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Arizona tourism needs to reboot marketing campaign, economist says

(AP Photo/John Locher)

PHOENIX – A Phoenix-area economist said as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and travel resumes, Arizona needs to step up its game to attract tourists other states are pursuing.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for travel,” economist Jim Rounds told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “You’re seeing this in terms of bookings for Airbnb, time shares, hotels. We’re seeing an uptick but if we don’t advertise for tourism we’re going to lose some of that … to other states.”

Before the coronavirus hit last year, Arizona’s tourism industry was around a $25 billion per year piece of the state’s economic engine.

As vaccination numbers increase across the country, other states are ramping up tourism spending and Arizona needs to follow suit to bring tens of millions of dollars into the state, Rounds said.

Arizona could recover most of the lost jobs by the end of the year with the exception of tourism, which could take another year.

Overall, Rounds said, the state has recovered about 68% of the 320,000 jobs lost during the pandemic. That number leads the nation, but tourism is at 62%.

“Tourism isn’t just important in bringing people here for vacations, it’s also an economic development tool,” Rounds said.

“It includes our ability to recruit businesses, capturing CEOs [and] having major events.”

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