Canyon South Rim, Arizona
View of North Rim from Yaki Point, Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona

Arizona looking for more snowbirds this winter season

VANCOUVER — Arizona is looking to up its tourism numbers from Canada during the winter of 2014-2015 as it tallied 980,000 Canadian visitors to the state last year.

Alberta led the way in visitors followed by Ontario and B.C. in third place.

“It was almost a million,” said Tony Alba, Arizona state media relations manager for the U.S. and Canada. Alberta visitors lead all of Canada, he believes, because of its close proximity to the state and short flight.

Alba led a delegation of Arizona area representatives to Vancouver earlier this month to promote the flight of the Canadian snowbirds south. From Vancouver, both Air Canada and WestJet are serving the market.

“Air Canada will be adding a flight on Dec. 17,” Alba said.

The event that is expected to draw from throughout Canada is Super Bowl XLIX which will take place Feb. 1, 2015 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, home to the Arizona Cardinals.

Doug McKenzie, director of media relations for Phoenix, said: “Downtown Phoenix is going to be the downtown centre of family fun and activity leading up to the Super Bowl.” But, for those who can’t arrive in February of next year for the event, there are other festivals happening this fall in downtown Phoenix such as the unusual but fun Taco festival held Oct. 18 and 19 where over 40 restaurants will put forward their best culinary product for sampling.

December brings the light show at the city’s desert botanical garden. Agents should also know that the Biltmore Arizona has finished its multi-million renovation to the guest rooms.

Scottsdale has slated a week-long program of events building up to the Super Bowl, said Megan Neighbor, communications manager for the Scottsdale Visitors Bureau. Also, the Scottsdale Museum of the West does a soft opening in December and a formal opening in January 2015 and is being billed as one of the largest in the area. The new Bespoke Inn (a bed and breakfast) is now open while the Royal Palm Resort and Spa, a luxury property, has undergone a renovation.

The newest tour attraction Scottsdale now offers is Arizona Powerchutes, an adventure company that works with travel agents, and supplies power-driven parachutes. See arizonapowerchutes.com for more information for clients who want to soar.

Other areas and events in Arizona include:

Flagstaff – Agents should send families and those seeking adventure or extreme vacations, suggests Flagstaff’s marketing and media representative Heather Ainardi. Because of the higher elevation, it’s not a market that most seniors or retirees find appealing. “There are no spas here,” she said. Flagstaff Extreme (flagstaffextreme.com) offers treetop and swing rope experiences for both adults and children, while Hitchin’g Post Stables Dude Ranch offers trail rides and is licensed to take groups on horseback into surrounding national forests. Flagstaff, said Ainardi, is also a high altitude training area for athletes and many international team, with several international training facilities located in the areas that cater to elite athletes.

Sedona – Kegn Hall, media relations, said the town draws many retirees who come for the diverse accommodations found in the area. They range from Super 8 and Best Western accommodation to destination spas. Hall said Sedona also attracts those that want a ‘western’ experience as there are cowboy cookouts and activities, but Sedona is also becoming known for the vineyards located in the area. One popular tour is entitled ‘water to wine’ offered by Sedona Adventure Tours (sedonaadventuretours.com), she said. The trip consists of kayaking to the various vineyards. Visitors can also rent a vehicle and visit the wineries that are only a few minutes away from Sedona. More information is available on Sedona’s website.

Yuma – Media relations Ann Walker said one type of client that Canadian travel agents are sending to the area are those with medical or dental problems. “We are right by the Mexican border,” said Walker adding that these individuals travel into Mexico to get dental work done, obtain eye-glasses, or prescription drugs at a much lower cost than can be obtained in Canada. The cost saving on extensive dental work, she said, can pay for a two-week stay in Yuma. Yuma is a focal point for snowbirds, she said, mainly because of its reputation of being the “sunniest place on earth” which she said “appeals to Canadians” during the winter months. It offers history, golf, and great birding. “We are right along the river and there are more than 400 species of bird that either stop over or stay in Yuma – including the Canadian snowbirds,” she said. Yuma is also lower cost compared to other parts of Arizona, she said, adding “we get a lot of Canadians who are bargain hunters”. Agri-tourism in the area is also growing with tours of farms available through companies such as Field to Feast Agricultural Tours, UCDRC Farm Smart program, plus numerous cooking classes are popular with tourists. A fig festival is held in November.

Prescott – Prescott director of tourism Don Prince said the town is known for drawing in history buffs because of its rich legacy dating back to 1864 and will appeal to Canadian visitors wanting to explore its old-west culture and museums. It will also appeal to individuals who have an interest in early buildings. “We have 700 buildings that are listed on the national registry,” he said, adding there is a downtown walking tour. As well, the area draws the adventure tourist as it has five lakes offering kayaking and 450 miles of trails plus rock-climbing areas. Prescott is also the official Christmas city of Arizona. Tours that can be booked include Prescott Backcountry Tours which uses six-wheeled Pinzgauer, a German tank-like vehicle to climb terrain and travel through snow. See prescottbackcountry.com for more information.

Tempe – For families that want a lower-cost vacation than staying larger centres such as Phoenix or Scottsdale, Tempe offers family activities, attractions and lower cost accommodations, said media representative Amy Griglak. “We are also only a short drive from the airport,” she said, adding that the area can be reached by light rail transit.