Florida Looks At A Winter Without Canadians

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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In Florida, this is the time of year for “snowbirds,” people who flock south when the weather turns cold up north. Many own homes or condos. Others rent or come with their own RV’s. But with COVID-19, this year, some of Florida’s most faithful seasonal visitors — Canadians — are staying home.

Every year for a decade, Julia Hayes and her husband John have closed up their home in Mount Albert, north of Toronto and driven south to their vacation getaway in Cape Coral, on Florida’s Gulf coast. But not this year. Hayes says, “You’re under loads and load of snow and it’s not safe to go out and walk. And you certainly can’t swim. It’s a much healthier lifestyle when we go down to Florida.”

Land crossings at the border between the U.S. and Canada have been prohibited since March to contain spread of the coronavirus. The closure means that tens of thousands of Canadians who usually drive south this time of year, can’t. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said recently his government wants Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel. “People can make their own decisions,” he said. “But a travel advisory from the government of Canada to not travel outside the borders unless it’s essential travel is about as strong as we can go.”

For many Canadians, there’s a bigger obstacle than the closed border keeping them home. It’s health insurance. Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone says policies that cover COVID-19 are expensive. And some policies have limits as to how much they’ll pay. Firestone says, “I would say my business is down close to 75% right now from the traditional period that it used to be very busy with people all leaving for upwards of 185 days, coming back typically in April.”

In Florida, Canadians make up a significant part of the tourism-dependent economy. Fort Myers and Cape Coral are especially popular with visitors from Ontario. The Lee County…

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