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Yuma touted as more than 'gas and grub'
For many traveling between Phoenix and the beaches of Southern California, Yuma is considered little more than a hot, dusty place to fuel their vehicle and grab a hamburger before they're back on the road to more alluring destinations.
But if they can be enticed a little further off the ribbon of highway into the community, they find there's more to Yuma than a quick pit stop.
“I don't think people in Arizona realize Yuma is as big as it is or what it offers,” said Ann Walker, spokeswoman for Yuma Visitors Bureau, the agency charged with promoting the Yuma area to visitors.
Once here, according to a tourism survey produced for the Arizona Office of Tourism in February 2011, visitors have a good time. They visit museums, galleries and historical sites, take part in special events and enjoy the recreational opportunities from boating and tubing to hiking, fishing and bird watching.
According to the survey, what they like most about the area are its sunny winter weather and warm people.
And the visitors evidenced a high degree of satisfaction with their trips, the tourism survey concluded. Overall satisfaction levels with visitor experiences average 8.25 out of a possible 10. Visitors also rated value for money in Yuma at eight out of 10. Fully 93.2 percent said they would plan a return visit, and nine out of 10 visitors said they would recommend a visit to Yuma to their friends and families.
The challenge is getting them here in the first place.
It's one that YVB continues to rise to with new programs each year in addition to its many other marketing efforts that include trade shows, billboards, national and international advertising and publication of a glossy visitors guide.
On Jan. 1, the agency launched its latest effort: a new rack brochure that is being distributed to hundreds of sites in Arizona and Southern California that gives a taste of what Yuma has to offer with its agriculture tours, water-based recreation, open spaces, historical attractions and special events as well as diverse culture, entertainment, casinos, shopping and dining opportunities.
“The idea is for people to pick it up along the road somewhere, take a look and go, ‘Wow, there's more to Yuma than I thought.' Hopefully they will be amazed at all the stuff in Yuma ... there's more to it than gas and grub,” Walker said.
Another new YVB initiative is Yuma 101, a program to create ambassadors of those on the front lines of encounters with visitors by increasing their knowledge of Yuma so when they're asked what there is to do in Yuma, they have a ready answer.
“As we know from our own travels, your impression of a place doesn't just come from the sights you see, it's the sum of all the interactions you have, from the person who serves your coffee to the one who sells you gas,” said Linda Jordan, YVB executive director. “Our warm and friendly people are a great asset, and we want to make them into a great sales team to share Yuma sunshine — one person at a time.”
YVB also continues to expand its agriculture tours that appeal to locals and visitors alike. Walker noted that 20 percent of those who took the Field to Feast tours last year said they either extended their stay in Yuma or came here specifically to take part.
Other special events are brought to Yuma by the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, which also oversees the operation of the two state parks in Yuma: Territorial Prison and Quartermaster Depot.
On another front, Caballeros de Yuma, a group of Yuma businessmen formed in 1962, works hard to produce several special events each year to attract visitors to Yuma and benefit the community. They include the Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival, Ken and Betty Borland Holiday Pageant and Tower Lighting, El Toro Bowl, Yuma Territorial Marathon, Territorial River Regatta and Midnight at the Oasis.
And each February as it has for nearly 70 years, the Yuma Jaycees present the Silver Spur Rodeo.
The private sector is stepping up to the plate as well to help provide fun and memorable visits to Yuma, such as Z Fun Factory and Waylon's Water World water park, boat tours and canoe rentals.
Then, of course, there's dove hunting. Yuma enjoys an international reputation as a prime spot for dove hunting, drawing thousands of hunters to the area each year.
So, as YVB's new brochure proclaims: “Yuma Everything Under the Sun: Unpack Fun & Adventure in the World's Sunniest Destination.”