by Tim Kanavel, Program Manager, Pinal County Economic Development
Newly released numbers from the Arizona Department of Tourism show that tourists spent over $500 million in Pinal County in 2017. A study conducted by Dean Runyan Associates highlights tourism dollars spent in Arizona and breaks them down by county. Pinal County’s economy realized $691.5 million in tourism-related spending.
“I’m very impressed with these statistics,” says Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Goodman. “I know that tourism is a big contributor to our economy, and these numbers are a welcome sight to anyone who is employed in the industry.”
Tourism and Jobs
The study shows that tourism accounts for 6,900 jobs in the county. The vast majority of those come from the accommodation and food service industry (4,500). Arts, entertainment and recreation come in second at 1,400.
Pete Rios, Supervisor for District 1, which includes such tourist destinations as Biosphere 2, Casa Grande Ruins and the San Pedro River Valley, says jobs created by tourism are needed, especially in the eastern section of the county.
“This is an area that is desperate for good-paying employment,” Rios says. “The effect of tourism in the area is something we are celebrating and something we can further promote to bring in even more travelers.”
Breaking down the actual spending in Pinal County, the study shows that retail, along with food and beverage services, brought in the majority of dollars to the county. Food and beverage services are listed at $236.3 million while retail spending comes in at $120.7 million. Accommodations only accounted for 10 percent of the $617.4 million spent here.
Becoming a Destination
I love seeing these numbers; we’ve gone from a total impact of $222.2 million in 1998 to over $690 million. But this study shows we need to focus more on making Pinal County a destination rather than a place where you visit for a day or so.
There are a few things holding us back. First, people fly into either Phoenix or Tucson. These two cities have a lot of attractions known around the world. The idea is to further outreach to areas where these tourists are coming from and letting them know about Pinal County’s state parks, outdoor activities and great golf courses.
We like to say around the office that Pinal County is a “get off your butt” type of county. We may not have a Disneyland, we may not have a professional sports team, but we have something a lot better to offer — Mother Nature.
Need for Accommodations
Another item holding us back is the lack of hotels that serve visitors. We have some great natural attractions, and while that makes this area a perfect place to camp, we need to realize there are those who want a place like a Hilton or Marriott to lay their heads for the night.
I think anyone in the hotel sector looking at these numbers will see there is a need for their services here, and we’ll be happy to have them. The need is here and will be much more once the Attesa motorsports complex begins its operations.
Another thing that helps bring visitors to Pinal County is our friendly smiles and attitudes. More than once I have been told that we are some of the nicest folks that visitors meet along their journeys. That is free and pays big dividends to those who don’t want to fight big-city traffic.
To see the numbers from Dean Runyan Associates log onto deanrunyan.com/AZTravelImpacts/AZTravelImpacts.html.