Canadian snowbirds primed to flock south as US opens border
PHOENIX – Canadians Ian Stewart and Heather Stewart are enjoying the prospect of leaving behind the cold winter temperatures. Next week, the U.S. will reopen its borders to non-essential land travel. They then embark on a long-delayed trip to Fort Myers, Florida.
Restrictions placed by both countries during the coronavirus epidemic and their own concerns prevented the retired couple, along with millions of Canadians, from traveling south to warmer climates like Florida, Arizona, and Mexico last winter’s frigid temperatures.
Many Canadians are packing up campers and making reservation at their favourite vacation condos or mobile home parks after the Biden administration announced that vaccinated persons can enter the U.S. via land starting Nov. 8. Some are already in the U.S., arriving on flights that never stopped and have required just a negative COVID-19 test.
Many people have waited to learn to drive. They prefer the convenience of owning a vehicle, as rental cars are scarce and costly.
Vacasa, a management company for over 30,000 vacation homes in North America, Belize and Costa Rica, said it saw a major rise in traffic on its online platform after the new rules were announced. Canadian users’ views at rentals in snowbird-popular destinations jumped by 120%.
The Stewarts will board their SUV with two dogs and a cat Nov. 10 for the four-day trek from Ottawa, Ontario, to spend six months on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“We love it there,” said Ian Stewart, 81, a retired air traffic controller with the Royal Canadian Air Force. It’s a great place to walk, talk and enjoy the good weather. You don’t need to worry about breaking your bones !”
by slipping on the ice
Like the Stewarts, many Canadian snowbirds stay at mobile home parks and luxury RV resorts – with swimming pools, pickleball and sometimes golf courses – for people 55 and over. Since 2007., the Stewarts own a manufactured home in their Florida park.
Arizona’s mild winters are also very popular.
The Arizona Office of Tourism anticipates an immediate economic impact, according to Becky Blaine (deputy director). This is a state where visitors from Mexico and Canada are the most frequent overnight visitors.
” The phones have been ringing since they announced that the border would be reopened,” stated Kate Ebert, manager at Sundance 1 RV Resort in Casa Grande. This resort is halfway between Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas.
Rene Louzon-Benn is the executive director of Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce. She said that the desert community felt the absence of visitors from the U.S. and Canada last year. Midwestern states such as Wisconsin and Michigan have far fewer local residents. Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said the city of about 62,000 people usually swells by another 25,000 each winter.
Wendy Caban from Lake Country, British Columbia is delighted to be able to drive her and Geoffrey to their home in Phoenix, Mesa.
” I’m looking forward seeing a lot more friends that we have made over the past dozen years,” Wendy Caban stated. “I look forward to the warmth .”
But the couple, both 73, are still mulling when to leave.
” I think it’s going be crazy on Nov. 8, said Caban. “So, we’ll wait for a few days to monitor the lineups .”
and the weather
Arizona’s Office of Tourism estimates that close to 1,000,000 Canadian tourists spent $1 billion in 2019. last year. That plunged to 257,000 Canadians who spent $325 million last year.
R. Glenn Williamson, Canada’s Arizona honorary consul and founder and CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council, said the numbers for tourists don’t consider longer term stays by part-time resident Canadians who spend months at a time in homes they own in Arizona – as many as 200,000 additional people spending another $1.5 billion locally each year.
With some 500 Canadian businesses operating in Arizona, a new generation of Canadian snowbirds are working part-time. They buy luxury homes and enjoy golf, Williamson stated.
Barbara and Brian Fox of Toronto, both in their 60s, plan to keep working for their strategic communications firm when they return to the Naples area on Florida’s Gulf Coast in March and April.
This will be the longest Florida vacation for the couple. They have cancelled at least five trips south in the past year due to restrictions and fears about infection.
A lot of retired people are also planning to move south.
They include Wilf Burnett and Lynne Burnett. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, they have not made the annual trip south from Vancouver, British Columbia to Puerto Vallarta Mexico ,. They typically tow a 15-foot boat so they can fish and visit restaurants with docks on the bay.
The Burnetts now have a three month reservation at a Puerto Vallarta condo, starting in January. 6.
” We’ll be watching the virus closely and if they improve, we’ll continue,” Wilf Burnett stated.
Those who travel last-minute will have a difficult time booking a condo, RV park, or campground.
Amid concern restrictions might keep changing, some snowbirds are making reservations for earlier in the season than usual, starting from November through early next year, said Bruce Hoban, co-founder of the 2,000-member Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs. Hoban said peak visitor times for snowbirds, who comprise about 15% of vacation rentals, are generally between February and April.
Those who come can also expect prices as much as 20% to 30% higher because of increased demand, he said.
Bobby Cornwell is the executive director of the Florida & Alabama RV Parks & Campground Association. He said that many sites were fully booked from January to March, even though the new rules had not been announced. This is because Americans have taken up RV travel during the pandemic and filled in for Canadian campers.
Cornwell stated that it was “wonderful news” that Canadians can return to Canada.
” We encourage snowbirds to make reservations as soon as they can to Florida,” he stated.
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