As Florida heads into its peak winter season, many RV parks and resorts are reporting growing numbers of snowbirds who are showing up at the last minute without reservations, while others are splitting their time between resorts in different parts of the state.
“The Baby Boomers are coming now,” said Lynda Phelps, owner of Up River RV Resort in Fort Myers. And unlike snowbirds of years past, who would book sites for the whole season, Phelps said Boomers are more likely to book campsites at the last minute, often calling from the road.
“They are more tentative, probably because they are just getting their feet wet” in seeing what Florida has to offer, she said.
But even if they only make a reservation for one night, Phelps finds that her winter guests often wind up staying for a week or more, once they get an idea of her park’s amenities, which include a heated swimming pool and spa; a 9-hole non regulation golf course; tennis; bocce ball; and fishing and kayaking along the Caloosahatchee River.
Even though today’s winter visitors are more spontaneous, Phelps said her winter business levels are strong. “Our business is up over last year,” she said. “We’re having a good season.”
Tim Deputy, general manager of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, said his business is way up from last year’s figures, with a 20% increase in RV site rentals and a 27% increase in park model rentals. He said the park is “fully booked” for February and March.
He attributed the increase in part to the resort’s new indoor pool and wellness center, which was completed in time for the winter season. “It’s just insane,” Deputy said. “I’ve never seen so many people working out in the resort.”
John Parkhurst, manager of Holiday Travel Resort in Orlando, said occupancies at the 935-site park are consistent with last winter’s figures, though he is also experiencing a large influx of snowbirds who show up at his park without reservations. “We’re getting people who are staying longer,” he said. “They come in for a month and they stay longer.”
Carefree RV Resorts, which operates 28 resorts in Florida, is seeing growing demand for RV site rentals this winter.
While the company’s daily/weekly and monthly occupancies are flat this month compared to last January, daily/weekly and monthly RV site rentals are up 3% and 4%, respectively, in February, said David Napp, the company’s CEO.
Across Florida, business levels appear to be strongest along the West Coast, with parks in other areas of the state reporting business levels that are either flat or slightly down from last winter’s figures, said Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Chris Long, a general manager and partner at Central Park of Haines City, said occupancies are down 3% to 4% at his park this winter, which he attributes in part to “jumpers,” snowbirds who split the winter in different parks to see what the different regions of Florida have to offer.
But while his overall occupancies are down this winter, Long is seeing exceptionally strong demand for park model rentals at his park. “Either they have an RV and gave it up or they want to try it before they buy a park model or another RV,” he said, adding, “The rental market is strong.”
Bill Harvey, who owns and operates Cross Creek RV Resort in Arcadia, said his business is about 6% ahead of last winter’s figures. “The activity is very strong,” he said.
For more information about winter business levels at RV parks and resorts in Florida, please contact Bobby Cornwell at the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, at (850) 562-7151. The association is the Florida affiliate of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, the national voice of the outdoor hospitality industry. Visit their respective websites at www.campflorida.com and www.gocampingamerica.com.