Marsha Rowe, facing front, says goodbye to Teresa Lonsberry as she and her husband, Bill, prepare pull out Tuesday from the San Carlos RV Park and head back to Michigan. They spent the last four months on Fort Myers Beach.
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Three blasts from the air horn signaled the last of many goodbyes.
that, the 40-foot motor home with Bill and Marsha Rowe and German
wirehaired pointers Dieter and Gretchen lumbered away. Destination: New
Boston, southwest of Detroit.
all leaving: It's just a matter of time," said Dick Werning, a neighbor
of the Rowes at San Carlos RV Park near Fort Myers Beach.
and the Rowes are Southwest Florida snowbirds - that human species who
help make the local economy purr between November and April.
month, improving weather, family and business ties beckon them north.
It's a bittersweet time for many snowbirds - and for the local
businesses who count on their dollars during "season."
week following Easter also marks the beginning of the end for local
tourism's "high season,' when visitor demand is highest and hotel rates
At stake: In
Lee County, a $2.4 billion-a-year local industry that employs almost
43,000 people. In Collier County, a $1.4 billion industry accounting for
an estimated 32,300 jobs.
all accounts, Southwest Florida had a slam-dunk good season. Business
leaders credit improving consumer confidence, decent weather here - and
bouts of bitter temperatures in New England and the Midwest.
started early, and stayed strong," said Gary Locke, operations director
for SunStream Hotels & Resorts' six properties in Lee and Collier
an extraordinary amount of group business. And, our leisure business was
up considerably over last year," said Hunter Hansen, managing director
of the Waldorf Astoria Naples.
Rentals on Sanibel Island "had one of our best seasons," said owner
Billy Kirkland, who estimated his business was up 8 percent year over
year. Among the big contributors: families with small children who
the Ocean's Reach condominium complex on Sanibel Island, "we had 97
percent occupancy January through March," said manager Andy Boyle,
adding: "Business was up more than 7 percent for the season. How high
can you go?"