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Tourism: An Economic Powerhouse

Wednesday, August 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bridgette Blair
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By: Kim Sabow, President and CEO, Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association (A featured speaker at Fall Forum on Regional Tourism)

Tourism and destination promotion is becoming increasingly more important in economic development.    No longer is the industry simply marketing to the end traveler, rather it is opening the door and enhancing business relocation, expansion, and new start-ups in communities across Arizona.  Destination promotion contributes substantially to highlighting the quality of life issues critical among relocation decisions. 

Global business leaders recognize Arizona as a platform for industry growth, and they view Arizona as an emerging hub of innovation with a rich talent pool and pro-business environment that drives corporate success.

In addition, a powerful export performance is being witnessed in the travel and tourism industry in terms of employment and economic impact.  Tourism is now one of the world’s largest industries and one of its fastest growing economic sectors.  As America’s largest services sector export, travel and tourism account for an estimated 25% of U.S. services exports and 7% of all exports (goods and services combined). In Arizona, tourism is the number one export industry.  

Tourism’s Impact on Arizona’s Economy
New numbers released in July by the Arizona Office of Tourism show 42 million people visited our state in 2015; spending more than $21 billion.  Those dollars support jobs and generate tax revenue.  

Visitors to our state are staying an average of fournights; which increases to six nights for international travelers.  The top domestic travel comes from California with 7.7 million visitors, followed by Illinois, Texas and New York each with 1.5 million visitors.  Top International travel comes from Mexico with 3.8 million visitors, followed by Canada which just topped 1 million travelers in 2015.  Germany, the UK and France round out our top five international visitor markets.

The tourism sector, particularly hotels, can play an important role in attracting foreign investment, as well as acting as a stimulus for the development of ancillary businesses catering to tourists.

Innovation Is The Name Of The Game
Arizona hotels and resorts are upping the ante when it comes to providing guests with unique, quality experiences when they travel.  In this competitive environment, hoteliers are renovating properties to stay fresh and to keep up with the needs of technologically savvy, millennial and social travelers.  In addition to upgrading rooms, baths and lobbies, hotels are making sizeable investments to their pools and entertainment amenities.  It isn’t so much about the demographic differences of millennial travelers or baby boomers – it is a mindset – travelers want a social, connected and local experience. To stay the vibrant destination that Arizona is and keep guests coming back, it is essential our hotel and tourism attractions stay current and relevant to travelers. 

It is this spirit of innovation that is uniting statewide business development officers and destination promoters as they bridge a beneficial relationship between tourism and economic development.  Our state only stands to reap great rewards



Tourism is a critical engine to our state economy, and contributes to the economic well-being of countless families. In Arizona, the travel and tourism industry generates:

•     $21 Billion in direct visitor spending

•     $6 Billion in direct earnings

•     $3 Billion in direct local, state and federal tax revenue

•     More than 300,000 industry jobs for Arizonians


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    Phoenix, Arizona 85004
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