Destination Marketing Drives Arizona’s Economy

Industry News, Market Update, Special Interest

Debbie Johnson
Director, Arizona Office of Tourism


The results speak for themselves: marketing Arizona as a vibrant travel and tourism destination drives our state’s economy. It’s the only industry producing revenue in all 15 counties of our state. In 2014, Arizona’s travel and tourism industry generated $20.9 billion in direct visitor spending.

The majority of visitor spending included:

  • Food Services and Stores – $5 Billion
  • Local Transportation and Gas – $3.7 Billion
  • Accommodations – $2.9 Billion
  • Retail Sales – $2.6 Billion
  • Entertainment and Recreations $2.2 – Billion
  • Visitor Air – $1.8 Billion

Visitor spending also generated 171,500 industry-related jobs, $5.9 billion in earnings and $2.8 billion taxes. All of our indicators are showing that we’re on track to exceed 2014 totals as we evaluate the year 2015.

Worldwide, the phenomenal tourism industry has seen consistent and stable growth making it one of the fastest and most reliable global economic sectors. For Arizona, destination marketing kicks off a positive economic cycle of tourism activity which includes increased traveler visits, greater traveler spending in Arizona’s urban and rural communities, faster job creation and higher tax revenues. These taxes significantly contribute to Arizonan’s quality of life and statewide public programs including education, public safety and health services. In fact, Arizona tourism activity generated enough state and local taxes, $1.5 billion, to pay the salaries of statewide firefighters, police officers and secondary school teachers.

Business volume produced by our own statewide tourism industry equates to, or even surpasses, other Arizona export industries including microelectronics, mining, aerospace and agriculture. Generally, Arizona tourism produces more than $8 billion in economic output annually; these results are extraordinary and unmatched by any other Arizona industry.

An example of tourism and how it impacts the state’s economy is Arizona’s college bowl season. Fresh off the annual success of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl and Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, football fans traveled once again to Arizona for the College Football National Playoff Championship (CFP) game. Our state was featured in the national media spotlight for our amazing weather and diverse attractions. However, the true impact to our economy went beyond the media spotlight. There was an undeniable, resonating impact from visitor spending because of these games. Fans purchased hotel rooms, dined in local restaurants and shopped in neighborhood stores. In fact, preliminary research indicates there was a noticeable lift in hotel bookings from the college bowl team markets due to the CFP game. This is the type of economic activity that makes tourism such an impactful industry for our state.

Other venues impacting our tourism numbers include events such as the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2017; golf tournaments including the Waste Management Open and the Tucson Conquistadores Classic; NASCAR races; Cactus League Spring Training games; the Arizona Rock-n-Roll Marathon and so many other sporting events visitors travel to our state to enjoy.

What makes tourism even more powerful is its connection to other Arizona economic sectors. Travel and tourism is directly connected to nearly a dozen other industries including real estate, lodging, recreation, retail, airlines, food & beverage, car rental, taxi services, tour operators and travel agents. It’s also indirectly related to many others including airline manufactures, laundry services, landscaping services and furnishing & equipment suppliers – all of which help keep the state’s economy moving forward.

To ensure Arizona continues to benefit from the positive effects of this economic activity, the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) markets the state on a global scale with promotional efforts reaching local, national and international travelers. Through innovative advertising campaigns, travel trade outreach, media relations, public relations initiatives and social media, AOT promotes exciting Arizona travel activities on a global scale to encourage visitation so all Arizonans can benefit from the valuable dollars our visitors leave behind.

Tourism is an economic solution and destination marketing is how we keep this economic momentum moving forward. When Arizona’s tourism industry is performing well, our entire state is moving in the right direction. And results like these only get better when we can expand the tourism marketing message across the globe that Arizona is a vibrant travel destination to experience.


Debbie Johnson was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey as Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism in August 2015 where she oversees the state’s tourism marketing strategy. She has spent the past two decades working in the Arizona tourism industry and plays an integral role shaping the industry as well as serving as the voice of its 200,000+ employees.