Arizona received promising economic news that bodes well for the Phoenix metro region’s long-term growth: The state is expected to add 120,000 people to the employment rolls in 2015 and 2016, with jobs in the visitor industry leading the way.
The forecast from the Arizona Department of Administration underlines that the state is on the right track. But even more than the near-term benefit that additional visitor-industry jobs provide, the area can expect those jobs to jump-start the kind of economic development that leads to new industries relocating to the region.
Cities that are top destinations for leisure travel or conventions are more likely to have better prospects for long-term success than other locales, according to a recent study examining the economic performance of several U.S. cities, including Phoenix.
“Statistical analysis over the past two decades shows that destinations with substantial and growing visitor economies have outperformed their peers in the general economy,” said Adam Sacks, director, Oxford Economics, the organization that performed the study. “There are strong connections between a city’s convention facilities and tourism and its long-term growth and quality of life.”
Visit Phoenix (the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau) reports that more than 17 million people visit metropolitan Phoenix each year, while meetings at the Phoenix Convention Center and downtown hotels alone contribute nearly $1 million in estimated spending to the city each day.
Harnessing the potential of these visits is a priority for the city. The Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department makes a point of coordinating with the CVB. Hank Marshall, an economic development executive officer, sees the two departments as “highly complementary.”
Conventions and trade shows often attract the very prospects that economic development officers target. The study showed that visitation, conventions and trade shows can create valuable exposure among out-of-town business leaders. The ability to experience a destination’s skilled workforce, infrastructure, and cultural assets first hand can often prompt these business leaders to consider relocation.
Which is why Phoenix is courting meetings and conventions in the knowledge industry.
“We align many of our convention bids with the city and state’s targeted industries, including medicine and technology conferences,” said Visit Phoenix President and CEO Steve Moore. “Our economic development community doesn’t always have to fly across the U.S. or the globe for business-development leads, because many of them are already coming here for conventions.”
While tourism and conventions set the stage for continued growth, they are not the only catalysts. As the study notes, there is strong value to securing “best fit” events and maintaining the momentum afterwards. Phoenix, for example, hosted the Super Bowl again this year, the third time for the city. The bid was prepared by a consortium including regional CVBs and economic development offices, and included a CEO Forum established by business and commerce leadership.
Last year alone, states and cities across the United States invested nearly $2 billion in destination promotion. Phoenix was among them because economic development officials know that attracting visitors to enjoy an area’s geographical splendors, resort facilities or attend one of the nation’s biggest sporting events will lead to sustained growth.
– Michael Gehrisch is CEO of Destination Marketing Association International, the global trade association for official destination marketing organizations.