Forum upbeat about Yuma tourism offerings
Yuma tourism officials seem to be feeling optimistic.
Visitor spending last year could give them hope, anyway: Yuma-area tourism rebounded last year after a two-year slump, attendees at a Thursday morning business forum learned.
According to figures presented at a “Know Yuma Inside & Out” forum by guest speaker Sherry Henry, executive director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, “direct travel spending” in Yuma County is projected to total about $616 million for 2011 — not quite the 2008 peak (which reached $619.5 million) but far better than the $597.8 million spent in 2009 or the $580.3 spent in 2010.
Last year's top spending categories were retail sales; arts, entertainment and recreation; and food services.
Henry said 6,330 direct jobs, $151 million in direct earnings and $39.6 million in local, state and federal tax revenues could be attributed to those tourism dollars.
Tourism is Yuma County's third-largest industry.
To carve out Yuma's niche requires good marketing, and authenticity helps, said Susan Sternitzke, former executive director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau and now the Yuma rep on the Tourism Advisory Council for the Arizona Office of Tourism and an independent public relations and marketing professional focusing on tourism and agriculture.
She pointed to agritourism and Yuma's hard-to-deny dominance in winter vegetable growing. There's also the award-winning “Free Board” campaign — a promise to provide free meals and other perks to visitors if they come during one of Yuma's rare overcast days, launched last year as a tribute to the locally iconic photo of the Pilot Knob Hotel, circa 1905, offering free board for every day the sun doesn't shine.
Linda Jordan, current executive director of the YVB, said the popular agritourism programming will be expanded in the coming cooler months, with farm tours added on Saturdays for working locals to enjoy.
She encouraged people at the forum to sell Yuma and to suggest it as a good meeting place for their trade or philanthropic groups — the YVB would be happy to help with that.
Jordan said those visitors will be impressed with what Yuma has to offer.
“We hear that constantly. We know that if we can get people to Yuma and show them what is going on in Yuma, they'll come back and they'll tell you that they had no idea.
“It's amazing to me the amount of people who travel through and don't know how close they are to the Colorado River,” she added.
“Know Yuma Inside & Out” is a series of monthly forums hosted by the Yuma Sun to provide business people with information on how to reach more potential customers and improve their bottom line. The next forum will be at 7 a.m. Aug. 16 in the council chambers at Yuma City Hall, One City Plaza, and focus on Yuma's Hispanic population and incoming agricultural workers. A continental breakfast will be provided.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.