30 OCT 2013: For years Canadian snowbirds have been smitten with Arizona – something about the favourable winter temperatures, golf, spas, cuisine and stunning scenery. But at a recent media function organized by Arizona’s Canadian PR agency, Connect Worldwide Canada at Toronto's Gardiner Museum, a group of Arizona reps had lots more to offer.

Boomers meet the Gen Xers. “We are always targeting younger baby boomers and Gen Xers. People who have money and time to travel,” says Mary Rittmann, director for trade and media relations for the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Canuck visitors

The number of Canadian visitor arrivals has been increasing. In 2012 Arizona welcomed 728,000 Canadian visitors to the state, an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year. For international visitor rankings, Canada hits the number two spot.

Sure we like to drive down and stay awhile – Rittmann notes our average length of stay is usually 15-20 days. We are long stay people.

But with plenty of air carriers offering direct or connecting flights across Canada it becomes pretty clear on why we enjoy our long stays.

“Our weather is glorious. What you see in March you see in November, but without the crowds and a little lower in the prices,” says Rittmann.

“People forget Arizona has four seasons - so the Grand Canyon gets snow if you’re lucky.”

Phoenix is the gateway and has one of the lowest elevations in the state about 1,000 feet but as you head south closer to the Mexican border you are climbing 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

Rittmann explains that Phoenix is after all America’s sixth largest city. “You don’t always think about it like that because it’s so spread out.” She also points out that Canadians often have a tendency to think of it as a retirement destination because they have the time to stay for six months but things are a changing.

“It’s a great adventure destination and a great all season destination.”

Here’s why:

For some of the finest landscape viewing Laura McMurchie, vice-president of communications with Scottsdale, recommends a desert splash sea plane experience flying over the different waterways.

“Take off from the Scottsdale airport, fly over Apache and Roosevelt Lake, the dam and bridge then fly past the Four Peaks and do a water landing on Roosevelt Lake,” she says and adds if you still crave something different, one Sunday a month the tour operator Desert Splash Adventures has a brunch on Rabbit Island.

“You’re greeted with a gorgeous white tablecloth brunch spread with locally sourced food cooked up by a local chef Charleen Badman from FnB (that’s for food and beverage).”

Just to add another twist on things you wouldn’t think they have in Arizona the brunch celebrates an Arizona winery. “We have Arizona wine as well,” she smiles about the three wine regions attributed to the higher elevations.

For another twist let’s go down the arts path. Renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly is very popular – it seems whenever a Chihuly exhibition pops up anywhere the masses arrive.

Case in point: The Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale is celebrating its 75th anniversary and will be showcasing the work of Chihuly from November 10 – May 18, 2014. Laura says the venue exhibited Chihuly a few years ago to astounding success.

“It’s the first time he is doing a repeat venue but he was just so inspired by the desert it’s so different with the cactus and the scenery.”

Chihuly’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide.


Considered Arizona’s Silicon Valley of the desert this hi-techie hub is fueling a vibrant community of up and comers, families and creative-types.

Located only 20 minutes from Phoenix, the big drawing card as Kimberly Janes from the Chandler Office of Tourism Economic Development puts it is the great outdoors.

The city has 60 parks and it’s just not the typical grass and swing set kind either she smirks. “If you go to the Veterans Oasis Park you’ll see 150 species of birds plus you can take a solar system walk,” she says about the popular activities just in this one park alone. The city has two more parks set to open and an additional 10 more on the books.

Clients who are dreaming of creating that next big monumental invention need to head to the city’s new TechShop opening next month.

“It’s a playground for creativity. Come for lessons. If you have a prototype idea and want something new – (clients) can go test it out and do a one day workshop.” (www.techshop.ws)

This mountain town boasts natural beauty, four seasons and good water to boot – the city and surrounds boasts a delightful Flagstaff Ale Trail says Joanne Hudson, public relations specialist with the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For those outdoorsy clients who obsess on cycling - the elevation challenges in mountain biking tell them they can carry on their favorite pastime in the hills of Flagstaff...in winter. This winter the Flagstaff Nordic Center will have a fleet of snowbikes to share a snowshoe trail with the snowshoer types. Cross-country skiing is also available there.

Yes, Arizona gets snow – lots of it. So if your clients are getting bored hitting the links at Arizona’s preferred sun spots, they don’t have to get on a plane to head home. Send them to Flagstaff instead.

On the outskirts of Flagstaff professional artists from the various tribes (Arizona has 22 Indian tribes) have created Art of the People (http://artofthepeople.org), a non-profit organization started 3.5 years ago. One of the visionaries is Baje Whitethorne whose work was displayed during the evening.

He explained the collective’s most recent project was a collection of 10 murals for the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort. “We got 20 artists together and in a course of four days managed to paint 10 paintings,” he says describing the organic art process that began from creating the canvases to the final pieces. For a preview watch this video http://vimeo.com/67096384.

Clients interested in native art, jewellery and cultural traditions need to add this new project on the must-see list.

It’s best to book a visit to the Art of the People in advance to participate in the workshops. (Contact Baje www.bajewhitethornesr.com/index.html)

Also be sure to check out the http://artofthepeople.org events calendar for events across the state.

Next time your client says “been there, done that” on Arizona tell them about the alternatives.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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