US rentals suffer from lack of ‘snowbird’ business

US: Snowbirds, elderly travellers, predominantly from Canada, who hire vacation rentals in the south of the US, are not travelling due to Coronavirus fears and restrictions.

Snowbirds typically leave Canada to head for warmer climes for up to six months. But this year they are not travelling.

“It’s not worth taking a chance. It’s not nearly as bad in this country as it is down there,” Steve Monk, 69, from Saskatchewan, told ABC News. “Pretty much every Canadian person we do know that goes down (to the U.S.) is not going. It’s pretty widespread.”

For Canadians who drive, nonessential border travel is banned until at least Dec. 21. For many, fear of the virus is also keeping them a home.

Their absence is being felt by vacation rentals in states such as Florida and Arizona. Evan Rachkovsky of the Canadian Snowbird Association said most people he’s spoken with are suspending trips to the US.

In Florida, 3.6 million Canadians visited last year, making up a quarter of its foreign tourists, according to the state tourism office. Visit Florida estimates that only 15,000 Canadians arrived between April and September, the last month with available statistics.

The Arizona Office of Tourism said an estimated 964,000 Canadian visitors were responsible for $1 billion of the $26.5 billion in tourism spending last year. In September, visitors overall spent $752 million, down 60 per cent from the $1.9 billion expected in a normal year.

Bruce Hoban, co-founder of the 2,000-member Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs, said property managers who rent condos to snowbirds for two- to three-month stints in the desert resort city are having a hard time. But vacation rentals for stays under 30 days have been “through the roof”.