b'go so far as to put their park model RVs park model RVs up for sale, Phelps said Canadian officials are trying to deal with the possibility of snowbirds sheltering in placeup for sale, one Florida park operator none of her Canadian guests plan to during the winter, a scenario many RV parks and campgrounds are unprepared for.told WCM that the pandemic-induced sell their units. surge in RV sales has also created a new I have 33 Canadians that have parkcrop of snowbirds which, to some extent, model RVs and none have put them upis offsetting the cancellations by wary for sale, she said, although some of herCanadian snowbirds. Canadian RV travelers who previouslyFor every Canadian who is not com- reserved RV sites for the 2020-2021 sea-ing, I have two Americans who are fight- son have asked her to roll over theiring for that spot, said Amir Harpaz, a reservations to the 2021-2022 winterlongtime Florida RV season.resort developer who Zeman Homes has four RV resorts inownsandoperates Florida, two of which have park model Canadian Campground Associations Push for Borderthe 474-site Cypress RVs that are owned by Canadians, but to Open One-Way so Snowbirds can Head SouthTrailRVResort in the company is not seeing an uptick inFort Myers. sales of park model RVs owned by Cana- The continuing closure of the U.S./Canadian border to all but essential travel has big ramificationsHarpazbelieves dians, according to Leslie Taylor-Rharbi, this winter that go far beyond the question of whether Canadian RVers will be able to spend thethestrongdemand Zeman Homes sen- winter at RV parks and resorts in the American Sunbelt.he is seeing for win- ior vice president of Subfreezing weather forces most Canadian campgrounds and RV parks outside of southernter sites in Florida is Amir Harpaz operations in Tampa. British Columbia to close for the winter, and if the U.S. border remains closed, tens of thousands ofdriven in part by new RVers who just pur- Weareseeing full-time Canadian RVers will potentially have no place to go.chased their first towable or motorized usual season reserva- Campgrounds in Canada, for the most part, are not set up to accom-unit this year. Certainly, some of those tions. Some are stick- modate RVs past October, said Shane Devenish, executive director of thenew RVers are snowbirds, he said. ing and roughly 20% Canadian Camping and RV Councilin Burlington, Ontario.Harpazalsoanticipatesyounger, have cancelled at this While parks in British Columbia could theoretically accommodate full-telecommuting RVers this year because point due to COVID, time RVers from the rest of Canada, there are just not enough available RVof the pandemic. Many of them have re- Taylor-Rharbisaid. Leslie Taylor-Rharbi sites for every full-time Canadian RVer who normally spends the winter inalized, I dont need to be in the office Some have chosen to shorten their the U.S., Devenish said.every day. The pandemic has proven it staysorpushedbacktheirarrival To make matters worse, many parks in British Columbia are already ex-to them. So many of them are saying, Im dates. Typically, our resorts would be pected to be full for the winter months, according to Joss Penny, executive Shane Devenishgoing to spend the winter in my RV and 100% full for the season now with a director of the British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association in Port Moody, B.C.work from Florida, he said. waiting list at some. As of now, I have Not many campgrounds in B.C. stay open during the winterabout 100 private campgroundsHarpazisalsodevelopingTorrey 100 sites yet to fill among all four re-and they are reporting having wait lists for snowbirds wanting to winter, Penny said.TrailsRVResort,anewRVresortin sorts. Cancellations are both Canadian Canada does not have official statistics regarding the numbers of full-time Canadian RVers, butBowling Green, about an hours drive and American. I am hopeful we will be Devenish estimates the numbers could be as high as 50,000 or more.southeast of Tampa, with partners Bill able to recapture some of these folks One potential solution to the border problem, he suggested, would be to allow full-time CanadianHarvey and Alan Wallace. Torrey Trails as the season gets closer and that its RVers to travel south to the U.S. this winter. This would avert a potential humanitarian crisis inplans to open its first 158 sites this fall.just a knee-jerk reaction.Canada, as well as costly repairs for Canadian RVers whose vehicles would be subjected to damageLyndaPhelps,generalmanagerof PatONeill,generalmanagerof from subfreezing temperatures, while also enabling Canadians to travel south to their favorite Sun-Upriver RV Resortin CampGulf inMiramarBeach,Fla., belt destinations as they normally do.Fort Myers, said her said he expects his park to be full for Maybe the border could be opened going south but not going north, Devenish said. parkwasalready the winter. He said about 5% of his He added that this is an idea that he and other Canadian campground association officials willcompletelybooked guestshavecancelledtheirwinter discuss with Canadian government officials. If a border solution cannot be negotiated, he said, theand had a waiting list reservations,buttheirplaceswere next step would be to see if Canadas hotel industry would be able to accommodate full-time RVersforthe2020-2021 quickly taken by other RVers, including for the winter at a discounted rate.winterseasonasof some new RVers and people who are We have made contact with the Hotel Association of Canadato work with us so we can offertheendofMarch, new to snowbirding. some kind of solution to our customers, Devenish said. If there is no other solution, maybe RVersbutshestartedre- FurthertotheNorth,snowbird could stay at a motel or hotel at a discounted rate.Lynda Phelps ceivingcancellation reservations at Myrtle Beach Travel While U.S. businesses that cater to snowbirds obviously want them to return this winter, manyrequestsinAugustfrompeoplewho Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C. are about Canadians are also wary about traveling to the U.S., whose efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemicwanted refunds. even with, or just down slightly, com- have paled compared to those of other industrialized countries, including Canada.Were about 60 days out for them to pared to previous years, according to There is mounting pressure from Canadians to keep the border closed based on the situationget a refund, Phelps told WCM in late Taylor N. Cook, the parks recreation in the U.S., with many expecting (the border to reopen) no earlier than December 31, said CaraAugust,notingthatthepeoplewho director. This is due to our Canadians Braeutigam, membership coordinator for the Canadian Camping and RV Council. It is impossiblecalled to cancel initially had medical is- that are unable to cross the border and to estimate a timeline much beyond that at this time.sues. some cautious travelers, Cook said. Braeutigam added that Canadians who see themselves as being more vulnerable to COVID-19We usually overbook a little bit be- Moving to the West, Canadians ac- may also decide to remain in Canada this winter. I think it is highly likely that some snowbirds willcause of the age bracket were dealing count for only a small percentage of elect to remain home this winter to avoid potential virus exposure in parts of the U.S. where COVIDwith, Phelps said, noting that older peo- the Winter Texans who stay at Oleader case numbers are higher, she said.ple are more likely to have medical issues Acres RV Resortin the Rio Grande Val- Officials are exploring opening Penny said recent surveys indicate thatthat can interfere with their travel plans. ley border town of Mission, Texas, but the border to southern travel. over 70% of Canadians want the border withOther cancellations were prompted park owner Ed Welliver isnt expecting the U.S. to remain closed for the foreseeableby people concerned about how COVID- many Canadians this winter. future due to virus concerns. With COVID-1919 social distancing restrictions might If we get half as many as we did be- infection rates in the United States beinginterfere with their usual social activities fore well be lucky, he said, adding higher than Canada, many Canadian RVingat the park. that he anticipates an overall decline snowbirds are making arrangements to win-Phelps has kept her swimming pools in his winter business. Reservations ter in Canada, he said.open, though she has removed the num- are slow right now. Its hard to predict The Canadian Camping and RV Council,ber of chairs on the pool deck and set the future right now, but our best guess for its part, is not taking an official position re-limits on the number of people who can is its going to be a difficult winter. garding consumers travel choices. be in the pool area at any given time. Butwhilewintermaybeslower, Another issue affecting Canadian travel to the U.S. this winter is the cost and availability of healthWere not going to have large groups Welliver has enjoyed the busiest sum- insurance for Canadians who travel to the U.S.congregating around the pool, she said, mer season hes had in the 40 years he Canadian government health insurance does not cover Canadians when they are traveling out-adding that she is sending out frequent has owned Oleander Acres because of side of their home country, Devenish said. As a result, he said, Canadian snowbirds who want healthemail updates to her prospective winter workers who have stayed at his park insurance coverage when they travel outside of Canada need to purchase a separate travel insur-guestskeepingtheminformedabout while building the wall along the bor- ance policy from a private company.UpRivers latest social distancing guide- der with Mexico. Its normally easy and not that expensive, if you do not have any underlying health conditions,lines, as well its cleaning and sanitation Elsewhere across the Sunbelt, RV Devenish said.procedures.park and resort operators are reporting However, many private insurance companies typically used by Canadians are not covering ill-Thathashelpedalot.Thathas varyingCanadianresponsestothe nesses related to COVID-19. There are some that do, Devenish said, but the options are extremelybrought back the comfort level (among continuing border closure, but most limited.winter guests), she said, adding that her report only modest declines in antici- In late August, the Canadian Snowbird Associationin Toronto was continuing to offer COVID-guests will be able to enjoy the parks pated Canadian business for the up- 19 insurance coverage through its outside insurance provider, Medipac International, according toother outdoor activities, such as kayak- coming winter season. Michael MacKenzie, the associations executive director.ing, boating and fishing, without any re- We are still pretty much at our nor- The situation on the border is being assessed on a daily basis by public health professionals instrictions. mal reservations for Canadians for RV both countries, MacKenzie said. Once we have more concrete information on the current restric-WhileWCM hasreceivedreports sites for this (coming winter) season, tions and when they will be lifted, we will provide it to our members as soon as possible. WCMthatsomeCanadianshaveputtheir said Diana Harriman, resort managerWOODALLSCM.com October 2020-19'