Although Tucson is located in Arizona roughly a 1.5-hour drive south from Phoenix, the “small-town disguised as a big city” is greener than many visitors expect.
“It’s wildly different than the rest of the state. Up north you have the Grand Canyon, as you come down you have the dryer, more desert land, we’re very green, people are always surprised,” says Cindy Aguilar, PR & Communications Manager for Visit Tucson. “You can go from a desert landscape with saguaro cactus, travel up about 9,000 feet and have pine trees on one of our mountaintops. We have different eco-systems.”
Although Mexico is its largest international market due to its proximity to the country — which also means Tucson is home to some authentic Mexican delights — Canada is also important, bringing in the second-highest number of international guests.
“A lot of times Canadians are just looking for a winter escape — we want to sit by the pool, we want to golf, we want to enjoy the sunny weather — however, they come and find out there’s so much more to discover,” Mary Rittmann, VP of Communications & Tourism, tells PressToday. “Everything from different attractions like the Pima Air & Space Museum, which is one of the biggest air space museums in the country, the Sonora desert museum, which is an odd name because it’s an outdoor attraction that is 100 acres, it’s everything about the Sonora desert, it’s a zoo, it’s a botanical garden, it’s an aquarium, it’s an art gallery. But then just our vibe, we have a very revitalizing downtown. A lot of people know our neighbours to the north, Phoenix and Scottsdale and we’re just not the same.”
Although the population is almost reaching a million, she says there is a strong sense of community. The city has a thriving gastronomy scene, award-winning renowned spas, lots of options for outdoor enthusiasts like hiking, biking and stargazing, and even has ties to a famous photographer. The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona was started by Ansel Adams.
“You come for the weather, you come to be outdoors, when you have 340 sunny days a year surrounded by five mountain ranges, people want to hike, they want to bike, they might want to sit by the pool and golf, and that’s what brings them, but what keeps them coming back is all these other activities, great restaurants, we’re the first UNESCO city of gastronomy in the US,” says Rittmann.
While Canadians have typically been first quarter visitors coming in January, February and March, she says they’re starting to broaden their vacations as the state becomes more well known and airlift continues to increase.
“Year-round our weather is amazing and there’s just a lot of history and culture you don’t expect when thinking about the South West,” Jalyssa Gasmen, Tourism Sales Manager. You’re able to get around very easily. There’s something for families, couples, groups in general.”
Following meetings in Toronto yesterday (Feb. 19) the team is in Montreal today.
Pictured at Richmond Station in Toronto are Rittmann, Aguilar and Gasmen.