Y'all come back now, amigos

Visitors cross the footbridge from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Contrary to the sound of some rhetoric lately, there is not some kind of big "Unwelcome mat" rolled out along our southern border. In fact, given an unseasonably wet summer for Texas, and a resulting lack of tourists venturing there, some destinations in the Lone Star State are looking south for some relief.

As Joy Diaz reports, they're happy to have visitors from Mexico.


Joy Diaz: Texas attracts more visitors from Mexico than from any other country. More than 6 million came last year. They spent more than $3.5 billion. So cities like San Antonio are doing everything they can to get a piece of the action.

Frances Schultschik is with San Antonio's Convention and Visitors Bureau. She goes to Mexico about 12 times a year. Recently, she took part in a live radio show at a mall in Monterrey Mexico. While on the air, she gave away several dozens of passes to San Antonio's biggest attractions.

Frances Schultschik: It's important to maintain a presence in any market when it comes to Tourism because people have options. And they have many, many options. And so, we want to make sure that San Antonio is top of mind at all times.

The city constantly upgrades its attractions. Last year, an investment of close to $200 million was made to expand the "River Walk," a series of stores and restaurants along the San Antonio River.

Another big draw is the aquatic center Sea World. Even on rainy days, these places draw crowds of Mexican visitors. People like Enrique Ornelas and his family from Mexico City.

Enrique Ornelas (interpreter): We normally visit, of course, The Alamo, Sea World, we go to San Marcos. There's always the motivation to do some shopping. That's very important.

Outlet malls are the main destination for more than 70 percent of Mexican tourists. New outlets are popping up all along the U.S.-Mexico border. One mall in the town of San Marcos recently expanded to include a Venice look-alike canal complete with gondolas.

Susan NarvA¡is is San Marcos's mayor:

Susan NarvA¡is: People don't realize how much wealth there is in Mexico. You know, people that are willing to come over here and spend that money to get that particular pair of jeans that they want or that watch.

San Marcos is planning free buses to take tourists from the outlets and into the downtown area starting next year.

And the state capital, Austin, is also vying for the tourist dollars. A new Mexican-American cultural center just opened nearby. The city's airport has also added direct flights into Mexico City.

In Austin, I'm Joy Diaz for Marketplace.

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