Chamber Business News

Discount flights to Canada, eh?

Ultra low-cost air fares to Canada. Direct. Non-stop. They’re here.

New ultra low cost carrier (ULCC) Swoop just announced it will start offering flights from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport to Edmonton in October. One-way fares start at $99.

Earlier this year, low-fare airline Rouge began flying to Montreal from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Both are indicators that Canadian tourism and investment in Arizona are growing despite Trump Slump fears over trade wars.

“Five feet of snow,” jokes Glenn Williamson about why Canadians love Arizona. “Getting Canadians to come to Arizona is not rocket science. Blue skies really do work.”

Now, Arizonans have a good excuse to visit his native Canada as well, said Williamson, honorary consul of Canada in Arizona and CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC).

There are now four airlines in the Phoenix area to choose from – Swoop, WestJet, Air Canada and Rouge – that fly direct to Canadian cities like Edmonton, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

Swoop is the first ULCC to come to the state. It is a subsidiary of WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline. WestJet no longer will offer flights between Mesa and Edmonton. WestJet will still serve Calgary from the Mesa airport, and Edmonton and several other Canadian cities from Sky Harbor. Air Canada and its low-fare carrier, Rouge, both fly out of Sky Harbor.

Canadians now make up the largest international spenders in Arizona behind Mexico. They spend $1 billion a year with almost 900,000 visits. Canadian snowbirds spend another $1.4 billion annually, according to the CABC.

Industry is investing here, too. A decade ago, the state housed 80 Canadian companies, Williamson said. Today, there are more than 400, making Canada the top international employer. To mention a few: Circle K, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, St. Clair Technologies, Tucson Electric Power Company, EPCOR, Standard Aero, Bombardier, Silent-Air, and JV Driver.

Some companies are relocating to Arizona for its stable climate, proximity to Mexico, and lower priced housing and taxes, Williamson said. Last year, Danby Appliances Inc., one of the largest compact appliance companies in North America, relocated from California to sign a $2.58 million long term lease for 155,000 square feet of industrial space for a regional hub in Tolleson.

Canadian industry in Arizona has grown pretty much word of mouth, Williamson said.  

“When we analyzed it, we found that roughly 85 percent of those Canadian companies didn’t go through any form of economic development,” he said. “We found that people who bought homes here were CEOs of Canadian companies and they’d be on the golf course, and ask, ‘What accountant or lawyer should I use?’ They used the old buddy network and set up their companies.”

Williamson should know. Born in Montreal, he has dual citizenship and is chairman of EPCOR Water USA, the largest private water utility in Arizona, a subsidiary of EPCOR Utilities, headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. He also is CEO of Nest Ventures L.L.C. with offices in Montreal and Phoenix.  

“We seem to be getting the best of the best from Canada,” he said.

Victoria Harker

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