Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month.
To help get the word out, the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) just launched a new Rediscover Arizona marketing campaign.
For now, the marketing blitz is focused on getting Arizona residents excited about stargazing, staycations and the wide open spaces right here, said Debbie Johnson, director of AOT, which is charged with assisting Gov. Doug Ducey in reenergizing the economy.
Billboards showcasing those themes are going up initially in metro Phoenix, followed by Southern and Northern Arizona later in the campaign.
“For so many of us who live here, we forget to sometimes vacation here. I’m guilty of that. I know so many of my friends and family around the state are guilty of that as well,” said Johnson, who announced Rediscover Arizona Friday on Channel 3 KTVK Phoenix. “But we have so many amazing things here and that’s why we’ve started this campaign.”
With the pandemic in place, now is the time to revisit places like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Verde Valley Wine Country, she said. Anyone looking to plan a road trip, can get ideas and tips at RediscoverAZ.com. It also includes a “Know Before You Go” section to help visitors stay safe.
“What’s really important for people is their comfort level in traveling, so we have something at every end of the spectrum for you. If you’re still really concerned about getting out there, then you can go on a road trip or go camping and still have that seclusion and privacy,” Johnson said.
“But if you want to get out in a different way, you can do an amazing staycation at one of our resorts and have the pools and the restaurants that are still practicing physical distancing and safety protocols.
“So there’s something for everyone.”
“Most beautiful place on earth” sees uptick in visitors
With the lifting of the governor’s stay-at-home order, restaurants, resorts and other businesses statewide are reporting new activity, Director Johnson said.
Among those seeing an uptick are the red rocks of Sedona, said Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.
“Many stores are open, restaurants are serving, popular recreation sites are back, people are out,” she said. “Often-maligned day trippers, whose spending is sorely needed now, are here again. The energy is obvious.”
Sedona businesses sign up for Safe, Clean, Ready campaign
To keep employees and visitors safe, the chamber and the city of Sedona have launched a marketing campaign called Safe, Clean, Ready.
In support of the campaign, hundreds of businesses are volunteering to enact rigorous safety practices while delivering the message that customers – locals and visitors alike – must do their part, too, Wesselhoff said. The list of participating restaurants, hotels, stores and other businesses can be found at: Safe, Clean, Ready.
Wesselhoff said that businesses that weathered the sharp financial downturn, now must operate at a lower capacity to be able to social distance and protect employees and guests.
“The next step leads to the economic middle ground between the devastation of the past three months and pre-coronavirus norms,” Wesselhoff said. “In this middle ground, safety remains the priority while businesses reopen and people recover their livelihoods.
“We are getting an early glimpse of what that looks like now.”
Sedona and other communities that rely heavily on tourism and business visitors are hoping the shattered industry will gradually recover.
In 2018, visitors to the state spent $24.4 billion, according to the AOT.
Before the coronavirus struck, there were more than 200,000 employees in the hospitality industry here. Since then, almost 90,000 have been laid off or furloughed, Johnson said.
A next important step will be the phased-in return of the meetings, events and conventions industry, which contributes up to 60-70 percent of hotel/resort revenue. The Governor’s Office and the AOT will determine when that happens.
Meanwhile, to help out of work employees, the AOT is connecting displaced hospitality workers with new opportunities through its Arizona Hospitality Workforce Connection website, available in both English and Spanish.
For industry questions and tips, the office also offers a series of weekly tourism industry webinars.
Executive order requires businesses to follow safety guidelines
As tourism starts to bloom again, businesses and recreation sites are under executive order to follow CDC and Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) guidelines to protect employees, customers and visitors.
Expect to see social distancing, protective gear and heightened sanitary measures everywhere. Community and business leaders are asking visitors to extend the same courtesy.
“As always, these services are able to resume with the understanding that all operators, be it resorts, hotels, attractions, restaurants and all other tourism industry businesses, act with strict adherence to AZDHS and CDC guidelines,” Johnson said. “This includes communications and visible efforts to guests that facilities are being sanitized at higher levels and increased intervals. It is our job as leaders in the hospitality industry to set an example.”All current Arizona reopening guidelines are posted on the state Office of Tourism at: tourism.az.gov/reopening-guidelines.