2014 Arizona Tourism

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The Arizona Office of Tourism recently announced record-breaking 2014 visitation numbers for the state. Nearly 41 million people visited Arizona, spending just under $21 Billion. Office of Tourism director Sherry Henry will discuss the new information.

TED SIMONS: The Arizona Office of Tourism recently announced an encouraging report regarding state visitation numbers for 2014. Here is more with Office of Tourism director Sherry Henry. Welcome back to "Arizona Horizon."

SHERRY HENRY: Nice to see you again Ted, thanks for having us.

TED SIMONS: You bet, it's all smiles here, because we've had you here when it wasn't all smiles and there were problems, it sounds like in 2014 numbers are up.

SHERRY HENRY: These are the largest numbers we have ever recorded, not only in terms of number of visitors but in terms of visitor spending. The visitor spending is just under $21 billion in 2014.

TED SIMONS: And I'm seeing -- 41 million visits.

SHERRY HENRY: 40.7 million visits counting both domestic as well as international.

TED SIMONS: Compare that to the forecasts. What was expected?

SHERRY HENRY: We don't forecast, because we in many ways have no way of knowing. We knew that '14 - cause we watch it on a quarterly basis and we knew that '14 was getting off to a great state, and then as we watched it through the year we could see that we were going surpass 2013, which we did. We didn't know that we were going surpass it this much. We were definitely in the celebratory mood.

TED SIMONS: What do you think the reason is for the better numbers?

SHERRY HENRY: You know I think it was a combination. When you talk about perfect storms, but this one was definitely a positive one. We got off to a great start with the Super Bowl, we had presence in New York City, the media were already talking about Arizona being in the next Super Bowl. That began to resonate throughout the media. We did a campaign in Chicago and put the photo of the lovely young woman up on the side of a building during the days the polar vortex hit Chicago. We got more media from that value, almost more than the advertising.

TED SIMONS: That kind of thing, advertising, marketing, I know it really does -- you've been stretched for funds to be able to do this, it frosts me to see Michigan and Iowa advertising here. Are we doing that there?

SHERRY HENRY: We are making such a splash, and we have really gotten some great traction going. A lot has to do with our partners. We've really engaged -- Thank goodness for the great tourism community in the state of Arizona, through their efforts, through leveraging or dollars we have been enabled to do consumer advertising in both Canada and Mexico. Those numbers are way up from what they were in the past.

TED SIMONS: Air traffic, lodging, park visits, I notice from your report they are all up.

SHERRY HENRY: Everything's up, I know. It's absolutely amazing and we are just so thrilled. Again, it was everybody kind of coming together with that same intent, the mega-events, you know, the announcement, obviously Super Bowl, the upcoming Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, and the fact that we received the national championship game, the collegiate game. That was all being talked about during that same year. You had all of this wonderful momentum going. All of a sudden Arizona was being seen in a lot of different arenas and it just raised the visibility.

TED SIMONS: And Arizona was not being seen at least for a while in some of the negative lights that we've had in recent years. That has to be an impact.

SHERRY HENRY: You know, it was, but we had a lot of things going on at the same time. Not only the political side but you had the recession going on. Tourism continues to experience various challenges as the years go by. A lot of that now is in our rearview mirror and believe me, we're happy to see it there.

TED SIMONS: As far as the sectors are concerned, what's the strongest or maybe surprisingly strong, and what sector still needs a little help?

SHERRY HENRY: Our international has gained a lot of momentum through our partnership with Brand USA. That international visitor, they stay longer, see more of our state. We want to put a little more emphasis on that international market. We have representation of a number of different markets throughout the world, but having consumer advertising was something we were not able to do for years. We saw our numbers jump in both Mexico and Canada and we believe it was a result of that. We try to put more effort their than we have in the past, and then domestically we will look at some new target cities coming up this year. Usually only do two, but this year we will do five.

TED SIMONS: Can you tell us which cities those are?

SHERRY HENRY: Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, those are the three biggies, then some all-digital in both Portland and Austin, because our research is showing that these cities are showing a great propensity to want to come to Arizona, so we're going to encourage them.

TED SIMONS: All those cities have a vibrant -- seems like they have an energy to them and people there want go elsewhere and check out others. It would be nice if Phoenix has that kind of vibrancy, as well.

SHERRY HENRY: We think that's the new messaging out there. Arizona and Phoenix metro and Tucson have a new image.

TED SIMONS: It brings us to the next question, who is the international visitor? They tend to stay longer and do more. Who's the average visitor to Arizona?

SHERRY HENRY: A lot of our visitors actually come from Arizona and we love that, and the usual suspects, California, Illinois, New York, Texas. Those are your usual suspects. We've put a lot of emphasis on those states for that very reason.

TED SIMONS: What are they spending their money on?

SHERRY HENRY: Everything. Absolutely everything from camping and extreme adventure in Flagstaff to the four and five-star resorts. It's all over the board.

TED SIMONS: Has that changed over the years? Are you seeing a different pattern?

SHERRY HENRY: I think we're seeing that Phoenix metro and Tucson are recognized for their urban experience as well as for the scenic and outdoor experience. And that vibrancy, has added a new level I think of appreciation and demand, and so I think you've got the best of both worlds.

TED SIMONS: As far as the raw numbers are concerned, obviously Phoenix kind of a focal point, Maricopa and Pima counties. But areas of the state are doing well and other areas that could use a little help.

SHERRY HENRY: Flagstaff and Coconino County are off the charts.

TED SIMONS: Interesting.

SHERRY HENRY: They do a phenomenal job, but they put a lot of funding and enthusiasm into their marketing and their respective cities and their mayors and City Councils recognize the value of that tourism dollar. They continue to support their programs. Sedona has come out with phenomenal programs, Flagstaff has an amazing program. They are knocking our socks off in terms of numbers going up.

TED SIMONS: Who needs a little more effort to get your socks knocked off?

SHERRY HENRY: I think your southeastern part of the state, there still isn't quite that draw, but you've got your wineries now and that's another level of exposure.

TED SIMONS: And you got Bisbee down there as well.

SHERRY HENRY: That's right.

TED SIMONS: Is that just a matter of getting the word out?

SHERRY HENRY: It's always about telling the story. You need to make sure all of your efforts are coordinated, you need to keep telling the whole Arizona story.

TED SIMONS: Last question and last note here, the impact: There were initial plans to cut like $4.5 million from your budget. Those plans did not go through. How important was that?

SHERRY HENRY: Oh, my gosh, on a 1-10 it was 12.

TED SIMONS: And that is important, isn't it?

SHERRY HENRY: You have to have the investment, because all of these programs and all of the storytelling and reaching all these millions of people, it takes visibility and visibility takes money.

TED SIMONS: That is story getting through, do you think?

SHERRY HENRY: Yes, I think it is definitely getting through. We thank our new governor, we believe he was instrumental in getting the money put back into our budget.

TED SIMONS: We thank you for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon."

SHERRY HENRY: Always a pleasure.

Sherry Henry : Office of Tourism director

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