Arizona’s tourism industry recovering faster than national average

Jul 12, 2022, 4:45 AM
Visitors stand at the Grand Canyon South Rim on July 14, 2014 at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizon...
Visitors stand at the Grand Canyon South Rim on July 14, 2014 at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The Grand Canyon is among the state's biggest tourist destinations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The tourism industry took a major hit from the coronavirus pandemic, but Arizona is bouncing back and faster than other parts of the U.S.

New numbers released by the Arizona Office of Tourism show how well the state’s tourism industry did in 2021 compared to 2019, which was a record-setting year for the industry in Arizona.

Debbie Johnson, Arizona Office of Tourism director, points to visitor spending levels as a good metric of the state’s recovery.

“In 2019 we were at $25.6 billion in visitor spending,” she said. “[In 2021] we were at $23.6 billion, and that’s compared to 2020 which didn’t even make $15 billion.”

That represents a 92% recovery to pre-pandemic levels compared to just 76% nationwide cited by the Office’s report.

The report also shows 40.9 million overnight visitors to Arizona, an 87% return to 2019’s levels.

Johnson thinks a wide range of options helped Arizona tempt travelers back with pandemic conditions continuing.

“I think what makes Arizona unique is our outdoor space,” she said.

“If you’re fully comfortable to go stay at a resort, or if you want to camp in the middle of nowhere and not see anybody else, you have opportunities everywhere in between those two options.”

Johnson said moving forward, international travel will also continue to play a part in the state’s recovery.

“We’re really excited about Germany returning to Arizona … having the UK flights back is huge,” she said.

“We have a long ways to go, but having those flights back, not having to test internationally like they used to, I think that’s all good news for travel.”

She also cited an increase in business travel as a contributing factor.

The Arizona Office of Tourism was predicting 2024 as the year the state would fully return to 2019’s record-breaking tourism numbers. However, Johnson believes Arizona will meet those metrics even sooner.

“I don’t think we’re going to quite get there in 2022, but I believe we’ll be very close,” she said. “I think that’s going to happen, hopefully, in 2023.”

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Arizona’s tourism industry recovering faster than national average