Museum event highlights snowbird economic impact
posted in News on January 25, 2017 in News on 1/25/2017
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Source: Pensacola News Journal

Every year, they fly south for the winter.

Actually, most drive south for the winter, and on Tuesday you could see the length of the drive on license plates filling the National Naval Aviation Museum parking lot: Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Maine and many more.

It’s snowbird season in Northwest Florida when thousands of northern visitors pump millions into the local economy. On Monday, the museum hosted a Snowbird Fly-In where local organizations dispensed information, coupons, maps and more to the area’s winter-only residents, many who stay from December through March.

“The impact is significant,” said Karen Harrell, publisher of the Gulf Coast Snowbirds magazine. “If they’re spending $1,200 a month on a condo and spending $100 a week on food, or spending more in restaurants, that’s quite a lot at a time that is considered the slow season.”

Northwest Florida tourism typically ramps up during spring and increases through the summer. But as fall approaches and the numbers of young people and families visiting drops, it is the snowbirds fleeing the cold of the north who keep many area businesses afloat.

On Tuesday, flocks of retired snowbirds nested at the museum where they visited vendors from Visit Pensacola, Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, Santa Rosa Island Authority, University of West Florida Historic Trust and others. At the Visit Pensacola station, snowbirds were given free cloth beach bags and stencils with beach scenes — shells, dolphins, etc. — to decorate the bags. Others stuck colored pins on a map to show their home state. Michigan and Ohio were dotted with pins.

“I have more of my (Michigan) friends here than I have in Grand Rapids,” said snowbird Wayne Fish, 76, a Navy veteran staying in Navarre with his wife. “So many of us travel here every year.”

The Fish family has visited for eight years and spends three months in Northwest Florida each winter.

“We love Navarre because it’s right between Destin and Pensacola,” Fish said. “But I prefer Pensacola because it’s less crowded.”

Robbie Schrock, Santa Rosa Island Authority director of administration, called the snowbird migration “extremely important in keeping businesses going during the winter. Some wouldn’t survive without them.”

The Santa Rosa Island Authority will hold its own snowbird event, Snowbird Beach Bash on Pensacola Beach, from 9-10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Pensacola Beach Community Church, 920 Panferio Drive.

For full story visit PNJ.com

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