Arizona tourism reached record highs in 2017

The Arizona Office of Tourism recently reported that Arizona had the most visitors and highest visitor spending in the history of the state last year.

Moreover, Arizona had nearly 44 million overnight tourists last year, which spent $22.7 billion over the course of the year. This translates to $62 million of tourism spending daily. In fact, since 2015, the sales generated from tourism has increased by more than seven percent.  

Additionally, tourism fueled the economy – tourism supported over 187,000 jobs and generated more than $1.9 billion in local and state tax revenue. Since 2015, these have increased by over four and 15 percent, respectively.

Arizona Office of Tourism director Debbie Johnson explains the reason for the rise in tourism sales: “Gross sales in sectors like lodging, dining, and retail have trended upward since the recession, and increasing visitor numbers have played a major role in that. But there are also broader economic trends at work. When the economy is healthy and consumers have more discretionary income available, they travel more.”

Johnson also notes that as Arizona continues to host more events, both tourism and the sales that it brings will increase. She adds, “It’s a virtuous cycle: We expand Arizona’s market profile — through ad campaigns, media relations and travel-trade programs, and high-profile events like the Final Four and Super Bowl — and that stimulates demand, which leads to spending at Arizona businesses, which leads to the tax revenue.”

Although all legislative districts contributed to the nearly $23 billion in sales, some legislative districts certainly generated more than others. The highest performing district was #27, Phoenix & Tempe, which hauled in $3.2 billion on its own. However, smaller districts also performed well, as Fountain Hills & Scottsdale raked in roughly $1.4 billion and Flagstaff & Sedona made over $1.6 billion in tourism sales.

Furthermore, Flagstaff has proven that sports events are not the only factor attracting visitors to Arizona. The northern city has never hosted a major sports event like the Super Bowl or Final Four, but because of historical sights like the Lowell Observatory, Route 66, San Francisco Peaks, and more, Flagstaff attracts over five million visitors every year.

In fact, Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau director Trace Ward explains that although Flagstaff is smaller than Phoenix, the city still performs optimally. He states, “We generate more revenue per capita than a large city like Phoenix but we don’t look at Phoenix as a competitor – they are one of the key airlift hubs in the region and we look at them as a partner.”

Arizona continues to bring in more visitors every year – this stems not only from sports events, but also from historical gems like Route 66, the Grand Canyon, and more. As the state continues to host more events and preserve these sightseeing highlights, sales will continue to spike.

Ben Norman

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