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Some snowbirds who normally spend the winter in Florida have instead booked reservations in Arizona and Texas as a result of the hurricanes that struck the Sunshine State, according to campground operators and industry officials.
Although there is no way to determine what percentage of Florida’s snowbirds were headed west, the numbers appeared to be significant.
“We’ve definitely had dozens and dozens of calls, and we’ve definitely had bookings from people who would normally have gone to Florida who aren’t going this year,” said Mike Ravenhill, a tourism consultant for the 109-site Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, Ariz.
“I feel for Florida,” he added. “But I’m happy for our property. These people are surfing the Internet and they’re finding (Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort) and they’re coming here.”
Karen Birt, manager of the 711-site Sundance 1 RV Resort in Casa Grande, said she’s seen an increase in winter reservations from Florida snowbirds as well.
“I think we booked three five-monthers yesterday,” she said, adding, “People started calling in August. Some of them lost their parks (to the storms).”
Texas campground officials have seen similar activity.
“We did the (Southwest) RV SuperShow (Sept. 30th in Dallas) and we had a bunch of folks who told us they were probably not going to go to Florida this year because of all the problems,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
He added that local news reports in the Texas media have noted that many parks had booked up earlier than normal because of an influx of reservations from people who would normally go to Florida.
Newspapers across the country have published a growing number of stories highlighting everything from the worries of snowbirds who own property in Florida to concerns about the ability of Florida-based RV parks and campgrounds to accommodate them.
Florida park operators have been working overtime, not only to clean up and repair their parks, but to get the message out that they’re OK and that, in most cases, the damage wrought by the hurricanes was relatively minor.
Tom Flanigan, a spokesman with Visit Florida, a public and private organization in charge of promoting tourism, said the agency is getting ready to spend millions of dollars in emergency funds to promote the state nationwide.
“Even though we have been hit hard by hurricanes, the state is not closed,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a lot of repair work. We are still trying to get a good handle of the situation, not only in the short but also in the long term.”