Canadian snowbirds skirt nonessential travel ban by flying into Arizona

Dec 2, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 7:01 am

PHOENIX — Canada’s prime minister announced Tuesday his country will keep up its nonessential travel ban with the U.S. to stop the coronavirus, which could have effects in Arizona.

The snowbirds and business travelers don’t have their wings clipped. They are still flying into the Valley from the Great White North.

Canada’s honorary consul in Arizona said many of them are landing at the Scottsdale Airport.

“You can always tell a new jet flyer when they get off. They’re grinning from ear to ear because they have just done something they haven’t done before,” Glenn Williamson said.

He said commercial flights between Arizona and Canada are down to about 25 a week, a-tenth of the number pre-pandemic.

In Canada, coronavirus quarantines are shorter up north.

“They’re test spinning two-day tests in Calgary and Toronto, and if you’re clear after two days, you don’t have to do the entire 14 days,” Williamson said.

Williamson said Canadians rent or own about 100,000 homes in Arizona. Some of them know how to beat the closed land borders.

“They will take a puddle jumper or a helicopter across the border, and they’ll get their cars transferred professionally, and drive to their houses in Arizona,” Williamson said.

Arizona gets a million Canadians a year for warmth and for business. Data from the U.S. and Canadian governments show they spent $747 million in our state in 2017.

Williamson noted Canada is Arizona’s largest foreign direct investor. Circle-K out of Montreal is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into remodeling its gas stations and convenience stores.

So, with a COVID-19 vaccine hopefully just around the corner, Williamson wants hotels, restaurants and resorts to think post-pandemic.

“People for the last 4-6 months have put their heads in the sand and said ‘no’ to everything,” he said. “People can see things now and plan things now.”

He wants Arizona’s tourism industry to start marketing into Canada again, and beyond.

“Our tourists become our snowbirds, and out of the 500 Canadian companies operating here, north of 90% of them have become operational here because one of their CEOs or one of their C-suite people have a home here,” Williamson said, adding they jump into Arizona’s growing aerospace, software, and high-tech industries.

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Canadian snowbirds skirt nonessential travel ban by flying into Arizona