Canada is the number one international employer in Arizona, but it also sends a lot of tourists to the state.
According to the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), more than 970,000 Canadians traveled to Arizona in 2017. The highest number recorded in the report which goes back to 2012.
The number of Canadians traveling to Arizona could be partially attributed to the number of direct flights between Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Canada, according to Canada Arizona Business Council CEO Glenn Williamson.
AOT reports that 71 percent of Canadians traveled via airplane with 483,953 flying in on a direct flight — mostly from Calgary and Vancouver, which are two of the only four non-seasonal flights to Canada.
“What’s fascinating is Arizona travel connectivity is big,” Williamson said. “We’re over 209 direct flights a week between Canada and Arizona when the season starts [in] another month and a half or so.”
And the reason the flights are mostly seasonal? Arizona winters.
“I would love to say there’s a series of really complex types of reasons why Canadians come down here and it would take MBAs hours to sort through it, [but] weather. One word, it really is weather,” Williamson said.
However, he also noted the number of international travelers from Canada is flawed.
“In the numbers…we don’t count snowbirds,” Williamson said. “We [have] maybe a hundred thousand houses in Arizona owned by Canadians that come down for three to five months a year and they just spend money, that’s all they do.”
According to the Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC), Canadian snowbirds add $1.4 billion in economic impact annually, bringing the total Canadian tourism annual economic impact to more than $2.4 billion.
CABC reports that approximately 100,000 residences in Arizona are owned or rented by Canadians, spending $13 billion on real estate annually.
When you’re in the business that the [Arizona Office of Tourism] is in… all of the revenue comes from hotel rooms. It doesn’t come from anything to do with houses or anything else. So if a Canadian comes down here and let’s say they spend three or four months down here…None of that shows up anywhere,” Williamson said.
On the other hand, Canada has approximately 400 companies operating in Arizona with more than 1,500 locations making the country the largest foreign direct investment country into Arizona, reported CABC.
According to Williamson, most of the companies came to Arizona indirectly because of AOT.
“The Canadian companies that are here, only about maybe six or seven percent of them actually went through any form of economic development agency in the state of Arizona,” he said. “The reason for that is because Canadian tourists came down here, liked it, bought houses here and then influenced their companies when they have to [open] an office in the U.S.”
Williamson also estimates that the number of Canadian tourists to Arizona will top 1.5 million within the next five years.
“The office of tourism for Arizona has done a magnificent job, just a magnificent job on the Canadian market,” Williamson said. “They’ve increased travelers here and by doing that they’ve increased flight frequencies and by doing that they’ve increased home sales… so we are watching these people buy these houses and then once they buy these houses, they influence the companies they either run or sit on boards of to set up their operations in Arizona instead of other states.”