High numbers of winter visitors return to Yuma

After the COVID pandemic slowed down the Snowbirds visiting, Desert Southwest businesses are happy things are on their way back to normal – 13 On Your Side’s Vanessa Gongora reports

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) – It’s that time of year when winter visitors make their way to the sunshine capital of the world, Yuma, and contribute tens of millions of dollars to our economy every year.

But COVID put a hold on that.

This year though, things are looking up for our economy this winter season as visitors come from the north and even from across the pond to live in the Desert Southwest.

Winter visitor Gary Austin from England has called Yuma home during the winter for the past 22 years.

“We come here every year, we stay here for six months with the sunshine and thoroughly enjoy the food, the people. It’s wonderful,” says Austin.

He’s just one of tens of thousands of visitors making their way to Yuma and Imperial County.

The perfect time for a Winter Visitors Bash at the Yuma Civic Center on Wednesday where travelers learned about local businesses.

One business in attendance at the bash was Haven Health Yuma.

Heather McDermott and her daughter Santana Galaviz, part of Haven Heath Yuma Care Relations explain how they can assist the winter visitors.

“We do long-term and short-term rehab and we do physical therapy, occupational therapy speech,” explains McDermott. “We also have long-term, so if you have family member that needs somewhere to stay for a while, we also do that as well.”

Galaviz says helping the winter visitors is life-changing.

“The most rewarding part is the fact that we can get these patients from being sick to being healthy again and that is the most rewarding part when they come back and thank us for everything we did for them,” Galaviz says.

The manager of Goldwater Estates RV Park, Nilda Montalvo, says visitors have become friends and business is booming since the pandemic

“The first year there were none. Last year there were some, now I’m already getting many, so I’m already booked.”

Montalvo says although all 98 spaces have been reserved, she may still have one-night openings and has spaces available for 40-footer RVs.

Visit Yuma says plans on seeing more winter visitors this year maybe as many as 70,000, numbers we saw before the pandemic.

Jeff Costello, a former Washington state resident, now a Yuman in the making is helping fellow travelers secure an RV at Country Club RV.

“I love Yuma. I’m not in the rain anymore. It seems like it’s always sunny and people are friendly in Yuma, Arizona,” explains Costello.

Yuma County says winter visitors contribute more than 400 million dollars in economic activity every year.

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