“Winter is coming” indicates a certain meaning for the characters of the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones,” but for a large number of Canadian tourists the proverb can indicate the beginning of an extended stay in Arizona.
Long-term residential tourists from Canada settle in Arizona during the winter months for about four to six months and are providing a major boost to the Arizona economy, according to new findings from the Canada Arizona Business Council.
“These people can come and enjoy a period of time without having to worry about ice and snow and have the economic opportunity to do so,” said Glenn Williamson, founder and CEO of CABC.
These tourists own or rent approximately 100,000 homes and condos in notably affluent cities in Arizona.
“Ninety-two to 94 percent of all international houses in Maricopa County are Canadian owned,” said Williamson.
During their stay, the snowbirds spend approximately $3,500 per month totaling $14,000 throughout their time in Arizona, according to the CABC. Totaling the approximate expenses from all the snowbirds results in a $1.4 billion boost to the Arizona economy, in addition to the $1 billion impact of short-term tourists.
Initially attracted to the weather, the snowbirds also enjoy a different quality of life in Arizona, Williamson said.
“In the fifth largest city in the U.S. and the accompanying cities around it there’s a different quality of life,” he said, mentioning features such as golfing, entertainment and restaurants. “Historically we have had snowbirds in a more moderate category of affluence; now we have stepped up to the most affluent Canadians coming down.”
He added that Yuma, Apache Junction, Desert Mountain, and Scottsdale are the areas long-term tourists are drawn to.
A majority of Canadian tourists are also movers and shakers in a variety of industries and have a significant impact on business in Arizona.
“Canada is the largest foreign direct investor in Arizona both from residential real estate to commercial real estate,” said Williamson, adding that Canada invests $2.7 billion in the commercial real estate industry in Arizona.
As a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, established in 1994, the U.S., Canada and Mexico all maximize on trade opportunities between the three countries.
“We know foreign direct investment companies are investing tons of money,” said Williamson. “With NAFTA being renegotiated right now, people are looking at Canada’s footprint in the state more and more,” a footprint that seems to be quite substantial.
He added that 350 Canadian businesses operate throughout Arizona, with 243 in Maricopa County alone. In comparison, Mexico has only 14 companies in Maricopa County and Great Britain has 176.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the National Governors Association annual meeting in Rhode Island last week, where he met Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.