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Snowbirds not shying from SWFL; businesses look forward to boost

Many of us are noticing longer drives to work and home, as snowbirds begin to make their way to Southwest Florida.

We looked at the impact the pandemic could have on the busy season in the region Wednesday.

On our way to Fort Myers Beach, we noticed more cars on the road and more traffic. Once we got there, we saw more out-of-state license plates than usual, states including Indiana, New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

But these are all exciting signs for local businesses that are seeing the increase in sales from the snowbirds.

“Up north, the colors change on the leaves, and, here, the license plates change,” said Rick Grant, a snowbird from Wisconsin.

“RV’s, car carriers, and my commute to work is an additional 30 minutes,” said Jason Unger, the owner of The Doghouse on Fort Myers Beach.

Even though this season is in the middle of a pandemic, snowbird Margaret Hergenahan is making the drive to Southwest Florida from Illinois.

“It is about 22 hours total,” Hergenahan said. “It’s our normal schedule. And even though a lot of people are coming down, we felt that we are very safe in the area that we live.”

Hergenahan is not the only one who isn’t letting the pandemic stop them from coming to the Sunshine State.

“We were going to come down here no matter what,” said Vickie Straitz, who vacations in the region during the winter.

“Just kind of on schedule like we always do,” Grant said.

The extra sales from snowbirds are something local businesses welcome, especially after a hard hit in the spring.

“People are here. They are coming down. They are spending money,”” Unger said. “So I think it’s going to be good.”

We did talk to some people who say their friends who normally come down for season are not coming down just yet. They are waiting to make sure it’s safe.

“We have our regulars here on the island, our locals,” said Jacinta Ingream, the owner of mango Ritas on Fort Myers Beach. “But the snowbirds is what makes our season.”

And they hope the boost in business continues throughout season to help businesses hurt by the pandemic make ends meet.

“They are here to support us,” Ingream said. “I just feel like we are going to have a really busy season.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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