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Officials working to help Arizona's tourism industry

Grand Canyon Generic
Posted at 7:02 AM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 20:45:12-04

PHOENIX — The Arizona Office of Tourism is preparing to launch a new campaign with the goal of drawing people to businesses, camping areas and attractions that have been suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism office director Debbie Johnson told ABC15 the campaign will be called “Rediscover Arizona” and target people who are already here.

“It’s really going to be focused on our state residents for the first 60 days,” she said. “We know that people need to build up that confidence again, need to feel safe, and the beauty of this campaign for me is, really, allowing people to experience Arizona at whatever level they’re comfortable with.”

Johnson said her office will market outdoor activities like hiking, stargazing, and camping along with hotels and resorts that are beginning to offer lodging and services, which could give residents the opportunity for a “staycation.” The campaign is set to begin Tuesday and expand to short-drive markets later this year.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, AOT estimates around 95,000 tourism industry employees across the state lost their jobs, with more than 100 hotels and resorts closing their doors. Johnson said the office’s latest research shows Arizona will suffer at least a $2 billion loss in visitor spending with the industry currently operating at less than 10% capacity.

“I don’t ever think from a tourism perspective we imagined being where we’re at today,” she said. “It has been devastating and we’re trying to look at what that means for us and, really, what it means for all these small communities that depend on this tax revenue.”

Last year, visitors spent around $24 billion in the state, with tax revenue from that spending adding approximately $1 billion to Arizona’s general fund, according to the office’s research. Historically, with Spring Training and other events taking place throughout the Valley, March is the state’s busiest month for tourism. Once baseball was canceled, Johnson said the situation quickly worsened with hotels dropping occupancy by 60-70%.

She said another challenge moving forward will be the lack of international visitors for the foreseeable future who tend to stay, spend and travel more.

“We know [travel from those visitors] is not an option right now,” she said.

Johnson estimates it will take between 12 and 18 months before the state starts to see economic activity surrounding tourism comparable to last year.