Tucson tourism officials court East Coast visitors

New non-stop flight from JFK should increase travel to the region

Tourism officials in Tucson, Ariz., are hoping daily non-stop flights from New York that begin in October will boost travel to that area of southern Arizona.

Starting Oct. 7, American Airlines will operate daily non-stop flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Tucson International (TUS). Flights will leave JFK at 5 p.m., and arrive at TUS at 8:12 p.m. Return flights leave TUS at 7:57 a.m., arriving at JFK at 4 p.m.

American Airlines' new flights mark the first non-stops connection TUS and the Big Apple since Continental Airlines and jetBlue (NYSE:JBLU) discontinued flights to Newark (EWR) and JFK, respectively, in 2008.

The new flights will be operated using a 160-seat Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737-800. According to SeatGuru.com, the aircraft has 16 First Class seats that are 21 inches wide and offer between 40 and 42 inches of pitch, 30 Main Cabin Extra seats that are 17.2 inches wide and offer pitch between 35 and 37 inches, and 114 standard economy seats that are also 17.2 inches wide and offer pitch of 31 inches.

Assuming a Friday afternoon departure, the schedule makes it possible for East Coast visitors to visit Tucson over a long – or even a standard – weekend, and tourism officials are actively courting visitors from their newest direct market.

“Incredible natural beauty, great events and an UNESCO-recognized culinary scene are all easier to get to this fall,” the email from Visit Tucson began, noting that, “[A] selection of unique events and fall temperatures in the 70s might just make October and November the hot time to visit Southern Arizona this year.”

Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac
The first flights from the NYC arrive just in time for Tucson Meet Yourself, an annual event that puts the multi-cultural soul of the city on full display. Each October since 1974, the three-day event features hundreds of artisans, home cooks, dancers, musicians and special exhibits that celebrate and honor the various heritages represented in the area.

“Where else can you look at lowriders, dance the polka and have an incredible plate of Laotian food in one afternoon?” Visit Tucson asked. This year’s event will take place Oct. 7 through 9 at El Presidio Park just east of the Tucson City Hall.

November brings the biggest event of the fall months with the All Souls Procession. In what the visitors bureau terms a unique artistic riff on Day of the Dead traditions, this year’s event is expected to draw 100,000 people walking a route through the streets of downtown Tucson. Some will be mourning the loss of someone or something important to them while others will be joining to show solidarity with the community during the Nov. 5 and 6 event. The All Souls Procession is in its sixteenth year and operates without corporate sponsorship.

While much of the country – and certainly the East Coast – can be facing blustery weather during November, making it a little difficult to get out on a bicycle, that is definitely not the case in Tucson. The 34th annual El Tour de Tucson, one of America's great perimeter rides, provides routes around the city from 25 to 104 miles on a generally beautiful day.

For those whose interests go an entirely different route, the city offers a wide variety of music options in the fall, from events like Southwest Terror Fest, which has been heralded as one off America's best metal festivals, and Night of the Living Fest to great shows at the Rialto Theatre.

Cowboy statue at Tucson Museum of Art
Statue at Tuscon Museum of Art
Photo courtesy Visit Tucson
Foodies will be interested to know that Tucson was designated the first American UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015, not just for its many restaurants, but also for its connection to thousands of years of native agricultural history. Whether eating tacos at Pico de Gallo or farm-to-table cuisine at PY Steakhouse, visitors may be surprised by both the quality and value.

In addition, the downtown area sports many murals along with great hotels and resorts, ranches and destination spas, world-class attractions like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Mission San Xavier del Bac and much more.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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