The advent of the novel coronavirus has hit hard on US tourism. People who used to avoid the extreme cold of Canada and travel to the US this time of year chose to stay seated because of the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.
This is the first winter in five years Steve Monk and his wife, Linda, who have not driven to Arizona from their home in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
They usually leave Canada to hunt in warmer climates for six months. They were able to fly, cross border crossings, but preferred to “stop their flags” rather than go to the US, where the infection and mortality of Covid-19 people are increasing.
“It simply came to our notice then. It’s not as bad in this country as it is down there, “said Monk, 69. It’s great that every Canadian we know who is getting off (going to the US) is not going. It’s too widespread. ”
Snow birds such as the Monks, often retired who live in warmer climates such as Arizona or Florida for some time to escape the cold weather, will not migrate south this winter. For Canadian drivers driving, unimportant border crossings are banned until at least December 21. For some, fear of the virus.
While their absence is felt by holiday rentals, restaurants and shops, RV parks and campgrounds are seeing an increase in campuses as people move closer to homes.
The largest population of birdbirds is Canada. Evan Rachkovsky of the Canadian Snowbird Association said many of the people he spoke to stopped the trip to the US.
But others are still adamant that they are leaving.
“Some simply tell me it’s something they’ve been doing for 10, 20, 30 years, so it’s normal in that sense,” Rachkovsky said. “It’s a lifestyle that goes against taking a two-week vacation.”
For those who travel, they may face solitary confinement sentences for up to two weeks, although the provinces often do not enforce it. And they go to communities where hospitals are usually very busy during the winter months, and Covid-19 can be stressful.
Health insurance barriers prevent retired Toronto accountant Mel Greenglass, who has spent about ten months in southwestern Florida near Naples. Canadian snow birds must purchase a grant-in-aid system provided by the government for any emergency situations during their stay. It would be $ 2,800 for him and his girlfriend this season, up from $ 1,800 earlier, and he fears they won’t be covered if they get the virus.
Insurers “will not put in a lot of money to cover everyone by simply increasing the amount they pay,” says Greenglass, 78. He added that adapting to the Canadian winter will not be easy: I have boots. ”
It is easy for those who do not have international borders to cross. Kathy Scott, 73, and her 81-year-old husband intend to make their annual trip from Salt Lake City to Arizona after Christmas.
Scott said he plans to conceal himself and create public awareness to avoid burdening the medical system, adding that he “has no problem asking people about testing, solitary confinement, about where they have been.”
Snowbirds programs have a huge impact on tourism. In Florida, 3.6 million Canadians visited last year, a quarter of its foreign visitors, according to the state tourism office. Visit Florida estimates that only 15,000 Canadians arrived between April and September, last month with available statistics. That’s almost 99% down from the same period last year.
The Arizona Office of Tourism said an estimated 964,000 Canadian tourists accounted for $ 1 billion to $ 26.5 billion in tourism spending last year. In September, total visitors spent $ 752 million, a 60% drop from the $ 1.9 billion expected for the average year.
Becky Blaine, deputy office manager, said it was helpful for more people to look closer to home to visit. But that will go so far as to compensate for the loss of international tourists. He is also not sure how much the RV parks and campgrounds will increase.
“Now that the children are back in school, there will be more retirees compared to the summer when everyone hires RVs, including me,” said Blaine.
Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the Florida and Alabama RV Parks & Campground Association, believes it is not “all disaster and darkness” in his industry. Snow birds do 30% of the business in Florida’s RV parks, he said. There were cancellations, but park operators saw people of all ages stumbling across the street.
“I really want to put this hammer in this home: From the people we get feedback from, our many parks across the province, with every cancellation, there’s one or two people coming into the camp,” Cornwell said. “I’ve never heard of anything tragic.”
Bruce Hoban, founder of the 2,000 owners with members of Vacation Rental and Neighbors of Palm Springs, said local authorities who rent condoes from snow birds for two to three months in a deserted town are struggling. But holiday rental for less than 30 days has passed “off the roof.”
Typically, hiring generates 25% of Palm Springs’ $ 25 million in residential taxes. They are now producing 50%. Between holiday and hotel rentals, the city made up 5.5% more businesses between July and September compared to the same period last year.
“It’s a big change,” Hoban said. “The number of people who came on vacation was unparalleled. … Yes, we have lost two and a half months of what is often our most expensive, highest time of the year due to Coachella festivals and stuff. We have lost all of that. From now on we have not done much for them. ”