Arizona Office of Tourism Director Sherry Henry talks about the latest economic impact and visitation statistics for Arizona’s tourism industry.
Ted Simons: More than 37 million tourists contributed over $18 billion to Arizona's economy during 2011. Those statistics were released last week at the Governor's Conference on Tourism. Here with us is Sherry Henry with the Office of Tourism. Good to see you again.
Sherry Henry: Good to see you, Ted.
Ted Simons: $18 billion, that sounds good compared to years past.
Sherry Henry: Yes, it is, it's up. Everything is up, 5.5% up from the year before. As visitors are up just under 3% from 2010, we're pretty excited about that. All the needles are moving in the right direction.
Ted Simons: What about prerecession levels?
Sherry Henry: Not quite there, but sure creeping close. 2007, probably the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate, and it was about $18.9 in visitor spending.
Ted Simons: What are they spending their money on?
Sherry Henry: It's so interesting. Arizona is such a wonderful diversified state. They are really spending on everything. We were talking earlier about the Mexico market alone and what they do when they are here. You can do everything in Arizona. Golf, ski, hike, go to Flagstaff and take the extreme adventure, something kind of new and fun. There isn't anything you cannot do in Arizona. They are spending money everywhere, resort hotels and transportation and bringing them here and traveling around the state.
Ted Simons: Nothing changed, no trends going up or tailing off, as far as what we have seen in the past?
Sherry Henry: No, same old, same old. Thank goodness.
Ted Simons: Canada, Mexico, U.K., top three.
Sherry Henry: Correct. And Canadians probably are getting the greatest traction, they love Arizona and we love our Canadian visitors. But Mexico is still our number one international market and will continue to be. They are our closest neighbor. But Canada has continued to grow. They grew by 16.5% in 2010, up by another almost 8% in 2011. It has a lot to do with new air service.
Ted Simons: It sounds, as far as Arizona's share of foreign visitors as a whole, it's not exactly what it could be. What can be done to fix that?
Sherry Henry: Well, more advertising, more exposure for Arizona. We have representation in the five international markets. Mexico, Canada, U.K., Britain, Germany and France. We're just under, about 13% of our overall visitation is actually from the international market. As a result of that, when the Governor was kind enough to recommend additional funding to the Arizona Office of Tourism, one segment was actually earmarked to pursue the emerging international markets. Brazil and China kind of in harmony with what's happening at the international level. That being said, we would never, never walk away from our mature markets. Consumer advertising in both Canada and Mexico.
Ted Simons: When we mention Mexico in particular, and tourism in general, gotta mention SB-1070. The study was done by Pollock and Companies, jobs lost, $86 million in wages. There's a lag in tourism, bookings are up but there is a lag. The general impact of SB 1070, tell us the truth now, the impact. And if that clears -- we just had the Supreme Court bringing up the issue again.
Sherry Henry: I know that. The good news is Arizona is such an amazing place to visit. The tourism industry, which I've been in for 30 some odd years now, has continued to be impacted by outside activity. Take the AIG effect, swine flu. Think of the things that impact this industry on a regular basis. We are fortunate in that Arizona is such a fabulous place to visit, we just keep focused on the ball. That is remind people about what an amazing place it is to come. I don't think we'll ever know for sure the true impact the 1070. You had so many in favor of it, and then the people against it. You're never going to change either opinion. That's why we just keep focused on reminding everybody what a welcoming environment we have.
Ted Simons: In terms of plans, procedures, ways to advertise with the new money in the budget, nothing is skewed to kind of take that into effect?
Sherry Henry: No, it's all about reminding people what an amazing destination Arizona is.
Ted Simons: You were cautiously optimistic about the future. Explain me.
Sherry Henry: Yes. I think the economy, the thing that's probably impacted the tourism industry not just in Arizona but worldwide is the economy. As long as the economy continues to creep up, you will see the tourism destinations get more of that travel dollar. We're finding in some of our recent advertising that we do there is a sort of pent-up demand for Arizona, because we just put our toes in the water on some very light international marketing, which we haven't been able to do. The numbers just shot up because there is this pent-up need to want to take a vacation. I think now that the economy is improving somewhat, a lot of the travelers are saying, okay, we've held back for a couple of years and they are seeing a little bit about Arizona. Let's take that Arizona trip.
Ted Simons: We'll check back with you later to see if the numbers come through. Good to see you.
Sherry Henry: Always a pleasure, thank you.
Sherry Henry:Director, Arizona Office of Tourism;