Spring travel rising as snow buries the North
South Florida's travel industry can smile when the snow piles up in the north.
And it's about to pile up again.
Hotels and resorts were already reporting strong bookings for this month and beyond as weary northerners long to trade their snow boots for flip-flops.
More than 1.2 million travelers, including 10,000 to 12,000 college students, are expected to visit Broward County this spring and summer, spending more than $1.15 billion, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. That's up from 1 million visitors just a couple of springs ago.
CEO Nicki E. Grossman noted increased bookings this year for minority group family reunions and medical group businesses and upticks in collegiate sports activity.
The region's spring cruise season also is expected to grow 3 percent, Grossman said.
"Demand into Fort Lauderdale has been very strong in January and February, and we expect that trend to continue through Easter," said Donald Reilly, sales manager of the 360-room Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale-17th Street.
The hotel is a popular spring travel choice for families vacationing or making a stop before a cruise, Reilly said. Corporate groups and associations also are checking in.
The 517-room W Fort Lauderdale has seen an influx in bookings for stays between March and May, and also a bump in mid-week group bookings, General Manager Marylouise Fitzgibbon said.
In Palm Beach County, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa is enjoying a strong first quarter, and occupancy is expected to remain high through April, buoyed in part by the late Easter/Passover holiday, General Manager Jeff Castner said.
The Tropic Cay Hotel and adjacent Waterfront Inns have nearly sold out their combined 120 rooms in Fort Lauderdale for March, front desk manager Shawn Hadden said.
"It's pretty much Spring Breakers," Hadden said. "It'll be that way for the whole month."
The weather forecast up north won't hurt. After months of brutal snow and cold, another winter storm is headed across the country this week. The long-range forecast calls for below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation in most of the Midwest and Northeast.
It all makes a flight to the South seem appealing, as do the prices.
At $264 roundtrip, Fort Lauderdale had the cheapest average airfare for travelers departing New York — an 8 percent decrease from 2013, according to a recent survey from Fly.com, which ranked the lowest airfares from a variety of cities in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
West Palm Beach had the second-lowest average roundtrip out of Boston: $220.
Fly.com findings were based on data from more than 4.75 million searches for international and domestic flights for travel dates between March 1 and April 6.
For the third year in a row, South Florida also ranked No. 1 on Travelocity's list of Top 10 Spring Break Destinations, with average roundtrip airfare of $417.