East Coast visitors fill the stands at spring training baseball games around the Valley. Tourists from across the globe take a trip back in time at the Grand Canyon’s historic Kolb Studio. Wine lovers travel to southern Arizona for a weekend of tastings and tours.
Arizona’s tourism industry is experiencing record-breaking numbers of visitors and travel spending, helping drive the economy across the state. In a single day, travel spending pumps a whopping $57 million into the economy.
This boon boosts employment. Just over 171,000 industry-related jobs were directly generated through travel spending from 2014, nearly 4 percent more than the previous year. Those jobs combined with indirect employment such as landscapers hired by resorts accounted for about 319,000 jobs in 2014.
These tourism-related jobs, in turn, generate $5.9 billion in earnings—earnings that flow through the economy in ways big and small.
“This industry is responsible for creating a positive cycle of economic growth and job creation, which is why it’s vital to continuously promote Arizona as a vibrant travel destination,” says Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT). “We’re proud that tourism generates jobs, earnings and taxes thus making us one of Arizona’s strongest economic drivers.”
Last year, nearly 41 million domestic and international travelers logged overnight visits here and accounted for $21 billion in travel-related spending. They explored everything from the Sonoran Desert to resort spas.
Consider the 111-year-old Kolb Studio, built perilously on the side of the Grand Canyon and operated by two photographer brothers, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb. A recent $450,000 restoration by the nonprofit Grand Canyon Association (GCA) reinvigorated the historic site, a magnet for Canyon visitors from around the world.
“Arizona is an amazing destination. It offers something for everyone year round,” says the GCA’s Miriam Robbins. “There are about 5 million visitors to the Grand Canyon each year. That’s a staggering number, especially since the state population is 7 million. The impact of the Grand Canyon on the entire tourism industry can’t be overlooked.”
The rebounding economy is helping drive the record-breaking tourism numbers. But there are other factors at play, too.
AOT officials continue to reach for international travelers in Mexico and Canada, and target visitors in key cities like Chicago and Seattle. Marketing campaigns include everything from traditional Internet advertising to a touring Grand Canyon-themed RV.
Arizona’s role as as event host to top sporting events like the Super Bowl raises the state’s profile before, during and after events. Intensive efforts by tourism officials to engage the media also help promote destinations, events and experiences only available in Arizona.
“Arizona is an exciting and diverse destination with travel experiences you can’t find anywhere else,” says Johnson. “Working with the travel media helps us bring Arizona’s unique travel stories to a global audience so they select our state as a vacation destination and our economy can continue to benefit from visitor spending.”
Written by Susie Steckner
Photography by Mark Lipczynski