Canadian snowbirds flying north

Marketing to neighbors north of the border can pay off for Southern Nevada

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

Wave goodbye, for now, to some of Nevada’s best tourists.

Las Vegas’ Canadian snowbirds are flying home.

It soon will be May, when temperatures can reach triple digits, far too uncomfortable for those from the north.

Snowbirds, however, are a great market for the state to pursue. So much so that the Nevada Tourism Commission dedicated a session of its recent “Rural Roundup” to promote the idea.

About 250 people from across the state attended the event, which this year was in Pahrump. The roundup focuses primarily on issues of importance to outlying communities.

Jason Tansem, of SunCruiser Media in Kelowna, British Columbia, explained Nevada’s appeal for the snowbirds.

“Canadians love Nevada,” Tansem said. “They love the heat, they love the adventure and they love the heat,” drawing the laugh he was expecting.

Southern Nevada is well aware of Las Vegas’ popularity with Canadians. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that 1.9 million Canadians visited Southern Nevada in 2011 — the most from any country.

Three Canadian airlines offer nonstop flights to and from Las Vegas. Air Canada, Westjet and Sunwing carried 1.5 million passengers to Las Vegas last year.

All of the airlines began their seasonal pullback of service this month. They usually bulk up service again in the fall.

Westjet, the Canadian equivalent of Southwest Airlines, was the fastest-growing air carrier at McCarran International Airport two years ago and continues to provide the most passengers here.

Snowbirds escape the Canadian winter in two waves — after Thanksgiving, which is observed in Canada in October, and after Christmas.

Traveling Canadians have plenty of money to spend, Tansem said. The average household income for Canadians is $70,000 a year, compared with $50,000 a year for Americans.

“Well-off Canadians love to spend money on toys and experiences,” Tansem said.

Canadians can stay in the United States up to six months at a time. Many fly in and live in rental properties or drive with a motor home or recreational vehicle and stay at attractions.

Tansem recommended marketing to Canada’s three southwestern provinces: British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Any place east of Saskatchewan isn’t worth the effort, he said, because eastern Canadians tend to flock to Florida or the Caribbean in the winter.

He also mentioned that the residents of each province have their own distinctive personalities. While Albertans tend to make purchases impulsively, British Columbians are more analytical, he said. Canadians generally are free spirits, a lot like Nevadans, which is another reason they like the state so much.

How should tourism enterprises reach out to Canadians? Tansem recommended attending late-summer travel shows in western Canada.

“They actually have snowbird trade shows in September,” he said. “If you’re there, travelers will come right up to you and shake your hand and make plans to visit. You’ll be shocked at the results you’ll get.”

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