Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks To The Travel and Tourism Dinner

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thursday, February 26, 2004  •  Speech

Steve, thank you for those kind words.  I also want to thank Paul Serff for his leadership as the president and CEO of TTIA.  It is good to be in the presence of distinguished public servants who serve this state well, including my friends and partners in the Texas Legislature.  I am honored to be with the leaders of our vast travel and tourism industry, men and women who market the image of Texas, who help preserve our culture and heritage, and who work to create jobs and opportunity for a great many Texans.  What you do as a collective body is critical to the prosperity of our people, and the vibrancy of our economy.

In the year 2002, 450,000 jobs in Texas were directly tied to travel and tourism, generating $12 billion in wage earnings for Texas workers.  That same year, we booked the equivalent of 314 million overnight stays.  And travelers in Texas spent more than $41 billion, which equates to more than $100 million a day.  With statistics like that, we’re getting close to the New York Yankees Payroll!  It is also worth pointing out that these numbers were generated in the middle of a national economic slump, and in the year that immediately followed the attacks of September 11th. 

One of my top priorities as governor is job creation.  I believe the best way to sustain investments in priorities like education and health care is to create jobs, NOT raise taxes.  Travel and tourism are central to the job creation effort.  Our museums, amusement parks, ballparks, antique stores, hotels and country inns not only make a visit to Texas enjoyable, they make a paycheck for Texas workers possible.  And the value of tourism extends beyond the pure economics. 

Tourism is the catalyst for downtown renovation projects, cultural and historic preservation, and family fun and educational trips.  The Texas Historical Commission has given us a tremendous tool to teach our children about our roots with the Heritage Tourism program.  And I am proud to announce today funding for another important effort to teach our children about the uniqueness of our state.  At the prompting of your president Paul Serff, and in conjunction with the Texas Education Agency, I am happy to announce a $150,000 grant for tourism education efforts being administered by the Texas Travel Industry Association.  Every family vacation in Texas has the potential to be a field trip because Texas is one giant classroom.  And I want schools and teachers to have a valuable resource to teach our children about our culture, heritage, geography, environment, and more.

The $150,000 in start-up funds can help launch a new website that will direct parents, teachers and school children to a wide array of Texas destinations that have educational value.  Our children should know about what makes this state unique, and what makes our great history so compelling.  With the passing of each generation, we must make a special effort to preserve and promote our historical roots. 

Some might argue that our youngest generation is unenthused about our history.  But I believe our youngest Texans are just as intrigued and fascinated with our historical roots as many of us are.  We just need to take the time to educate them about our history, and help them draw their own personal connection to the events and people of our past.  With great new resources like the Bob Bullock State History Museum, and with the upcoming release of the movie “the Alamo,” we have a unique opportunity to bring the past to life for present generations.  And if young Texans always remember our heritage and history, they will have a roadmap for leading this state down the right pathway in the future.

With strong signs of an economic renewal, we know there is no greater time than the present to sell the Texas mystique, Texas culture, and that warm Texas hospitality.  The fact is, people around the globe are familiar with Texas.  The mention of our state may conjure up images of our president, the Alamo, Lance Armstrong, or maybe even J.R. Ewing.  But regardless, when you talk Texas, r for that matter, when you talk Texan, people know exactly what you are talking about. 

Whether it’s our rich history that draws travelers to this great state, or our warm weather, or the bats under the Congress Bridge, what is important is that people come here, spend their money, and leave here happy and tell their friends to come too.  And it’s not just the big cities that have a lot to offer, it’s our small towns too.  That is why I was happy to contribute $1 million from a governor’s office account to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texas YES Campaign, a new promotional effort to bring more visitors to the rural regions of our state.  And just to put your minds at ease, it is not true that half those funds will be spent on historical landmarks to be placed in Paint Creek.  From rattlesnake round-ups, to watermelon festivals, to small town trade days, rural Texas offers a slice of life that can be found nowhere else.  And by promoting festivals and fairs to urbanites and suburbanites, we can keep the economies of these small towns vibrant for years to come.

After the 2000 presidential election year, when our state was trashed for political convenience, it renewed my resolve as our state’s new governor to sell Texas.  And I have done that in trips to other states, in interviews with national publications, and by signing legislation that is friendly to the creation of jobs and opportunity here in the Lone Star State.  One very important piece of legislation that I was proud to sign was a bill that moved economic development functions, including travel and tourism, under the auspices of my office.  I am proud to have the statutory authority to be the chief promoter of travel and tourism for the State of Texas.  And if 2004 is any judge, things are looking bright for our future. 

Think about the largest sporting events of the year: what state has ever hosted the Super Bowl, the Baseball All-Star game, the Breeders Cup, and the men’s basketball final four in the same year?  As the International magazine “the Economist” once said, “Texas is the future.”  The fact is, this is the greatest state in the greatest nation on the face of the earth.  We have a great story to tell, a wealth of attractions for people of diverse tastes, and a limitless future of opportunity to look forward to.

Thank you for all you do to help tell the “Texas story,” to create jobs and opportunity, and to send the message that Texas is open for business, or pleasure.
Thank you, and God bless.

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