More Good Signs About Winter Season in Arizona

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November 19, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Winter bookings at recreational vehicle parks in metropolitan Phoenix, Ariz., are up after three years of decline, a sign it may be a good year for the industry that caters to "Snow Birds."

"Advance reservations are up" at about a dozen of the state's large RV parks and campgrounds, said Jeff Crider, an industry-association spokesman, "which highlights signs of a stronger snowbird season."

In Mesa, where there are more than 44,000 RV spaces, parks report that bookings are up and cancellations are down, according to the East Valley Tribune.

"We are not only better than last year, but we're actually beating numbers from three years ago," said Cheri Dewarrat, manager of East Mesa ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. "Last year, we had occupancy of about 85%. . . . Now, we're looking at 95% and maybe better."

Arizona has a thriving industry catering to Canadian and northern U.S. residents known as "Snow Birds" who flee to the state's warm climate for the winter.

Factors adding to the rebound include a stronger Canadian dollar and lower gas prices, which combine to make the long drive to Arizona in big RVs more affordable.

Catering to Snow Birds is a bread-and-butter business in Mesa, Apache Junction and Yuma, which also is looking at a good season. Yuma offers about 24,000 RV spaces and thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management range where people with a permit can park an RV.

"Already we're seeing more people in town than last year, and we're having many more people come to our visitors center," said Ann Walker, spokeswoman for the Yuma Visitors Bureau. "I've spoken with several RV-park owners, and they say reservations for December on are strong. As it gets colder, we'll get more and more."

A study of the economic impact of about 300,000 Phoenix-area winter visitors done earlier this decade found that they spent about $1 billion on food, entertainment, lodging and other goods and services each year. Winter visitors also pay sales, gas, liquor and other taxes.

"When it's 20 below, what doesn't hurt on you doesn't work. Then, it's time to get some sun," said Fargo, N.D., resident Harold Kjelvik, 71, who is wintering in Mesa.

He and many of his fellow winter visitors are retired, so "we still get the same income," he said. "(We) aren't going to let the economy stop us."

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