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Dec 27, 2013 11:22 PM by Sam Salzwedel

RV snowbirds bring money to Tucson

TUCSON - Snowbirds are putting money into the economy from RV parks.

The most recent scientific study shows winter visitors who live in RV parks bring about $600 million to the state's economy. It was conducted by Arizona State University in 2003, but Tim Vimmerstedt, with Visit Tucson, believes the numbers are probably comparable today.

Vimmerstedt thinks a lot of that money goes to Tucson instead of the state's biggest city.

"It's just not the traffic. And RVs are not easy to get around in Phoenix," Vimmerstedt said. "So we do see quite a few people choosing Tucson over the Phoenix market."

Dede Cillito has lived at South Forty RV Ranch on the Northwest Side for 8 years, working in the office the past 4 years. She said fewer than 100 of the 233 lots on the property are occupied year-round.

"Most of them that come here have been coming for years," Cillito said. "We got a lot of them that they're semi, they come for 6 months, and then they leave the minute it starts getting hot."

Mary Fraser, 84, has been spending her winters at South Forty for 13 years.

"We went to Florida 17 times and came back sick every time," Fraser said. "So I said, ‘OK, we're going to Tucson."

She lives in Michigan the rest of the year. The ability to swim in the park's heated pool is a major attraction, along with everything off the property.

"We've hiked every mountain around here," Fraser said. "We hiked for about the first 8 years we were here."

Tourism accounts for 22,000 jobs and $2.6 billion in Southern Arizona's economy, according to Vimmerstedt.

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