LAKELAND, Fla. - Businesses in Lakeland say they’re hurting right now because the pandemic has forced many of the Canadian snowbirds to stay home.
Even the busy lunch hour is slower than usual at the Silver Ring Café in downtown Lakeland.
“We're at least 50% down, I would imagine,” said manager Patricia Rasmusson. “It’s very frustrating. I’m just hoping things get back to normal.”
Canadian tourists reportedly spend upwards of $6.5 billion in the U.S.
Polk County is usually a major landing spot for Canadians looking to spend their winters -- and their money -- here, but not this year. Not with the pandemic keeping the U.S.-Canada border closed to vehicle traffic. That’s big, because 70% of Canadians tend to drive down here.
“The financial impact of having a Canadian snowbird in the great state of Florida has always been very helpful to the economy there and we want that to continue,” said Christopher Davidge of Medipac Travel Insurance.
Medipac is one of the sponsors for the annual Snowbird Extravaganza in Lakeland; the event in January is cancelled.
“We need mayors and governors and congress people who represent districts in Florida to tell the Department of Homeland Security that Canadians who own property in the U.S. and in Florida, to let them through the border,” he continued.
It’s unclear when that could happen.
“I don’t know if this is our new normal, I sure hope not,” added Rasmusson.