Arizona university events and tourism aid in boosting state economy

Step foot on any university campus in Arizona and you’ll get a firsthand look at a hustling and bustling mini-metropolis alive with caffeine, student activity, and the leaders of tomorrow in action. What is unseen is the economic impact that college campuses in the state provide.

A recent study found that all three Arizona universities generated more than $11.1 billion in total economic impact during fiscal 2017. The study, prepared by Elliott D. Pollack and Co., along with the Maguire Co., shows the three major universities combined produce more than 84,000 jobs with $4.6 billion in wages and $6 billion in value added economic benefits during the year.

But a big standout in the report is the role universities play in attracting out-of-state visitors. Arizona has seen a major surge in travel and tourism, raking in nearly $23 billion from the 44 million people who travel into the state every year, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism. This idea is mirrored by the major universities’ intake of traveling out-of-state visitors who come for things like sporting events, commencements, campus tours, parents weekends, and other special visitor generating events.

According to the ABOR report, more than 318,000 people visited the three major schools collectively. Seventy percent of those visitors stayed in hotels, which only helped to boost the local hospitality offerings in Arizona. Visitors who stayed around ASU, pumped more than $9 million into lodging alone; for NAU visitors, $3.4 million; and for UofA visitors, $7 million went back into the economy. And that’s just specifically related to where people rest their heads, not to mention revenue from food and beverage sales, local retail, public transit, service industry, etc.

“The state’s universities are a significant contributor to the tourism industry by creating and hosting events like (sporting events, campus tours, parents weekends). Similar to export-based industries, which are essential to a healthy economy, these visitors bring dollars from outside the region into Arizona, support local jobs, and generate tax revenue,” notes Jill Welch, vice president, chief operating officer, and economist of Elliot D. Pollack & Company and co-author of the report.

Another major component of the economic impact the universities have on the state is the increasing student body population. Currently, there are nearly 145,000 students taking classes at all campuses combined, which helps to pump more funds into the schools. An estimated $2 billion-worth of economic boost can be found in things like student housing, utilities, groceries and everyday items.

“We expect university events to continue year after year and generate impacts similar to those reported in the study,” adds Welch. “As the universities continue to expand and see growth, we expect all of their various impacts to increase, including those related to tourism.”

Nick Esquer

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