Mexico sent more tourists to Arizona than any other foreign country last year, making it a lucrative market here, one that other states are eager to capture as well.
Approximately 3.8 million Mexican tourists came to Arizona last year for leisure, according to a new report from the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), whose mission is to bring visitors – and their wallets – to the state.
Mexico was by far the top country. Canada came in No. 2 with 975,000 tourists visiting in 2018. More than half of all international tourists – 65 percent – came from Mexico, the report states.
“This is a really important market. It’s worth investing in. It’s worth paying attention to and it’s worth marketing to,” said Juan Ciscomani, Vice Chairman of the Board for the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC), a non-profit organization that has worked for 60 years to strengthen ties across the two borders to promote economic and social prosperity.
Top motivators: culture, dining and nightlife
In spite of turbulent national politics over trade and immigration, tourists from Mexico continued to grow by 5.3 percent in 2018.
Mexican tourists spent $1.4 billion in Arizona in 2018. That accounts for more than 25 percent of the total $4.3 billion spent by all foreign visitors here last year.
Seventy-five percent of Mexican tourists came to shop as part of their leisure activities in 2018.
They reported three “top travel motivators” for visiting Arizona:
- Cultural and historical attractions, 63 percent
- Dining and gastronomy, 53 percent
- Urban attractions like nightlife and city tours, 52 percent
Flight connections growing between Arizona and Mexico
A number of organizations and the governors’ offices in both Arizona and Sonora, have worked to secure and grow this important industry. Last year was a record-breaking year with 45.4 million tourists to Arizona.
Major airlines, hotels and other industries have responded in kind.
A number of airlines announced new direct flights between Arizona and Mexico this past year. Travelers now have more options to fly to locations like Chihuahua, Hermosillo and Puerto Vallarta.
Enhanced safety along highway to Rocky Point
The AMC and the governors’ offices in Arizona and Sonora also launched an initiative last year to enhance safety along a 63-mile stretch of federal highway between Lukeville, Arizona, and the beaches of Rocky Point in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. The new “safety corridor” includes better trained medical and law enforcement first responders and new bilingual road signs.
Marketing a “two-nation” travel destination
To maintain and strengthen tourism in both states, organizations and the governors’ offices of both states also have worked to market the region as a “two-nation” travel destination, said Ciscomani of the AMC, who also is the Senior Advisor for Regional and International Affairs to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
“We don’t live in a world anymore where we just compete city to city in the same state,” Ciscomani said. “It’s now a regional effort.
“Combined, the two states offer everything from Rocky Point beaches to Northern Arizona ski slopes and everything in between – the shopping, the professional sports games, top notch universities to visit,” he said.
Tourism reduces tax burden for Arizona residents
While Phoenix and Tucson attracted the most overnight visitors, every single county in the state benefited from tourism, the report shows.
Last year, a record-breaking 45.4 million visitors from within and outside of the U.S. came to Arizona. They spent $24.4 billion. Of that, $3.63 billion went for tax revenue including $2.1 billion into local and state coffers.
The taxes generated reduced the average annual tax burden for Arizona households by more than $1,360, according to the AOT report.