By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Canadian tourists and snowbirds, who have traditionally flocked down to South Florida to escape the harsh winter weather, opted to stay home this past winter because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Their decision, driven mainly by COVID-related travel restrictions, impacted South Florida motel and hotel operators, who year after year rely on income generated by visitors from the north.

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Hotel operators said Canadian tourists were hard to find during the winter season in Broward County, especially in Hollywood, where visitors from the north cluster during the season.

“December, January, February, when I am full with Canadians… we lost about $300,000 in revenue in those three months by not having Canadians. That was painful,” said Richard Clavet.

Clavet operates Richard’s Motel and several other Hollywood motels and apartments that cater to Canadians escaping the harsh weather north of the border.

“Finally, it came December, when we are filled up with Canadians. There were only five couples from Canada,” Clavet said. “Those five couples did not stay, because they got scared.”

The pandemic affected travel in Canada. It became very difficult to travel because of COVID-related restrictions.

There were mandatory <a href=”http://coronavirus” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>coronavirus pre-flight tests and mandatory 14-day quarantine after entering the country.

Borders were also closed and it became a major hassle that most Canadians were not willing to take. As a result, South Florida saw fewer Canadians on the boardwalks.

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“I went to Hollywood beach one evening. It was full of people, but no Canadians,” said Clavet.

Canadian hot spots in Broward went without Canadians.

In years prior, an average of 3.5 million Canadians visited Florida annually, spending $6.5 billion, which translates into half a billion dollars in state tax revenue.

About 18,000 Canadians own homes in Broward County.

As far as Richard’s motel and other Broward properties, “I am so glad for the governor to open the state. It is beautiful. I have been having the best March I ever had here at the motel, April also the best. May, so far, a great month and I feel bad there are not Canadians!” said Clavet.

Fortunately, Americans, regional travelers, and weekend travelers eager for beach time and get out of the house filled up the shortfall.

“It’s booming. The place is full,” Clavet said.

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Clavet said he felt the surge of US tourists when stimulus checks started to flow, as people got their vaccines and because people got their income tax returns.