Amid pandemic, loss of snowbirds hit US tourism in yet another bad way

 Tuesday, December 15, 2020 


In five years, this is the first winter that Steve Monk and his wife, Linda, had to skip driving to Arizona from their home in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. They leave Canada for six months to hunker down in some adjoining warmer climates. They could fly, by avoiding travel restrictions at the borders, but they’d prefer to “freeze their buns off” than go to the U.S., where cases of virus infections and deaths are surging every day.

“It’s not worth taking a chance. It’s not nearly as bad in this country as it is down there,” said Monk, 69. “Pretty much every Canadian person we do know that goes down (to the U.S.) is not going. It’s pretty widespread.”

“Snowbirds” like the Monks, often retirees who live somewhere warm like Arizona or Florida part time to run away from the freezing cold, would not be rushing to the south this 20/2021 winters. For Canadians who drive, nonessential border travel is temporarily stopped until at least Dec. 21st. For few, virus fear is the main thing.

All vacation rentals, restaurants and shops are feeling their absence. RV parks and campgrounds are witnessing a rise in campers as people travel closer to home.

Evan Rachkovsky of the Canadian Snowbird Association recently explained that most people he has talked to are calling off their US trips for this year.

But some are still obstinate in their decision of traveling US. “Some tell me just simply this is something they’ve been doing for 10, 20, 30 years, so it’s habitual in that sense,” Rachkovsky said. “It’s a lifestyle as opposed to vacationing for two weeks.”

For those who’ll go, they might have to quarantine for around two weeks, even though states often don’t enforce it. Also, they’re going into communities where hospitals remain overburdened during the winter months, and COVID-19 could devastate them totally.

Health insurance obstacles are stopping the retired Toronto accountant Mel Greenglass, who for a decade spent four months in southwest Florida.

Canadian snowbirds must buy a supplemental plan to their government-provided coverage for all kinds of emergencies while staying. It would have been $2,800 for him and his girlfriend this season, up from $1,800 previously, and he feared they wouldn’t be covered if they caught the virus.

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