16 - January 2019 Woodall’s Campground Management ‘The biggest trend we have seen is that the snowbird migration has started to move farther north,’ said Bobby Cornwell, the executive director of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. With a graying population and RV ownershipontheriseinNorthAmerica,the annual migration of the “Snowbird” — the RVerthatleavesthenortherntundrabehind to head south or southwest to warmer cli- mates — has become a significant source of seasonal campground occupancy and revenue for some southern park owners. Campgroundsdon’thavetobelocatedin Florida or other traditionally warm states to attract snowbirds. The trend of snowbirds makingthesouthernmigrationinatwo-part processhasputmanytransitionandborder states into play for their business. North Carolina,asanexample,mayhaveadusting of snow up in the mountains, but still gets traffic from those heading into the deep south. According to Dee Witting, the executive director of the Carolinas Association of RV Parks and Camp- grounds (Carolinas ARVC), who handles campground mem- bership for both NorthandSouthCar- olina, snowbirds begin their migration as early as Septem- ber and October and are trending toward a short-to-moderate stay along the way. “Notonlyaretheystartingtowinterhere for the whole season all over the Carolinas — especially in the Myrtle Beach area — many are stopping here for a month or so before moving on south to even warmer weather,” she explained to Woodall’s CampgroundManagement (WCM).“Itvaries anywhere between one or two months before they move south.” Witting reported that many campgrounds intheCarolinasarebookedforthewinterand that reservations are trending up. “Many are not going as far south as Floridaanymorebecauseofthecrowds,”she said. “A lot of our campgrounds cater to campers just staying for Thanksgiving or ChristmasintheCarolinasbeforemovingon.” River Bottom Farms Family Campground, located24milessouthwestofColumbia,S.C., is one of the campgrounds benefitting fromthismigration.DanaGabriel,ownerand manager even has a name for the trend. “Wecallthem‘thehalfbacks’becausewe are located halfway back from Florida,” explained Gabriel. “They are not here for a very long period of time. We get a lot of them just by word of mouth. We have some infor- mation on the website, but we don’t do a whole lot of advertising other than Facebook when they are in the area.” She said it helps to have diverse locations onFacebookforday-tripstoattractthe“half- backs” to River Bottom Farms. “We are centrally located so we are only about an hour or two from almost anything in the state,” she said. “Myrtle Beach and Charleston are near us. It makes it easy for day trips, so they find we are conveniently located for a pause in their travels south.” Even in Florida, the original snowbird state,thetrendforamorenorthernexposure is becoming evident. “The biggest trend we have seen is that the snowbird migration has started to move farther north,” said Bobby Cornwell, the executive director of the Florida Associa- tion of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC). “The line has progressed over the last 10 years from south to north. Whether it’s out of necessity because they can’t find a place farther south or if it’s more convenient that they don’t have to travel so far, they are staying farther north and in central Florida now. “It used to be just the southern beaches on the coast but now it’s snowbirds through- out the state,” he added. “Some of them are staying for a little less time as well — JanuarythroughMarchformany.So,instead of a six-month trip it may be a three- or four- month trip before they move on.” Cornwell noted that Florida park owners are expecting another good year. “The snowbird season is the primary sea- son for our state, especially anywhere south of Orlando,” he noted. “Reservations are up and it’s going to be another great year. I don’t have any hard figures on the number of snowbirds coming down, but it has been up for three or four years now.” Snowbird stays are also increasing in Texas, according to Scott McGee, general manager of Rayford Crossing RV Park in Spring, Texas, just north of Houston. WCM spoke with him in late November — just as his snowbird season began. “They are showing up here again for sure,” said McGee. “We are pretty full now and we anticipate being full throughout the entire winter. We start the snowbird season with a big kick-off party.” His 115-site park has a loyal following. “Typically,wehavecustomerscomeback to the park every year,” he stated. “Reserva- tions need to be made ahead of time — not necessarily a year, but at least two or three monthsout.IfsomeonewaitsuntilDecember to get a spot it will be very difficult.” This trend also continues further west into Arizona. At La Hacienda RV Resort in Apache Junction, Ariz., Joyce Tinfeth, manager since the park opened in 1986, said the park is at capacity every winter. “There is actually a waiting list now,” she explained. “I think we were totally reserved in April of this year for this coming snowbird season. I am sure there must be a scarcity of otherparksthathaveopenings.Everydaywe have three or four calls from people looking for spaces and we just have to tell them we are full.” Lure SnowbirdstoYourCampground Campground owners and managers shared with WCM the many ways they at- tract snowbirds with a wide range of promo- tional activities. “Thereareabunchofshowsparkowners can attend,” said Cornwell. “There are some Dee Witting At South Carolina’s River Bottom Farms Family Campground, live entertainment helps draw in snowbirds. Snowbirds traveling south for the winter are looking for ways to interact with other RVers and for parks that offer a wide variety of activities. Photo credit: Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa Bay, Fla. Bobby Cornwell ScottMcGee Joyce Tinfeth SnowbirdsLookforActivities,InterestingLocales When Selecting a Warm-Weather Winter Park