The Arizona Office of Tourism recently noted that, “The year-over-year increase in tourism from 2020 to 2021 brought in $3.4 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Tourism-generated revenues reduced the tax burden per household in Arizona by an average of $738.” An article by Taylor Hersch published in Chamber Business News quoted Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “Arizona’s tourism industry continues to do an outstanding job of marketing our state’s amazing experiences and wide-open spaces to leisure travelers. There’s strong competition and plenty of work ahead, but we’re very happy that visitors are seeing and selecting Arizona as one of their favorite vacation destinations.”
Tourism is big business. But it is more than just putting heads in beds for a night or a weekend. Savvy tourism offices understand that tourism is a key component in long term economic development planning and that it is an ideal catalyst for the revitalization of blighted historic districts. Astute tourism directors heading these offices will develop marketing campaigns and promotional initiatives that showcase the community as a destination for travelers as well as for people looking to relocate.
Author, humorist, lecturer and tourism development consultant Jim HInckley, developer of the Kingman, Arizona based Jim Hinckley’s America travel network, opens presentations about the importance of tourism with a simple statement. “Transform a community into a destination for tourists and you make it a destination for people looking for a place to raise a family, to open a business, or to retire.”
Bill Thomas, the executive director of the Lincoln and Logan County Economic Development Partnership in Illinois, Chairman of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, and commissioner on the Route 66 Centennial Commission is more succinct in describing the importance of tourism. “Not all economic development is tourism but all tourism is economic development.”
Colorado River Valley communities, and those located along the Route 66 corridor in western Arizona, are ideally suited to capitalize on the Route 66 centennial as well as new tourism trends. They are also in a unique position to use tourism as a catalyst for diverse economic development initiatives.
To that end Tami Ursenbach and Gina Kemper of Mohave County of Economic Development and Tourism have facilitated monthly regional tourism meetings. On a rotating schedule the meetings are held in a different community each month. These meetings are ideally suited for fostering development of cooperative partnerships as well as an increased awareness about regional tourism related opportunities.
The next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, at 10:00 AM will be held at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in KIngman, Arizona. The November meeting held in Needles, California included a tour of the historic El Garces depot and hotel complex. In attendance were representatives’ from Topock 66, Lake Havasu tourism, Needles tourism, and the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association based in Goffs, California. Also in attendance was Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America and regional business owners.
On February 11, the annual Route 66 Info Fair will be held at the El Garces in Needles, California. Attendees of the fair in 2022 included local car clubs, Whitney Ortiz, tourism director in Atlanta, Illinois, and Dora Meroney represnting the Texas Old Route 66 Association. For more information about the Route 66 Info Fair, or to reserve a table, contact Janet Jernigan at (760) 221- 3211.