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At an economic estimation conference on July 20, state economists expressed optimism that tourism numbers would rebound faster once COVID-19 border restrictions are lifted and international travelers, especially Canadians, could visit Florida.

“The border is closed. The border opens. You are going to make a big leap in terms of personnel, ”said Holger Ciupalo, coordinator of the Governor’s Policy and Budget Office.

The move was momentarily awaited by the White House at the time, but the burgeoning delta variant derailed plans to reopen until this week.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would reopen the country’s land borders to “non-essential travel” for fully vaccinated people from November 1, ending a 19-month freeze induced by a pandemic.

Under the new rules, travelers entering the United States by vehicle, train and ferry will be questioned about vaccination status by United States Customs and Border Protection officials, who will have the discretion to request that any proof of vaccination presented is verified as part of a secondary screening process.

While the reopening of the Canada-U.S. Border on November 1 will improve Canadian tourism to Florida, it will also lead to a difficult and hopeful return of what had become a suddenly rare winter species in the Sunshine State: Canada’s snowbird. .

About 1 million Canadians spend up to six months wintering in Florida each year, contributing an estimated $ 6.5 billion to the state’s economy.

But with the border closed since March 2020 to “non-essential” traffic, essentially prohibiting people from crossing in personal vehicles, many Canadian “snowbirds” never made it to Florida last year.

Some Canadians flew south and wintered without their cars or had them shipped by train. The cost of stealing and shipping the cars – between $ 2,000 and $ 2,500 – held many back in the provinces for the winter.

According to a survey conducted by Snowbird Advisor, only about 30% of Canadian seasonal visitors were able to winter in Florida last year, but over 90% said they wanted to this year.

Canadian Snowbird Association legal counsel Wallace Weylie told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Wednesday that there was a growing pent-up demand from ordinary snowbirds to return to their “winter homes.”

“The feeling is that they are not going to spend another winter in Canada,” he said.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) that there is “strong demand” for travel to US destinations – including Florida – “with many of these markets at the same rate as 2019 levels “.

While Canadian “snowbirds” are an important component of the state’s seasonal economy, tourists – short-term visitors – from Canada are also a fundamental part of the state’s tourism economy.

In Florida, Canadians represent a significant portion of the tourism dependent economy. More than 3.6 million Canadians made short-term visits to the state in 2019.

In 2020, the state recorded just 1.286 million Canadian visitors, down 64.5% year over year. The tree continued in the first quarter of 2021, with just 34,000 Canadians visiting, a drop of 97.2% for the same period in 2020.

While trucks and other commercial vehicles have been allowed to cross the border as “essential travel,” the Nov. 1 reopening is also expected to grease the trade rails between Florida and Canada.

According to a 48-page Canada-Florida Economic Impact Study 2018 produced by the Canadian Consulate in Miami, “Canada is Florida’s most important economic partner” with $ 7 billion in goods traded annually between the United States. State and nation.

Canada is “responsible for more than 620,000 jobs in the state,” according to the report, adding that “Canadian tourism to Florida contributed $ 686.56 million to state and local coffers in 2016 alone. “.

These figures are similar to figures in Enterprise Florida’s 2015-17 Florida-Canada Trade Profile, which indicates that in 2017, “Florida and Canada enjoyed more than $ 7 billion in trade, which supported approximately 600,000 jobs in the state.

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Key words: News, Florida, State

Original author: John Haughey | The central square

Original location: Florida prepares for the return of a seasonal species: the Canadian snowbird

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