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Ashley: Yankee Traveler Lures Canada Snowbirds

March 17, 2017 by   - () Comments Off on Ashley: Yankee Traveler Lures Canada Snowbirds

The following “On Campgrounds” feature by Bob Ashley appears in the March issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. Ashley is a Central Indiana-based freelance writer/editor and a 25-year newspaper veteran who has focused on the RV industry and national recreation issues for the past 19 years. He received the 2013 “Distinguished Service in RV Journalism” award from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). 

Yankee Traveler RV Park in Largo, Fla., has become an outpost for Canadian RVers despite a disadvantage in the monetary exchange rate.

“Over 50% of our residents are Canadians,” said Keith Bailey, owner of the 211-site park with his wife Lucy. “Certainly the exchange rate is troubling. But we haven’t felt much effect. We haven’t seen a huge drop in Canadian RVers.”

Keith and Lucy Bailey

After pretty much reaching parity in 2012, the exchange rate has declined steadily so that in mid-February you would have had to pay one Canadian dollar to buy something that costs 76 American cents.

Why so many Canadian visitors? “We have great word-of-mouth and we have a lot of happy residents who tell their friends and neighbors about us,” Bailey said.

The Baileys have owned the park on 14 acres about five miles south of Clearwater since 1985.

They are in talks with the city of Largo to add about a dozen-and-a-half new sites in an area currently reserved for RV storage.

“We are trying to work with the city right now,” Bailey said.

Many area campgrounds closed down during the Great Recession, leaving a paucity of RV sites. “We are turning away all sorts of people all the time that we would prefer to house,” Bailey said. “That’s the reason we’d like to add the new sites.”

The decision may come down to whether the city recognizes the storage area to be part of the original park, which was built in 1969, or if it is to be considered separately. “We are overly dense right now, even if we leave that area barren of sites,” Bailey said.

Campers enjoy a meal at Yankee Traveler RV Park

Over the years, the Baileys have pretty much remodeled or added to the park’s amenities with a card room that complements a separate rec hall, which was renovated with a larger kitchen.

The Baileys added a hot tub in the pool area and also redid bathrooms so that they are private with a toilet, sink and shower. “They’re just like your bathroom at home,” Baily said.

Most of the park’s residents — about 80% live in park models — come from the Midwest. and the Central and Maritime Canadian provinces.

“Seasonally, we are for snowbirds, and we end up with a more Midwestern crowd,” said Baily, who also owns nearby Star-Lite Mobile Home Park. “We have a small population in the summer — 15% to 20% occupancy. We’ve added to our advertising in the Good Sam Travel Guide and we’ve seen ourselves fill up in some of the shoulder seasons” in the non-park-model sites.

“We never reach the point that we are 100% park models but we are a destination park,” he said. “If they are hauling a fifth-wheel, people know they are going to be coming here before they leave wherever they are coming from. They don’t just come down to Florida and look around for a park.”

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 The winter season at Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, Texas, begins early over Halloween with a chili cookoff.

“People start showing up in mid-October, and the chili cookoff seems to be the kickoff right through the winter until March,” said Scott McGee, general manager of the 112-site park 20 miles north of Houston.

“We are chock full right now,” he said in mid-February. “We are completely full as far as our monthly reservations go.”

Tucked in Houston’s suburbia five miles from The Woodlands, a shopping and dining mecca, Rayford Crossing has an active group of RVers as evidenced by a trip in March that was planned to go to a casino four hours away in Kinder, La.

“We have a group that gets together to decide the off-site activities for the next month,” McGee said. “Next month it’s the casino.”

Drawing plenty of Winter Texans mostly from the Midwestern U.S. and Central Canada, Rayford Crossing typically keeps 25% of its sites available for short-term visitors.

“The area we are in draws a lot of traffic for events and medical purposes,” McGee said, noting the park averages about 90% occupancy for the year.

“Summer is not as busy as our winter season because of the hot weather. That’s when we cater to weekenders.”

While nothing is set in concrete, Rayford Crossing is looking to expand.

“That’s always on our radar,” McGee said. “We have projections in place. We are waiting for development next door so that we might be able to hook into their sewer.”

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Sitting on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, Mission View RV Resort has an advantage over other Tucson, Ariz.-area parks: The privately owned park is leased from the Tohono O’odham Nation, and thus not subject to local room or sales taxes.

“It helps,” said Ruth Richardson, who has managed the 160-site park for six year.

“I haven’t had an empty spot for the last two weeks,” she said in mid-February.

Many RVers staying at Mission View in February were visiting the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase, which draws thousands to the area.

“About every park in the area is absolutely full,” Richardson said.

The park, she reported, draws many RVers from the Midwest and transient Canadians who stay in Mexico for the season because the Mexican exchange rate vs. the Canadian dollar is more favorable than if they stayed in the United States. “They stay here when they come and go to Mexico,” Richardson said. “The exchange rate is a lot friendlier in Mexico.”

Although open all year, half of Mission View’s sites are shut down in the summer when temperatures routinely hit 105 degrees. “It’s slow in the summer until it starts cooling down in September,” she said, lamenting: “I don’t know why people don’t want to visit us in the summer. There’s plenty to do around here.”

Located in the Sonoran Desert, the park sometimes is visited by small herds of the wild, pig-like Javelina. “They roam through the park quite frequently,” Richardson said. “Everybody seems to enjoy seeing them.”

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