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Florida May See Fewer Snowbirds This Winter. What Does That Mean For The Tampa Bay Businesses They Frequent?

Andrea Coleman and Lennon Davis walk in Orr Park in Montevallo, Ala. The storm left more ice and snow than expected in parts of Alabama and Georgia.
Andrea Coleman and Lennon Davis walk in Orr Park in Montevallo, Ala. The storm left more ice and snow than expected in parts of Alabama and Georgia.

Many are staying put due to the pandemic. And for Canadians, the U.S. border is closed.

This is the time of year when snowbirds — retirees from the Midwest and Canada looking to escape long, cold winters — flock to Florida.

But not this year. Many are staying put due to the pandemic. And for Canadians, the U.S. border is closed.

On today’s episode, host Bradley George asked Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, about the effects the snowbird slowdown is having on the Tampa Bay region’s economy.

Typically, hotel occupancy rates are a big indicator of the number of visitors.

“Back in February, we were setting tourism record numbers. Our hotel occupancy in Hillsborough County was at 78 percent. That means almost every nine out of every 10 hotel rooms at every property were occupied,” Corrada said.

“And then in mid March, we were hit hard and fast by the pandemic. Occupancy dropped about 50 percent. And then in April, we were down to 22 percent.”

But in the case of snowbirds, Corrada said they often have a secondary home and instead spend the bulk of their money on shopping and eating out.

That makes it harder to actually track the economic impact of those seasonal visitors. So if you were wondering how many snowbirds visit Florida each year, it’s hard to say.

Listen above to hear more from Corrada and Bradley’s conversation with Rich Doty, a researcher at the University of Florida.

Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.
Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.