Lions And Zoos

Arizona Tourism Board Grants Help Businesses Cope With COVID-19 Losses


As businesses and other organizations attempt to recoup losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of tourist attractions across Arizona are receiving $ 9.4 million in state grants.

Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Office of Tourism announced this month that 43 Arizona businesses will receive funding under the Visit Arizona partnership.

The funding is part of the larger Visit Arizona initiative, a $ 101.1 million program designed to promote the recovery of Arizona’s tourism industry.

This initiative was created with money from federal COVID-19 relief efforts and includes more than $ 60 million in grants. The Visit Arizona Partnership is one of three grant programs included in the initiative.

The money left over for the larger initiative is expected to go primarily to state parks and state and county fairs.

Funding from the Visit Arizona Partnership grant will support the restoration of several festivals, arts and culture, and community events that have been negatively affected by the pandemic, according to the governor’s office.

“With tourism being the industry hardest hit and still working to turn around, we really focused during this first round on getting funds for the communities that needed it most,” said Debbie Johnson , director of the Arizona Tourism Board in a released statement.

About half of the money, $ 4.6 million, has been allocated to 11 organizations in Tucson and southern Arizona, while $ 3.7 million in funding will go to 18 entities in Maricopa and the county of Pinal.

Other organizations in northern Arizona will receive funding of approximately $ 817,000 and businesses in western Arizona will receive approximately $ 235,000.

One organization receiving help is the Phoenix Zoo, which will receive $ 768,000 that authorities plan to spend on new habitat. The Sonoran Desert Big Cat Habitat, which the zoo says will cost $ 3.2 million, will feature animals like pumas and jaguars.

Caipora, a jaguar, stands above a meat-covered pumpkin at the Phoenix Zoo on October 29, 2020.

Bert Castro, president and CEO of the Phoenix Zoo, said the zoo was closed to traditional visitors for 161 days in 2020, slashing revenue by more than $ 9 million in fiscal 2020 and 2021.

“We look forward to doing the work necessary to get the planning, design and construction started over the next few months. There will definitely be a celebration once the Habitat opens to the public,” Castro said.

The Perimeter Biking Association will use the money it receives to organize its El Tour of Tucson, which is expected to attract more than 10,000 cyclists to Pima County the weekend before Thanksgiving.

“This grant will allow us to deliver an incredible Arizona experience on a traditionally off-peak weekend,” said TJ Juskiewicz, executive director of El Tour of Tucson.

After a two-year hiatus, the Flagstaff Blues & Brews Festival is also back. Thanks in part to grant funding, Peak Events, an event planning company in Arizona, will produce the popular event next June.

Flagstaff Blues & Brews features local and regional brewers and musicians

Chihuly in the Desert, the Superior Mining Festival and Burro Run, as well as the annual Parker Tube Float will also benefit from grant funding.

The full list of the 43 companies and organizations that have received Visit Arizona Partnership Grant funding is listed on the Governor’s Office website.

Economic impact of tourism in Arizona

Tourism is an important part of Arizona’s economy; in 2019, visitors spent $ 25.6 billion, which generated $ 3.78 billion in tax revenue, according to data from the Arizona Office of Tourism.

However, in 2020, traveler spending fell by almost half from the previous year, and tax revenue fell to $ 2.67 billion. The number of tourism jobs also fell by 27%.

In 2020, Arizona night visits fell 31% and tourism spending fell 41% from 2019 rates, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Limitations on air travel amid the pandemic have led to a significant drop in the number of international and domestic visitors – the number of international visitors fell by 60% in 2020.

The pandemic has also contributed to a significant loss of “snowbirds,” people who come to Arizona for warmer weather during the winter months. Last year, the number of domestic travelers fell by almost 26%.

Yet recent data seems more optimistic: In August, passenger traffic at Arizona airports rose 134% from 2020, and in July, state tourism taxes were up 33%.

Annual cumulative taxes generated by Arizona travelers have increased 33% and the rest of the tourism economic statistics are promising as most sectors have increased from negative, according to recent data from the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Visit Arizona Initiative Grants

To apply for a grant, the Arizona Office of Tourism required financial matching, which can be in cash, in-kind, or third-party contributions.

The Visit Arizona Partnership and other grant programs are closed, but another – the Legacy Golf Course Revitalization Program – is still accepting applications.

The Golf Courses Program includes $ 8 million for golf courses to update infrastructure, modernize courses and improve sustainability. To apply, courses must have been built before 1986, have 18 holes and cover more than 90 acres.

The state had an additional $ 8 million for outdoor recreation and $ 20 million for marketing to promote tourism in Arizona.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @martillaronews.

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