Caribbean Journey Means Big Things for Corpus Christi

September 28, 2017

The Texas State Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey, set to open in May 2017, will bring a tremendous boost to Corpus Christi’s economy and culture.

Caribbean Journey has been the Aquarium’s vision for over a quarter-century, and was being planned by the founders even before the Aquarium first opened in 1990. In 2012, the Aquarium’s Board of Trustees launched a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to finally make Caribbean Journey a reality.  Now, construction on the 71,000-square foot building is in its final phases, and the long-anticipated opening is just around the corner.

When completed, Caribbean Journey will guide Aquarium guests on an epic adventure throughout the East Yucatan region of Mexico, and on into the Caribbean Sea. Guests will trek through exhibits depicting a coastal forest and Mayan Ruins to encounter flamingos, crocodiles, bats, birds, and more. They’ll then dive deep into the Caribbean Sea to find themselves among coral reef fish, stingrays, and sharks. A highlight attraction will be the H-E-B Caribbean Shark exhibit, which will lead guests past an ancient shipwreck and through a clear acrylic tunnel, where they’ll be surrounded by sandbar and nurse sharks. A 4D Theater with unique special effects will add another layer of fun.

If that all sounds exciting, then you’re not alone. The Caribbean Journey is expected to be immensely popular when it opens, attracting guests from far and wide. The Aquarium has historically been a huge draw for Texans, pulling in more than 50% percent of its guests from the San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston metro areas, but only about 15 percent of guests are from outside the Lone Star State. Caribbean Journey will more than double the indoor exhibit space of the Aquarium, vaulting it from a leading regional aquarium into one of the largest in the nation and a must-see attraction for both locals and tourists from around the nation.

The most obvious benefit of the influx of guests will be economic. As millions of visitors flock to Corpus Christi from across the nation, businesses are expected to follow in order to attract these potential customers.  That’s sure to provide an additional boost to the Corpus Christi area, bringing in jobs, tax revenue, and other financial benefits. The Aquarium itself will also be a huge economic contributor. It currently has an annual impact of about $55 million on the Corpus Christi area, and with Caribbean Journey, that is expected to increase to more than $68 million. The Aquarium has supported 725 area jobs, comprising almost $20 million in salaries, and 50 additional full-time employees will be hired for Caribbean Journey. Local taxing districts are also estimated to collect $5 million due to the Aquarium’s presence.

This new flood of arriving visitors will also be contributing to conservation efforts in and around Corpus Christi, whether they realize it or not. A part of every dollar the aquarium receives goes towards funding a variety of conservation programs. When visitors pay their admission, they’re helping to support the Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, which rehabilitates and releases injures birds and marine mammals, and the Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund, which funds vital research projects in the Gulf of Mexico. With Caribbean Journey, the Texas State Aquarium can boost its contributions to these conservation programs and advance its vision of being a global leader in fostering conservation in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Caribbean Journey will also bring a value to Corpus Christi that goes beyond finances, strengthening the city’s reputation as a cultural and entertainment hub. The top floor of the Aquarium will be some of the most sought-after event space in town, ideal for weddings, corporate gatherings, and anyone else who wants to impress their guests. After all, this won’t be your typical venue. A top floor dining space that can seat 250 – 300 guests has a spectacular view of the Caribbean jungle on one side and the Corpus Christi Bayfront on the other.

But most importantly, Caribbean Journey will feature more exhibits and presentations for guests to take in and learn about ocean conservation. The average guest will take about half a day to explore Caribbean Journey and the rest of the Aquarium, including the Gulf of Mexico and Dolphin Bay exhibits. “Visitors will be able to explore centoes and waterfalls and get up close with a lot of different animals that are seen in the Yucatan area of Mexico,” said Tom Schmid, CEO.

Guests will not only be awed and entertained at their experiences in the Caribbean Journey and Gulf of Mexico exhibits but ultimately walk away with a greater appreciation of the environment and the need to conserve it. That lasting effect on its guests is ultimately the most meaningful way that the Aquarium will continue to give back and provide immense value to the community for years to come.

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