Recreational vehicle park operators in the Phoenix area worry that some snowbirds will stay home this winter instead of packing up and heading west, according to an Associated Press report.
Several parks report that reservations are down and cancellations are up. But park managers warn it’s too early to panic.
“We’re certainly going to see a little softer season than we have in the past,” said Wendell Johnson, general manager of Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande.
The park typically gets reservations for about 1,500 spaces from October through December.
“Business is down about 5% so far compared with the same period last year,” Johnson said.
In El Mirage, Vickie Jepperson is an assistant manager of the 1,800-space Pueblo El Mirage RV and Golf Resort. She says park visitors are fretting about the economy and high gas prices.
“I would say our reservations are down some,” she said, adding that she couldn’t estimate by how much. “They’re still making them but not like they were last year. The main issue is the economy. Gas prices, even though they were more last year, hurt everybody, and they’re not sure what they can spend.”
The most recent estimate of the economic impact that snowbirds have is from five years ago, when Arizona State University surveyed 300,000 winter visitors and found that they spent about $1 billion on food, entertainment, lodging and other goods and services during their time here.
Mesa is home to the largest number of RV parks in the Phoenix area.
Robert Brinton, president of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it was still unclear whether winter visitors would arrive later or leave earlier because of the troubled economy or how much they might spend if they decide the Phoenix area is in their winter plans.
“So far, I guess the word is cautious optimism,” he said.
“I just don’t know if their spending while they’re here will be as strong,” as in past years.
RV park owners nationally expect a slow start to the annual winter-visitor season, said Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). The group was trying to determine how the recession would affect the winter-visitor season. The best prediction Profaizer could give was an OK season.
“We are expecting things to be slower on the front end,” she said. “We think visitors will be coming later and still staying for a period of time.”