High marks, but high-ticket
Fredericksburg visitation is growing and the town is uniquely positioned to differentiate itself among tourism destinations in Texas. But it has some challenges to address.
These were the findings of a Core Research study presented to the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau staff and about 50 local business owners on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Inn on Barons Creek conference room. Core owner Susan Korbel gave the presentation.
Korbel said nearly a third of visitors (32%) could think of no suggested improvements, but others listed things like parking and traffic challenges, the desire for longer hours and better retail options, and an overall feeling of the town being expensive to visit.
“Fredericksburg has become a high-ticket city for the middle-class visitors,” she said. “The expectation is going to be high and they want quality for their dollar. The same with restaurants.”
The study found that more than a third of those surveyed visited Fredericksburg two to three times while one in five had visited 11 or more times.
And of those, 83% were from Texas, including 21% from Houston, 17% from Dallas-Fort Worth, 13% from Austin, 10% from San Antonio and 22% from other parts of Texas. The research also found 15% were from out of state and 2% were international visitors.
Of those visitors, 77% put a substantial amount of planning into their trip, as opposed to 23% who made spur-of-the-moment trips.
Length of stay varied, but fully 62% stayed either two or three nights. Day trippers came in at 18%, one-nighters at 15% and 5% stayed 4 or more nights.
Lodging choices included 49% in a hotel or motel, while 38% chose a guesthouse or bed and breakfast. The remaining 9% stayed at an RV park or camped, while 3% stayed with friends.
Ernie Loeffler, FCVB president and CEO, said hotels accounted for $32 million in revenue in the most recent annual count, while B&B revenue grew to a staggering $30 million during the same period.
Korbel said short-term rentals, which include B&Bs and guesthouses, accounted for enough rooms to create an additional five “La Quintasized hotels.”
The average spend by visitors was $540 each, though Korbel said her firm didn’t ask for receipts, so it is not exact. Day trippers said they spent an average of $174, while overnight guests spent substantially more, averaging $751. Those staying 3 nights averaged $1,071 per guest, but that number fell to just above $1,000 for those staying 4 or more nights. Korbel said that was because many guests seek kitchen accommodations and make meals at home rather than eat out as often.
Reasons and seasons
Opinions on favorite reasons and seasons to visit varied. Springtime was the favorite season for 38% of respondents, followed by fall at 30%, summer at 20%, the holiday season at 10% and winter at 4%.
Korbel said 45% used Fredericksburg as a family vacation, and many noted the desire for more youth activities for their visiting children.
“That rings a lot of bells for people who may be deciding between visiting a theme park or coming here,” she said.
Romantic getaways were the top reason for 23%, while visiting family and friends came in at 10%. Just 4% came for a business conference, while 2% were here for weddingrelated activities.
Overall, 69% of respondents said their overall evaluation “exceeded expectations.” Loeffler and his staff were pleased at those numbers, which were up from 52% in 2013.
Recommendations from the research group included improved traffic and parking in downtown, expended hours and more variety in retail, dining and lodging options.
Korbel said two themes emerged that will continue to differentiate the town: its unique historical aspects and museums, as well as its back-to-nature experiences with land and natural bounty (including parks, peaches, wildflowers and wineries).
Loeffler said while an exact number of visitors is hard to pin down, it is thought 1 million to 1.5 million people visit annually.
Core Research did three surveys last summer, including 10-minute interviews with almost 500 persons at heavy tourist attractions, such as Wildseed Farms, peach stands, Enchanted Rock and on Main Street, to name a few. The study was augmented with a web survey, which produced 1,482 responses and another 48 responded to a textbased survey.