Lowell Observatory brings new wave of tourism to Flagstaff

The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona has created economic development for the city through employment and tourism creation.

Founded in 1894, the Lowell Observatory has maintained steady growth throughout the past 120+ years and now attracts over 10,000 monthly visitors. In fact, it also plays a role in generating tourism for the entire city.

While tourism growth cannot be directly attributed to Lowell alone, as people usually have an itinerary of attractions when they visit the city, it is certainly one of the main sites. Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Trace Ward said that while it is difficult to “rank” the attractions in Flagstaff, “Lowell is having record numbers of folks visiting them and we get lots of inquiry and interest about Lowell with both the travel trade and with media.”

Measuring tourism can be tricky, but Ward explains that occupancy in hotels, motels, and campgrounds – which are largely occupied by tourists – has increased nearly 10 percent between 2014 and 2017. The tax collected on lodging, restaurants, bars, and retail also increased by over 25 percent in the same time-frame.

With a 4.3-meter Discover Channel Telescope, a lack of light pollution, and a clear Arizona sky, the Lowell Observatory is a perfect place to explore outer-space. The discovery of Pluto occurred at Lowell in 1930, and consequently, more research and exploration followed. The observatory has drawn researchers and job hunters from across the nation because of its ideal location and equipment.

Moreover, Flagstaff is reaping the benefits of the Lowell Observatory’s continued growth and successes. According to Ward, “Flagstaff welcomes approximately 5 million day and overnight visitors each year. This translates to $700 million in economic impact for the city annually.”

With myriad programs ranging from youth astronomy programs to historical artifact exhibits, Lowell has something for everyone – making it a perfect exhibition for families, couples, and solo travelers.

Additionally, Lowell’s modest prices make it an even more attractive site for visitors. The observatory has varied pricing for different markets, including discounts for seniors, students, kids, and members.

Plus, it offers a home for Flagstaff locals, showing that although Lowell is a popular tourist site, it also welcomes the local population with open arms.

Lowell recognizes that space observation and exploration is something that we should all share, and it has provided an affordable and welcoming base for that. If Lowell continues to grow as it has in the past 120+ years, it will likely thrive for 120+ more.

Ben Norman

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