Southern Arizona’s $2.3 Billion Travel Industry

By Brent DeRaad –

Visit Tucson Community Survey Seeks Input

When it comes to industries, travel is an enigma. 

We at Visit Tucson – the region’s travel promotion agency – sell the essence of us. We sell Tucson’s and Southern Arizona’s culture, climate, attractions and way of life. In a very competitive marketplace, we invite potential visitors to “Free Yourself” by experiencing our surroundings instead of those in other cities.

These visitors blend into our daily lives. They drive on our streets, eat in our restaurants, visit attractions, hike, cycle and engage in many other activities that make metro Tucson such a great place to live, work, play – and visit. Because some visitors are not easily identified as such, the $2.3 billion they spent in Pima County in 2017 can be invisible.

So, while visitors may not be top of mind to all, they are vital to the 25,500 employed by the travel industry in Pima County. That is why Visit Tucson is leading an effort to create a 10-year tourism masterplan for the region and why we need your help.

Great places to live are great places to visit – and visitors love our lifestyle. Our research shows that 80 percent of metro Tucson travelers intend to return within five years. We believe our primary job is to convince more first-time visitors to make the trek here.

I encourage you to share your thoughts about living, working and playing in metro Tucson to help us better understand the community experience and quality of life issues. Complete our online Community Survey at to provide input about how to enhance our region’s quality of life.

While sales, marketing and promotion remain Visit Tucson’s core functions, we have moved into “product development” in recent years. Visit Tucson invests in dozens of area events annually, markets our region in cities with nonstop routes to Tucson International Airport and participates in the First Impressions project with landscaped medians and art installed on Tucson Boulevard leading in and out of the airport.  

We have supported bond initiatives for roads and parks, invested in bringing in 10 Major League Soccer teams each winter for pre-season training and partnered with the city of Tucson, Pima County, the Tucson Convention Center and the private sector to manage and promote the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. We also sponsored the University of Arizona College of Science’s Mount Lemmon Science Tour. This free audio app, which describes the numerous life zones encountered while ascending the mountain, has been downloaded by more than 100,000 residents and visitors.

What else do we need to enhance our quality of life? Your answers to that question will help us prioritize our limited resources on initiatives that are most important to you and the visitor market. Again, please visit our survey today to tell us what you think.

Thank you for supporting one of metro Tucson’s top industries. The majority of us were visitors first. Creating an even better Tucson/Southern Arizona quality of life for residents, and an even better experience for travelers, will pay off in additional jobs, direct spending and outside tax revenue that reduces the tax burden on locals.

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