12 MAR 2018: The drawling lyrics of Gary P. Nunn’s 80s hit tune “What I Like About Texas,” brought some sunshine into a rainy Thursday in Vancouver as Rosalyn Hunter, director of Communications for Travel Texas in Canada, kicked off her presentation after lunch with regional tourism partners and journalists at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel on March 8th.

“You ask me what I like about Texas
I tell you it's the wide open spaces
It's everything between the Sabine and the Rio Grande …
It's another burrito, it's a cold Lone Star in my hand”

Turns out there’s a lot to like in the lone star state, like diverse vacation options, convenient air service, and great value for vacation dollars. Texas, she said, understands the challenges of Canadians whose dollar is worth less in the US. Hotels and other accommodations are competitively priced, the discounted city pass programme is available in Dallas and Houston, and Houston refunds the sales tax to Canadians who shop there.

Canada loves Texas

Canadians love to vacation in Texas. Almost half a million Canadians travelled to Texas in 2016, up ten percent over 2015. Ontario is the biggest province for Texas travel, followed by Alberta and British Columbia. Air Canada operates the most flights to Texas from Canada with 9000 seats a week from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal to Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. “Early afternoon departures and morning returns on nonstop flights to Dallas are ideally scheduled for long weekend getaways from Vancouver,” Chris Garaghty of Air Canada told the group.

“The 45+ markets are big for us” Rosalyn said, referring to an upcoming promotion with Zoomer Media, “and there are plenty of experiences in Texas to put on the bucket list for 2018.”

She suggested activities like river rafting on the Rio Grande, star  parties under the dark skies at McDonald Observatory in West Texas, incredible live music, kiteboarding (National Geographic recently named South Padre Island one of the best kiteboarding spots in the world) and, surprisingly for most of us, the diverse cuisine.

“Barbeque is like a religion in Texas, but culinary diversity sets us apart from competitor states,” she said. “Houston alone has ten thousand restaurants.”

Strong recovery from Hurricane Harvey

There’s been positive recovery after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last summer. “The Gulf Coast community of Rockport was hit pretty hard but slowly and surely, they’re coming back,” she assured us.

Debra Bustos, representing the state’s economic development and tourism arm, added that most Houston attractions were unaffected. “We’re open for business,” she said.

Two Texas anniversaries in 2018

This year Texas celebrates the 300th anniversary of San Antonio and the 40th of Dallas, the 80s hit series built around the big hair, big shoulders and big ambitions of a well-to-do Dallas family. (For more about the show’s reunion planning, see dallas40.com)

Music and wine in West Texas

“We have more live music venues per capita than any other area in Texas,” said Katherine White, Visit Lubbock’s Media Relations and Communications Manager. The new Buddy Holly Performing Arts Hall, a $140 million state-of-the-art centre with seating for 2200, will open in Lubbock in early 2020. Established as a farming and ranching centre, Lubbock now grows 90% of Texas wine grapes and half the cotton in the country.

Houston lifts off

America’s fourth largest city is also one of the most diverse, according to Celia Morales of Visit Houston. “It has a big culinary and cultural scene, and there are 18 museums in one district.”

Houston has seven major league pro sports teams, more than 165 golf courses and the epic Space Center, where visitors can learn about the manned spaceflight programme, take a tour of mission control, check out the Orion flight simulator and physically touch a Mars rock. It’s a dream destination for shopping – especially with the sales tax refund for Canadians – and puts on the biggest rodeos in the world.

Texas heart/German soul in Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is in the heart of Texas Hill Country, about an hour’s drive from San Antonio or 90 minutes from Austin. The town was first settled by German immigrants in the mid 19th century and likes to blendTexas hospitality with German traditions. Tourists come to Fredericksburg to visit award-winning wineries, German-style breweries, and take in the great outdoors. Back road biking is a major attraction, especially in spring when thousands of wildflowers are in bloom. There’s year round golf, shopping at more than 150 boutiques and galleries, plus miles of hiking trails, rock climbing and a 360 view of the Texas Hill Country from the summit of Enchanted Rock, the second largest granite dome in the US and a designated International Dark Sky Park.

For more information: www.traveltexas.com


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