We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds.
Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our home in Alberta, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.”
Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.
Yes, the migration has begun.
The weather is frigid and snowy and the days are shorter. And for Snowbirds, the U.S. Sunbelt has the ideal weather and is the ideal location to stop and spend the winter months.
Who Are The Snowbirds?
Snowbirds tend to travel about the same way our feathered friends travel, north to south.
Snowbirds from Maine to Minne-snow-ta to Alberta have begun their journey south to balmy weather in their favorite winter roost.
Snowbirds or less frequently called Winter Texans, Sun chasers, Gray Nomads, or Elderly Seasonal Migrants who have given up the winter cold for the life of good health, activity, and warm climate in the Sun Belt.
No, I am not talking about our avian friends, but the seniors that flock south in their annual migration from the north.
Yes, we are Snowbirds too, and we call the Sunbelt home away from home.
And 78 million Baby Boomers are adding to the Snowbird population each year.
If It’s Winter, It’s Snowbird Season
The Herald-Tribune recently reported that Sarasota County (Florida) alone hosted 929,000 visitors in fiscal 2013, which ended September 30. Those folks spent $757.7 million, which generated an estimated economic impact of $1.43 billion.
Tourist tax collections—the levy on short-term rentals—increased 6.1 percent in Sarasota County over fiscal 2012, to $14.8 million. Manatee County posted an 11 percent gain, to $8.9 million.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that Canadians made 21 million visits to the U.S. in 2011, spending about $24 billion. More than one-third of all foreign visits to U.S. were made by Canadians.
The Canada California Business Council estimates that starting in January more than 3,000 Canadians a week pass through the Palm Springs International Airport throughout the season. Some hotels waive the tourism occupancy tax if visitors book a room for more than 28 days.
Snowbirds also pump up the private sector, buying groceries, tickets at cultural events, meals at restaurants, and all sorts of other goods and services.
Welcome Back, Snowbirds
There was a time, not so long ago, when a lot of the locals complained about the arrival of snowbirds—whining about traffic congestion, slow drivers, longer waits for tables at restaurants, and the like.
Then the recession struck and we detected noticeable changes in attitudes especially in the print media. Editorials touting the economic impact on the local economy became commonplace.
Seasonal residents and tourists, long taken for granted, were now appreciated.
It’s true that the influx of snowbirds strains the infrastructure and crowds public and private venues.
But the economic and social contributions of visitors are enormous, helping to make countless businesses and institutions financially sustainable.
Snowbirds are a vital part of Sunbelt local economy. Jobs are created, and money is spent.
We are here to escape the cold, snow, and icy streets and to enjoy our senior years .
Clearly, Canadians and other snowbirds are a significant part of our economy. Our leaders work hard to make this an attractive destination to them. Busier streets and longer lines may annoy some locals, but the Coachella Valley would not be the special place it has become without our annual flock of snowbirds.
—My Desert editorial, December 3, 2013