How the pandemic affected Canadian visits to Arizona

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Arizona is a favorite winter destination point for Canadian visitors, but the pandemic keeps many Canadians home. Those that are coming in are findings unique but legal ways to get around border restrictions. We talked about all this with Glenn Williamson, CEO and founder of the Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC).

Flying in and driving away

Although the border is closed, flights are still permitted from Canada. Williamson said there was an “interesting loophole” where Canadians can avoid the freezing winters in favor of the warmer climate further south. After a short flight via helicopter, visitors are able to take advantage of shipping companies to send cars over the border since businesses are still allowed to cross the land border.

“I think therein lies some of the errors of the lawmakers, they’ve left these loopholes open and I’m sure it doesn’t help our health professionals a whole lot,” Williamson said.

The scale and market of tourism

Williamson said Arizona was down 80% on Canadian tourism and 70% for snowbirds. According to Williamson, the northern visitors have a $1 billion economic impact and $1.4 billion for snowbirds.

“Everything goes back to how important our tourists are,” Williamson said.

“Canadians are really good rule-followers; it’s built into the DNA of a Canadian,” said Williamson, but it is “thin-ice” for those who are fleeing the cold without breaking the law. Williamson noted most of the visitors have homes in the state they are visiting. The CABC reported approximately 100,000 homes in Arizona owned or rented by Canadians.

Florida is currently the biggest competitor for Candian tourists, said Williamson, with Californian visits decreasing in recent years.

“I think we have to let the scientists, distribution and logistics people do their work and I think we, like any other business, need to get back to medium and long-range planning,” said Williamson, hoping to grab a bigger share of the tourism market. “We need to plan six months to a year out and start looking at and planning for success.


Glenn Williamson, CEO & Founder, Canada-Arizona Business Council

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