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Campground operators in Florida and Texas anticipate a strong winter snowbird season, despite negative publicity from the recent hurricanes, according to state campground association officials.
“Reservations are still looking very high, very good,” said Bobby Cornwell, president of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC). “There doesn’t seem to be a loss of winter business. I haven’t heard of anybody having mass cancellations.”
Cornwell said at least 90% of private parks and campgrounds in south Florida were open within a few days of Hurricane Wilma’s departure and that all of them should be back in business by early November.
In addition, many Florida parks are filled with hurricane evacuees and related service personnel. “Many parks are having to turn away business right now,” Cornwell said. Some park operators are being careful not to commit too many of their sites to evacuees in an effort to ensure they have enough sites available to accommodate their regular winter visitors.
Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Operators (TACO) was equally upbeat about parks in his state, some of which were battered by Hurricane Rita.
“We polled the membership at the TACO Fall Meeting this past weekend and they all confirmed that their winter business looks good with reservations being up 10% to 15%,” Schaeffer said. “By comparison, I spoke to Stan McElroy of Destination South Padre Island and his business since Hurricane (Rita) has been off slightly, and we believe that is due to the pure tourism factor of the island. Stan did say that their winter bookings are very strong.”
In Louisiana, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina, most RV parks and campgrounds continued to be packed with evacuees and others involved with relief and reconstruction efforts, said Sharon Murphy, manager of the Louisiana Campground Owners Association.
“They’re all running at very, very high occupancies,” Murphy said. But while some campgrounds remained closed, all of the association’s member campgrounds were expected to be back in business by December, she said.
Looking ahead, Murphy believes that Louisiana’s snowbird business will suffer a small hit this winter. But she said the state has launched a publicity campaign to bring tourists back to Louisiana, including the historic areas of New Orleans. “We’re open for business,” she said.