© 2021 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

This Snowbird Season Fewer Canadians Are Coming To South Florida

Caitie Switalski Muñoz
Richard's Motel sits just south of Young Circle in Hollywood, on U.S. 1.

The Canadian government recently announced an extended closure of the land border it shares with the U.S. and a motel owner in Hollywood who caters to Quebecois is preparing for a much slower season.

Last year — before the coronavirus pandemic came to South Florida — WLRN brought you during the holidays to Richard's Motel in Hollywood, which caters to French-Canadian snowbirds. Normally, many like to return for the same winter vacation year after year.

Now, Snowbird season is here again, but not many are coming this year.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

Richard Clavet — the Richard of Richard's Motel — says PPP loans back in the spring helped him avoid layoffs. But now, about nine months into the pandemic, his business is hurting.

"We're not gonna see that many people this year," he said. "They're all scared. My numbers are down between 10 and 15% per month."

One of his only current French-Canadian guests, Chantal Rheault, walks from the beach back to the colorful motel courtyard. She says she's been enjoying her three-week vacation without worrying about COVID-19.

"I don't want to be in Quebec in the snow and in the bad weather. It's better here than our place," she said. "Our place, everything is closed."

Rheault flew down for her Florida holiday vacation, and said it was easy and she felt safe. She'll fly back in early December. Rheault is retired, so she has the time to complete the quarantine period the Quebec government mandates for people returning from outside the country.

Yet many of Clavet's returning motel guests year after year like to drive down from Quebec, and make a road trip out of their holidays. Or take a cruise.

That can't happen this year.

Recently, the Canadian government announced the land border between the U.S. and Canada will remain closed for all nonessential travel "at least" through Dec. 21.

Clavet says he doesn't realistically see the border reopening before Christmas.

He's still figuring out what safety measures to put in place for the rest of the season for the few snowbirds like Rheault who will fly down.

"It's a small down-to-earth place," he said. "I cannot be behind every customer and making sure you know, put [Purell] in their hands. I can't. It's just like, people have to use their common sense."