times the population of Glen Rose, or about three times the total pupil population of GRISD — EACH DAY!
These numbers are amazing and good news for the attractions, of course. But the not-so- good news is that probably 60 to 70 percent of these visitors pass straight through Glen Rose without stopping — and most pass through TWICE on the same day, on their way to and from the attractions.
One of the most common questions we at Fossil Rim get from our visitors is, “Is there anything to do or see in Glen Rose?” And they have already passed through it once, on their way in, and clearly saw nothing enticing — hence the question!! If the majority were enticed to stop in Glen Rose, the direct benefits to business sales and taxes could be enormously larger than given above.
There’s a pipeline of tourists and their dollars pouring through, but not that much spilling into Glen Rose. The attractions and CVB are fetching tourists and events here on a big scale and spending a lot doing so. Unlike most small towns, Glen Rose does not need to spend much on this. But until Glen Rose starts seriously committing to and spending on getting itself more enticing and more visually attractive to tourists in that pipeline — U. S. Highway 67 and State Highway144 — to draw them into town, even stay over for a night, the “spilling” wont' happen to anywhere near the extent it could.
It’s puzzling that the city administration seems comfortable with the status quo. Where is a well-advertised business plan for capturing more of this market that already exists by no design of and little cost to the city? Where is the leadership in walking, not talking, the “re-tooling” of Glen Rose to this end? Or is it just acceptable that this market slips through its fingers? Many other small towns across the state and nation have done a far superior job at maxing out their tourism potential — and a lot of those only have tourism for the summer or winter while Glen Rose has it all year round.
A wonderful thing about tourists is that they come, they spend and then they go! They place very little burden on the city, save for the traffic through it and, here, that’s mainly on TxDot highways, and they contribute massively through their buying to business growth and stability as well as tax revenues. And some, who like what they see, come back to stay — buying homes, starting small businesses, using local suppliers and contributing even more to the local economy. Tourists are just the beginning of an economic advantage, not the end of it.
It’s good to have them around, but you have to get them through the door to get their money! And Glen Rose just doesn’t seem to be doing as good a job as it could be, so earning a much larger share of something that has sat on its doorstep for years.
Dr. Pat R. Condy is executive director of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.