Successful tourism season in south Florida?

'Snowbirds' preparing to fly north

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The arrivals of Passover and Easter often coincide with the departure of many Florida tourists and 'snowbirds'. Nearing the unofficial end to 'the season' in south Florida, some say their economic hopes have lived up to expectations.

At the start of the typical tourism season last fall, John Reis, Owner of Hot Pie Pizza in downtown West Palm Beach described what he hoped was on the way.

"We are now starting to move in a positive direction," Reis said several months ago. "There's no question about it." Asked if his hopes became reality, Reis says now, "It kind of lived up to my expectations but it didn't exceed our expectations".

At Palm Beach, some New York City tourists were soaking up their last rays of sunshine on Tuesday, while pondering a more permanent move down to the warmer weather.

"I wouldn't mind moving out here," said Kingsley Ohikuara, who hails from Staten Island. "We'll see," he said.

'Snowbirds' and shorter-term vacationers are the lifeblood of Florida's largest economic driver - tourism.

"More people are spending more money here," said Tom List, who lives in Palm Beach. "That's what we want."

In Palm Beach County in February, hotels had an 86 percent occupancy rate, according to a recent report by Smith Travel Research. That percentage is up from an 83 percent occupancy rate in February of 2012.

Approximately 70 million people visited Florida in 2012 and tourism officials are hoping for more in 2013.


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