Laval residents still flocking to Florida’s warmth, hospitality, and affordable living

Neither Covid nor Hurricane Ian will deter Laval Snowbirds from flocking to the warmth of The Sunshine State

Maturing Canadians have looked to South Florida for affordable winter-month properties for decades, but stiff competition in the rental and home ownership markets, compounded by the rising cost of living, are making it more difficult for the nation’s snowbirds to enjoy paradise the way they once did.

Hurricane Ian was the cherry on the cake. Definitely not getting better anytime soon, with everyone paying the price, including Snowbirds.

However, Florida is booming in part because the expansion of remote work and restrictions imposed to combat COVID-19 changed the calculus on where people wanted to live; Americans and Canadians flocked to the Sunshine State. The last year’s US Census Bureau, revealed that the state experienced the largest net-domestic migration with an influx of 220,890 people, adding 38,590 from outside the country, some of these legal immigrants, others not.

Undoubtedly, Florida attracts Canadians, as 3.5 million of them temporarily migrate to the sun, with 500,000 snowbirds making the state home for at least a month. While most don’t head south until November, peak departure time, the Canadian Snowbird Association is encouraging property owners to check their insurance coverage now.

Insurance is a must

“Not having insurance, in a storm like Hurricane Ian, you risk not being able to make any claims, having to pay for damages out of pocket,” cautions Evan Rachkovsky, the association’s director of research and communications. The Association also cautions against visiting Florida before officials say it’s safe. The Canadian government has also issued a travel advisory, urging Canadians to avoid all travel to the southeastern coast of the United States, for now. However, rain, snow, earthquakes, hurricanes, or the weakening loonie which has fallen to its lowest level in almost two years, nothing will stop Canadians from flocking south.

These Canadian snowbirds are mainly flocking from Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic provinces, according to Florida’s Tourism Office. While snowbirds so travel to other states, Florida is prime destination for Canadians looking for attractive, affordable winter getaways even with the loonie at 70% US.

What separates snowbirds from casual Florida vacationers is their stay. Lavaller Ida Teolis Venafro has averaged about five-months-a-year, for three decades in Deerfield Beach. Venafro sees herself lucky having excellent travel-health-insurance, considering unexpected gall-bladder surgery while vacationing, telling TLN she’d never travel without it. “It could be financial nightmares without insurance in the U.S. Snowbirds should have insurance or they could end up in the poor house, Venafro cautions.

Generally-speaking, retirees tend to escape 3-6 months to rental or purchased homes. “It’s directly related to what’s going on in Canada. For example, in Quebec snow and frigid weather can be expected early November, when Florida starts seeing more Canadian license-plates. On the downside, as Covid up-ticked demand for car rentals, cars at reasonable prices became scarce. “It’s more feasible to drive or ship your car, saving thousands of dollars,” Venafro offers.

“With four to six months of winter, it’s obvious that people would like to go south even for a short period,” said Chomedey’s Lina Varano who’s passionate about Florida’s welcoming climate and lifestyle. Her home in Lake Worth is “paradise away from home.” For many snowbirds, flying south for the winter is traditional, a virtual and actual religion. Canadians of many generations have been going south, parents and grand-parents before them. That trend continues according to Lina and Ida, both of whose children and grandchildren love Florida. Florida Tourism cites appealing weather and seductive cost-of-living, as obvious factors in this migration. No winter clothes and plentiful relatively-inexpensive-food are also major motivations.

Destination worth the drive

Other factors include accessibility, particularly proximity to Canada. In the opinion of Venafro and Varano, the 26-hour drive to Lake Worth isn’t unreasonable; accessibility also involves language. “Since many Quebecers speak French, maybe exclusively, they’re more comfortable in French, and there’s plenty of it in Florida,” confided fully-bilingual Venafro.

Some Florida communities are home to so many Canadians that some snowbirds can live entirely in French during their stay,’ adds Varano. “A community that speaks French and functions in French provides comfort.” The annual sojourn of millions of snowbirds has had an impact on Florida’s culture and economy.

Large annual festivals, such as Canada-Fest (South Florida) and Snowbird Extravaganza (Central Florida), have seen the light of day. These celebrations, at end-of-January – early February, according to Florida Tourism, reflect the substantial effect of the snowbird-wave. “People come, settle in, ready for fun events,” the Tourist Office reveals, with unabashed pride.

Floridians should recognize that they’re actually involved in international trade. “Selling services like meals or car-repairs to foreigners, you’re actually exporting that service,” says Florida Tourism. Other economic effects include real-estate-spending, as snowbirds rent or purchase property during extended stays. Canadians are top international purchasers of residential properties, estimated by Florida officials at a whopping $60 billion. With these numbers, Canadians contribute about $580 million in property taxes across Florida. Canada is Florida’s most important international economic partner, and tourism is the tip of that iceberg (excuse the pun).

Come on down, you’re welcome “People go where they’re welcome. Floridians make Canadians feel welcome,” Venafro and Varano conclude. Although Covid has kept some Canadians and other international travelers at home, the future of tourism in Florida is secure. If you have warm, sunny, economically-welcoming places where people can spend more money if they’d like to and feel safe – that’s what Florida offers. Considering all this, to which can be added that Florida is one of North America’s most successful jurisdictions in handling Covid, these are many reasons for tourism to blossom, towards which snowbirds whisper quite prayers. Florida is doing a good job attracting Canadians, Laval residents no exception. Once a snowbird, there’s no flocking away