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Arizona tourism booms to record highs in 2018, creates $1B in state taxes

Vehicles line up at the south entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona's top tourist destination. (Flickr Photo/Grand Canyon National Park)

PHOENIX – Arizona’s tourism business boomed to new heights in 2018.

“For the third consecutive year, all of our tourism industry major performance indicators are at record highs,” Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

“And that includes visitor volume, visitor spending, employment and tax revenue.”

Tourism generated more than $1 billion in state taxes for the first time in 2018, according to research released during the Governor’s Conference of Tourism in Tucson.

“That’s almost 10% of our state’s total budget, and so it helps pay for education and public safety and health services – all those things we as residents depend on but most of our visitors don’t,” Johnson said.

Arizona welcomed 45.4 million overnight travelers in 2018, shattering the record of 43.9 million from the previous year.

Those visitors spent a record $24.4 billion – which translates to $67 million a day – a 7.8% increase over the previous high set in 2017.

“It’s almost incomprehensible how much money people are spending in Arizona,” Johnson said.

“It just goes to show the great offerings in our tourism industry, the diversity in our tourism industry. We’re really excited about all we have to offer and that our visitors are taking notice.”

The spending supported more than 190,000 jobs that paid workers $7.4 billion, according to tourism office research.

While the Grand Canyon has been Arizona’s top tourist destination, it’s far from the only draw.

“Tourism is one of the only industries that impacts positively all 15 counties around the state,” Johnson said.

“And that’s just such a huge accomplishment and says so much about people seeing not just Maricopa County or Pima County, but really getting around the state and seeing Arizona.”

Nearly 6 million visitors came from other countries last year, more than half from Mexico, according to the tourism office. Germany was the top source of European tourists, while the number of travelers from Australia increased by 15% over the previous year.

Johnson said international visitors tend to stay longer, spend more money and see more of the state than U.S. travelers.

“We’re going to continue to market to our international visitors so they know more about what Arizona has,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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