We are in the midst of Arizona tourism’s busiest season. The fantastic weather provides the perfect atmosphere for championship-caliber sports in the Valley, skiing up north, or even hunting for rare gems and minerals in Tucson.
January has been a huge month for football, starting with the Fiesta and Cactus Bowls at the college level, to the best of the NFL with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. But football fans aren’t the only ones flocking to Arizona. Golf enthusiasts from across the country are visiting Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale this week, and before we know it pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training. This time of year car fanatics don’t miss the renowned Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction or the Arizona Concours d’Elegance.
But tourism is not only about fun and leisure in Arizona; it has a tremendous impact on our economy and provides opportunities to show off our state to national business leaders. This week Gov. Doug Ducey will be touting the best of what Arizona’s business environment has to offer, with forums for national CEOs, a McCain Institute event on global leadership, and tours and other offerings geared at making sure business leaders know what a great place Arizona is to invest and grow a business.
The chamber of commerce weather, bowl games and golf tournaments aren’t just important for state bragging rights. Nearly 200,000 Arizona jobs can be linked to tourism in our peak season. Tourism is one of the state’s top export industries. The dollars tourism generates are the imported dollars we want. The folks that come to enjoy Arizona this time of year aren’t here to enroll their kids in public schools or check out books at the public library; they’re here to stay in our hotels, shop in stores and eat in our restaurants, supporting the thousands of jobs in those industries.
To highlight just a few examples, this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, featuring Tiger Woods for the first time in many years, is expected to bring in the largest crowds and spending ever. The Super Bowl is expected to bring $500 million to Arizona. These events have an international flavor, as our friends at Mexico’s tourism board are Super Bowl sponsors. Mexico is far and away our largest source of international visitors, something we can increase with an initiative led by the Maricopa Association of Governments to cut red tape at the border and make it easier for Mexican tourists to visit our state.
And for those concerned about a sports hangover, don’t be. The Cactus League is right around the corner, bringing with it $420 million in revenue a year.
The NCAA Final Four and the College Football National Championship are the next jewels in our sports tourism crown. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We’re in an arms race of sorts as states around the country are putting together increasingly attractive packages to lure the biggest events, including Republican and Democrat national conventions.
Thankfully you can’t manufacture or outsource great weather, beautiful sunsets, and passionate industry leaders. With these advantages and a commitment to maintaining our competitive edge, our tourism industry will continue to be one of the drivers of our economy.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.