As temperatures cool down, Yuma’s winter visitor season is heating up with residents of northern climates starting to head south ahead of freezing weather and snowstorms.
“There’s lots of rigs on the road,” reported Mike Green, owner of RV World, who recently drove back to Yuma from a trip to Oregon. He joked that he had a sign on the back of his truck saying “follow me to Yuma.”
They don’t need any such sign — they manage to find their way here just fine.
From various reports, they’ll be doing it in larger numbers this year than last year, when there were approximately 83,000 winter visitors during the peak of the season, reports the Yuma Sun.
That would be welcome news to proprietors of the recreational vehicle parks where many winter visitors set up housekeeping for the weeks and months they’re here. It’s also welcome news to the businesses that rely heavily on them to keep their annual profit margins in the black.
And it’s fun to have them back with their zest for living that means Yuma’s entertainment venues are picking up.
“We’ve had more calls this year than this time last year asking for relocation and tourist packages,” Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce told the Yuma Sun.
“I’m very excited about the prospects for this season. I’m optimistic about it based on the number of calls.”
He attributes the increased interest this year, for one thing, to lower gas prices that offer winter travelers more mobility.
It doesn’t hurt that Yuma has been enjoying a beautiful fall even as the Northwest is getting hammered with rain and snow.
“That gets people thinking about heading this way,” Rosevear said.
In fact, Yuma’s mild winter weather is the No. 1 enticement for northern residents who are seeking a respite from harsh winters at home.
In addition, the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is almost on par with the U.S. dollar, with one Canadian dollar currently worth 96 cents in American money.
A large and growing percent of this area’s winter visitors are from Canada, Rosevear noted.
“We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Canada. They’re looking for information about RV parks and things to do here.”
Two things may help boost that population.
Four Canadian provinces have extended the length of time a resident can stay out of the province and continue to maintain Medical Services Plan coverage. This change includes British Columbia, where many of Yuma’s winter visitors hail from. As of January 1, British Columbia residents now can be out of Canada for up to seven months per calendar year for vacation purposes and still qualify for health care coverage, versus the previous limit of six months.
However, U.S. policy still limits them to 183 days in this country. That could change though.
In July the U.S. Senate passed a measure permitting Canadian visitors who meet certain criteria to stay in the U.S. for up to 240 days per calendar year. A similar measure is awaiting action by the House of Representatives.
In the meantime, new membership is at record highs for the Canadian Snowbird Association, Evan Rachkovskey, research officer for the organization told the Yuma Sun.
“That usually bodes well for wintering in the U.S.”
That trend can be seen at the 182-space Coach Stop RV Park in Wellton where co-owner Beth Deermer estimates that 45 percent of her park’s residents are Canadian and that’s been increasing.
“Anything that’s been sold goes to Canadians,” she said.
Deermer expects the rapidly approaching season to be a “normal year … full. We’re pretty much a full park.”
At Shangri-La RV Resort, reservations are “about average” for this time of year, reported staff member Palm Deleys. Meanwhile, residents are “starting to come in slowly but surely” and she expects most will have arrived by early November for a full park by Christmas.
They come from all over the U.S. and Canada, she said. “They don’t like the cold and wet.”
Bonita Mesa manager Pat Chaboude reported that reservations are down a little so far, attributing it to people still firming up their plans.
“I don’t know what is going on in people’s lives,” she said. “All I can do is hope. Every year we count on it being a good year and be glad for what we get.”
Reservations also are a little slow at Westward Village, manager Carolee Bomboy told the Yuma Sun. But her regular residents are trickling in.
Based on the number of calls RV World has received from motor home owners who are booking advance service appointments, Green is optimistic this will be a good winter visitor season.
Perhaps, he speculated, “people are sick and tired of sitting around waiting for the economy to recover so they’re just doing it. They just want to get out.”
I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.