Various Arizona tourism-oriented associations – the campground sector included – have launched a letter-writing campaign in an effort to prevent the state legislature from eliminating the Arizona Office of Tourism.
“They want to eliminate the office of tourism and not even have it as a functioning organization in the state of Arizona, which is just nuts,” said Joanne Michelson, president of the Arizona Travel Parks Association (ATPA).
ATPA and the other associations, including those representing the hospitality and restaurant industries, are hoping to persuade Arizona lawmakers this week to save the state’s tourism office on the premise that eliminating it and its $9 million annual budget will do little to ease the state’s projected $1.3 billion budget shortfall.
In fact, Michelson argues, a move to eliminate the tourism office could backfire. When budgetary shortfalls prompted Colorado legislators to eliminate that state’s tourism bureau a few years ago, she said, Colorado suffered a 30% decline in tourism revenue the following year and has since re-established its statewide tourism office. Moreover, she said, the state has had to spend additional millions of dollars – above and beyond what it would have spent otherwise – to get the office back up and running again.
Michelson, who owns the 65-space J & H RV Park in Flagstaff, says a move by Arizona legislators to eliminate the office of tourism reflects their lack of familiarity with the tourism industry and the importance of the bureau’s promotional work. Of Arizona’s 90 legislators, she said, 39 are freshman.
“They just don’t understand the vital workings of the Arizona Office of Tourism,” said Michelson, who was one of about 600 tourism industry officials attending the Arizona Visitor Industry Forum in Phoenix on Monday (Feb. 24). The forum covered a variety of state budgetary issues, including the state’s plans to sell Arizona Highways, one of the nation’s most visible travel magazines.