Pandemic doesn't stop many snowbirds from heading to Arizona

Fall is the time of year when tourists begin to return to Arizona for the warmer climate, and while this year may be different than any other, snowbirds are still making their way west for the winter.

Back in March, Arizona missed much of the peak season for tourism due to the state's closure of many businesses during the peak of the pandemic.

This fall, as businesses reopen, we're already starting to see the travelers and snowbirds make their way back.

"Those residents that have second homes here are chomping at the bit to get back down here and I think this will be a banner year," said Brian O'Neill, CEO of Mesa Gateway Airport Authority.

He says finally, travelers are coming in again after being down 93% for travelers back in April, compared to last year.

"We had more passenger activity in Labor Day Weekend this year than last year. If that is any indication, we are going to have a big travel season," O'Neill said.

Now with snowbird season, tourism will slowly start to pick up.

"The main reason is they would rather be in Arizona and deal with COVID than be in Minnesota or Wisconsin," O'Neill explained.

Teresa Beally is the activity director at Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa and says she can see the trends going upwards.

They have 3,500 residents, and she says many of them are snowbirds, ready to get traveling again.

"We are going to be at 70-80% occupancy. What is not surprising is the amount of Canadians coming back," Beally said, adding many Canadians will not be traveling due to the border closures still in place due to the pandemic.

But, O'Neill says starting in October, Swoop, a low-cost Canadian Airline will be flying out of Mesa Gateway to Edminton, making it easier for snowbirds.

Mesa Gateway is now down 35% in travelers compared to last year, showing an uptick in travel.