GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the temperatures and windchill dipped below the zero mark over the past few weeks and snow continued to pound West Michigan, many residents began dreaming of a different view.
Instead of white-outs, they’ve been thinking about white sandy beaches.
Instead of temperatures reaching negative 15, how about 86 degrees in Honolulu?
At Witte Travel and AAA in Grand Rapids, the phones have been ringing off the hook.
“Oh, they definitely want to get out of town,” said David VanderWeele, the field sales manager of branch operations at AAA Grand Rapids.
In fact, tcalls and bookings for the agency have gone up five to 10 percent over the same time last year.
“Our call volume has definitely picked up in the last several days,” said VanderWeele. “Driving or flying, anything to get out of state.”
At Witte Travel, the change is even greater. People “are they are definitely wanting to escape this weather,” said travel consultant Antonia Barczak. She said calls and bookings have jumped 20% from the same time in 2013.
“We actually have five or six new employees that we’ve hired on, just to assist us with this increase.”
The most popular destinations are sunny locales.
“Florida, Arizona, Southern California, San Diego, and south, along with the Riviera Maya area, Cancun,” said VanderWeele.
“Mexico, the Jamaican area, Punta Cana,” said Barczak.
Vacation calls aren’t the only thing keeping the employees at AAA busy. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, there were so many folks who got stuck or involved in accidents in the snowstorm, AAA Grand Rapids was pulling in calls of 700 to 900 per hour for emergency assistance, VanderWeele said.
With so many snow problems, it’s no wonder West Michigan wants to get away. VanderWeele sees no sign of a slow-down, with more weather on the way.