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The trends shaping the global snowbird market

snow·​bird (noun). 1: any of several birds seen chiefly in winter. 2: one who travels to warm climes for the winter

Hugo Thistlethwayte, Head of International Residential at Savills, explains how the snowbird real-estate market is evolving

Snowbirds take shorter, more frequent trips

Taking a break from the cold and migrating to a warmer climate remains a popular choice for many people – that’s not going to change. What is changing, however, is the frequency and duration. We’re now seeing people taking more trips, but shorter ones. The idea that people might spend a couple of months away is outdated. The demographic of snowbirds is much broader these days, from millennials through to older generations. People are busier and don’t want to spend too long away from their family or business.

Snowbirds fly all over the world

The snowbird phenomenon is worldwide, and each market has its favourite destinations. Travellers from Canada and the east coast of the US, for example, favour the Caribbean and Florida – popular locations with Europeans, too. On the west coast of the US, there’s a well-worn route down to the Baja Peninsula and Mexico. Southern Spain remains in demand with northern Europeans, as does Marrakech. Meanwhile, a short break in Thailand is a popular destination for the Chinese and Russian markets, the latter also travelling to Dubai (below) and Egypt.


Snowbirds value their time

If you’re taking shorter trips, you want to make the most of your time. No one wants to spend large chunks of their time driving to and from an airport. That’s why we’re seeing growth in the popularity of city breaks such as Barcelona and Marrakech. They provide a wide choice of cultural and recreational facilities, but they’re close to an airport, too.

The same is true for the Caribbean Islands that have direct flights, such as St Lucia (main image) and Barbados, are more attractive for short breaks. It makes a huge difference if you can avoid a connecting flight. The Cayman Islands are experiencing a boom time in visits from the US market because of this great accessibility.

Snowbirds like to invest and gain income

Although people are going on more trips to more places, they are still prepared to buy or invest in their favourite location. However, spending less time in one place highlights the fact that their property will be empty for longer, with associated costs for staffing or maintenance.

As such, people want income from their property. One solution is branded residences. Resorts such as Missoni Baia and The Mandarin Oriental Residences, Barcelona (below) are attractive to time-poor individuals seeking a high service offer, hassle-free ownership and the prospect of rental returns when not in occupancy.

Image of the Missoni Baia and The Mandarin Oriental Residences in Barcelona