Arizona RV parks are still expecting the usual influx of snowbird RVers despite the economic slowdown and higher gas prices.
According to a report in the Yuma Sun, a sampling of area parks indicates the coming winter season is shaping up to be just fine.
“We’re looking forward to a good season,” said Donna Huckaby, who with her husband, Les, manages Westwind RV and Golf Resort. She said many of the park’s 1,075 spaces have already been booked, with only an estimated 10% still available.
She figures all those phone calls are being prompted by the cold and dreary weather in much of the northern states and Canada.
Huckaby noted that visitors may be changing their mode of operation, leaving their big RVs in Arizona and driving back and forth in a small car or even flying. “But they’re still coming,” she said, adding that it’s something of a trade-off for the refuges from up north: the cost of getting here versus heating bills if they stayed home.
Traditionally, she said, the Canadians start heading south after their Thanksgiving in mid-October while many Americans wait until after the U.S. holiday in late November. They may fly back home for Christmas, but then return.
“January and February are by far our biggest months,” Huckaby said, adding that she’s expecting this winter to be better than last year, when the park never did completely fill up.
Other RV park managers are just as optimistic about the coming winter season.
“It’s looking fine,” said Diane Tayrien, who with her husband, Jay, manages the 302-space Shangri-La RV Resort. “We have a lot of bookings. We’ve had some cancellations because of the gas prices, but for every one we lose, another calls. They’re still coming.”
She estimates that about 30% of the park’s visitors are from Canada and that number goes up each year as the dollar exchange rate continues to be favorable for them.
Tayrien said the visitors may have a half-million dollars invested in their RV or have purchased a park model here and want to make use of that investment. “Any Canadian who comes can afford to come,” she said.
Candace Kirk, sales manager for the Yuma Visitors Bureau, said she’s heard similar reports from RV park managers she’s talked to.
“I’ve been hearing the parks are nearly full,” she said. “People are coming back.”
Business is also going well for Yuma’s newest park, Palms RV Resort, which is preparing to open for its first season Oct. 1. Instead of renting, people buy their lot and can either park their RV on it or put up a home.
The Sun reported that it’s also designed to take winter living to a new level in Yuma with more amenities, according to Bill Evans, project manager for the resort that is patterned after similar developments in Palm Springs, but with a lower price tag. “We’re trying to capture a new crowd,” he said.
Evans, Tayrien and Huckaby said they’re seeing a shift in the profile of Yuma’s winter visitors. They’re younger, many of them in their 50s. Perhaps they’re still working but take a few months off in the middle of the winter.
“We’re starting to see a trend toward Baby Boomers,” Huckaby said. “If they’re not retired, they’re exploring the possibility.”