Snowbirds caught in pandemic turbulence feed

The Snowbirds — the hundreds of thousands of Canadian retirees traveling south for the winter — faced many obstacles due to travel restrictions imposed during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study on media reporting.

Valorie Crooks, professor of geography at Simon Fraser University, and Jeremy Snyder, professor of health sciences, examined the plight of snowbirds as portrayed in the media during the critical first year of the pandemic. Their research is published this month in the journal The Canadian Geographer.

“Unlike vacationers who have had to divert their plans at different stages of the pandemic, snowbirds see themselves differently, with moving being an essential part of their lifestyle and often linked to health considerations,” says Crooks, holder of a a Canada Research Chair in Health Services. geographies, and has studied for years those who flock to snowbird communities in areas like Florida and Arizona.

The researchers’ analysis of 187 Canadian newspaper articles identified key themes or factors attributed to snowbirds as the pandemic progressed:

  • Consumers who contribute to local communities: a focus on the importance of snowbirds to businesses, local economies and tourism sectors in their destinations, including gains for specific Canadian businesses, such as winter recreational vehicle (RV) parks that sell space, and issues related to snowbirds and travel insurance.
  • Travelers seeking stability: the impact of closures and continued closures and the desire to live with restrictions in a warmer climate during the winter. Some media accounts portray snowbirds as empowered/privileged people who sometimes make risky decisions to achieve stability and comfort, such as the ability to get vaccinated earlier in the United States than if they had stayed in Canada.
  • Faced with new uncertainties: uncertainty related to snowbird travel, as retired international ‘migrants’ were the focus of media concerns. While they faced issues returning from overseas following the closure of US land borders to non-essential travellers, there was also great uncertainty over whether the snowbirds would be able to return to their seasonal residences. in 2021 as ongoing pandemic measures continue to impact snowbird travel..

The researchers note that fewer stories deal with the health of snowbirds or, as travelers, their ability to transmit or spread the virus. They suggest further research could involve interviewing snowbirds to see if their experiences are reflected in the media, as well as how home communities and social media play a role in helping them cope with restrictions and other pandemic changes affecting them.

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