They herald the start of the annual winter season, when thousands of people from up north migrate to Yuma to bask in the sunshine, preferring shuffleboard for their activity of choice over shoveling snow.
Last winter, slightly more than 80,000 winter visitors descended on Yuma. That’s fewer than in some years but still a big temporary increase to Yuma’s population and an infusion of an estimated $600 million to the local economy, Jon Heidrich told the audience at Thursday’s Know Yuma Inside and Out.
Heidrich, who owns and operates Shangri-La RV Resort with his family, was one of the speakers for the monthly business forum that focuses on various elements of the local economy.
The typical winter visitor is a retired blue-collar worker or farmer coming to the Southwest to get out of the cold, Heidrich said.
“We fondly refer to them as the Old Guard. They’re happy to get a reasonable place to stay and sunshine.”
But things are changing, he said.
“We’re seeing the front end of the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965. There’s 78 million of them … 35 percent of the U.S. adult population. It’s a huge segment.”
And they’re reaching retirement age by the millions every year. As they do, they want it all, Heidrich said.
“The first thing,” said Mac McCann, director of operations for Palms RV Resort, “is get to know your customer. The ‘boomerbird’ is different from the ‘snowbird’ with their demands and expectations.”
They have every intention of enjoying their retirement, and many of them are getting a head start with long vacations in the cold winter months, he said.
They’re also a more affluent group. McCann noted that last year, 50 percent of the Palms RV residents were in motor homes valued from $150,000 to $2 million.
McCann agreed with Heidrich that the new wave of winter visitors is looking for activities and entertainment. And the resort delivers with a series of concerts by professional entertainers and a jam-packed 26 weeks of 200 diverse events, activities and classes from jewelry design to music lessons and sailing, along with fitness programs and a spa that stays busy all day.