Texas rounds up the troops in Toronto to share the latest product news
Debra Bustos, Texas Tourism (left) and Rosalyn Hunter, Director of Communications for Texas Tourism in Canada, Vox International

Texas rounds up the troops in Toronto to share the latest product news

TORONTO — Here’s what we know about Texans after yesterday’s media breakfast in Toronto: they’re serious about their wine, they’re proud of their cities, and they love and welcome all Canadians.

Representatives from Texas Tourism and its travel partners hosted members of the media at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel on Thursday morning to share with them the latest news from the state’s top destinations. According to Rosalyn Hunter, Director of Communications for Texas Tourism in Canada, Vox International, who emceed the event, now is the perfect time to promote Texas, when the low loonie has caused many Canadian travellers to rein in their budgets.

“We all know about the low loonie but we want Canadians to know that a lot of attractions are free in Texas, making for an affordable holiday,” she said.

Hunter also noted that Canada is the state’s #2 international market, with 453,000 Canadians visiting in 2015. Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec are its biggest provincial markets, while the average length of stay among tourists is 10.5 nights.

Canadian numbers are expected to see an uptick this year courtesy of Air Canada’s new nonstop routes to Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. Daily year-round service between Vancouver and Dallas-Fort Worth launched on Feb. 5, while daily service between Toronto and San Antonio will kick off May 1. Following shortly after will be daily service between Montreal and Dallas-Forth Worth starting May 26.

Calling it “a big deal”, Hunter was quick to point out the significance of Air Canada’s connectivity, for both Canadians and Texans. In fact, according to Sana Keller of Pulse Travel Marketing, the Canadian representative for the San Antonio CVB, the city of San Antonio is investing $100,000 to promote Air Canada’s new flight with a two-day promotional event at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto on April 29 and 30, complete with Texan chefs, music and authentic park rangers.

And though the new routes are specific to only San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth, the good news about Texas is that its major cities are easily within driving distance. This allows visitors to customize a multi-city getaway or, as Hunter noted, even a quick weekend trip. And going by what we learned at breakfast yesterday, Canadians will want to see as much as possible in a state that’s just so fun.

For example, did you know that Texas is home to over 750 golf courses? Or that it’s the fifth largest wine producing state in the United States – and also the fourth largest in terms of wine consumption? The state boasts 181 wineries, not to mention 80+ craft breweries. And if you haven’t already heard, no one throws a party quite like like Texans, as evident by the annual State Fair of Texas (Sept. 29-Oct. 22), Mardi Gras (Feb. 2-13, 2018), Fiesta San Antonio (April 19-29) and South by Southwest (March 9-18).

Here’s what else we learned from Texas’ destination partners:

LUBBOCK:
• Lubbock has been named 2016’s #1 Western City, with a population of 250,000
• It’s located one hour away from DFW and is known as the “Hub City’ due to its close proximity to five major highways and Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport
• It’s the birthplace of Buddy Holly and home to the Buddy Holly Center
• 80% of Texas’ wine grapes are grown in Lubbock County & the surrounding area
• It’s an affordable destination, with an average hotel stay of just US$88/night and many free attractions
• It boasts 2,300 events each year, including ‘First Friday Art Trail’, a free self-guided public art tour that takes place every month

MCCALLEN:
• McCallen is located three hours south of San Antonio
• This ‘birding’ paradise is located directly in the migratory path of birds (spring and fall are the best times to go)
• It’s home to the largest single-floor library in the United States
• A new Performing Arts Centre just opened last November
• It was once designated as the least expensive city to live in the U.S.

GRAPEVINE:
• Ideally situated between Dallas and Fort Worth
• It takes just five minutes to drive from DFW airport to downtown Grapevine
• Home to 150 grape varieties, it hosts ‘GrapeFest’, the largest Wine Festival in southern United States
• It’s state-certified as the Christmas Capital of Texas, with 1,400 Christmas events taking place in 40 days
• Stand Rock Hospitality has plans to open a US$330 million, 1,020-room resort with indoor and outdoor waterparks, mini-golf, rock climbing, a spa and meeting space (construction to begin mid-2017)
• Embassy Suites DFW Airport North has broken ground on a $13 million renovation of its lobby, atrium, Starbucks and all meeting rooms, with guestrooms to follow

FORT WORTH:
• The city has launched a new ad campaign that includes Canadian at-par hotel pricing from April-December, a special Canadian package at the Omni Fort Worth hotel, free daytime admission to Billy Bob’s Texas in July and discounted attraction tickets
• The Chisholm Trail route, which was used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year
• Fort Worth is home to the only Michelangelo in the Americas, which is currently displayed at the Kimbell Museum
• New Hotels in 2017-2018 include: Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel (fall 2017), Aloft (2017), Fairfield Inn & Suites (2017), Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel (2018), and Courtyard Marriott (February 2017)
• The Stockyards National Historic District has announced a $175 million development plan that will include additional shops, restaurants and hotels

GALVESTON ISLAND:
• Located just 30 minutes by car from Houston
• Last fall, the island completed an $18 million beach makeover featuring upgraded recreational space
• The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, one of Galveston’s most popular attractions, is in the process of a $39 million renovation to be unveiled in May 2017
• The new MASSIV ride at Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, which was unveiled last June, is the world’s tallest water coaster
• Galveston is home to the fourth busiest cruise port in the United States, with cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Disney

HOUSTON:
• Houston is America’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million
• The biggest news coming out of Houston is the new pedestrian-friendly Avenida Houston, featuring art installations, restaurants and the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston
• The Houston CityPASS includes discounted rates to five attractions, including Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo or Museum of Fine Arts, and Children’s Museum of Houston or Kemah Boardwalk
• The best-selling Broadway production ‘Hamilton’ is coming to Houston next April
• 11 out of 18 museums in the walkable Museum District are free

SAN ANTONIO:
• San Antonio celebrates its 300th anniversary this year with a checklist of events, which can be found at www.celebrate2018.com
• Hotel Emma, the city’s newest addition to its esteemed Pearl complex, opened in November 2015 with 146 rooms and a culinary concierge
• The 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden is adding eight acres this spring, which will include a Family Adventure Garden and Culinary Garden
• The Doseum children’s museum is now open, featuring hands-on activities for children up to age 10
• Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park, will open this spring and will boast a River Boat Adventure ride and five water play areas
• Six Flags Fiesta Texas celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with a new ride called Thunder Rapids

For more information on travel to Texas, go to TravelTexas.com.