More snowbirds flocking to Victoria for the winter

Low Canadian dollar prompted more seniors to head west

Margaret Scheyen has an almost perfect view of Victoria’s Inner Harbour from her RV at the Westbay Marine Village RV park in Esquimalt.

Her 36-foot-long RV sits along the edge of the water — allowing for scenic views almost anytime of day. Waking up early in the morning, she often sees birds swimming with their ducklings along the water, and at night, Scheyen and her husband watch the sun set over the city.

“Victoria is the most beautiful place at this time of year in Canada,” said the 72-year-old, whose sister also lives in Victoria. “It’s the only place where it’s green in March and the flowers are out. The city is beautiful. We love the walkways and the water.”

For the past four years, Scheyen has escaped part of the cold winters in Red Deer, Alberta by making the two-day journey to Victoria at the beginning of March and spending two months living along the water.

Then they drive back east to Ontario to visit her husband’s mother before returning to Red Deer, in time for summer.

“It just makes the winters a little bit shorter, but we don’t want to live here because we have children and grandchildren at home,” Scheyen said. “It’s a nice way to have both.”

Scheyen is one of hundreds of people known as snowbirds — Canadian seniors who travel to warmer climates such as Arizona, California, or Florida in the winter months before returning home for summer.

However, with the low Canadian dollar this year more snowbirds chose to save money by staying in Canada and heading to places like Victoria.

Between November to March, roughly 50 per cent of occupants in the RV park are snowbirds who stay for several months, said the park’s maintenance manager Curtis Kirkpatrick.

“Normally, we’re completely full. Now we’re already looking into booking next year and we’re looking very full. It’s very difficult to get a spot,” Kirkpatrick said. “You come in the winter and people are shocked because they can’t get a spot because it’s so full with snowbirds.”

There are 62 sites at the park that offers sewage, water, hydro and cable hookups.

Scheyen added it’s so busy she’s even booked her stay at the RV park for the next two years.

Vacation rental agencies such as City Life Suites were also busy due to the flock of snowbirds this year.

Co-owner Melissa Frank said they’re turning many people away because it’s so busy. In the past, people booked their rentals for the next year in the middle of the year. However, this year, people began booking in late January.

“People are realizing that a lot of Canadians aren’t going down south,” she said, adding they manage 20 suites in downtown Victoria, 90 per cent of which are already booked for next winter.

“I think the primary reason is the Canadian dollar. The demand is so much greater at this point. It’s a great thing for Victoria and the tourism industry”

The weather is also a big factor in drawing snowbirds to Victoria, she added.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com