Although Yuma County lost a few jobs in the hospitality industry, tourism and travel continue to have a significant impact on the economy of Yuma County.
Linda Morgan, executive director of Visit Yuma, the community’s visitors bureau, recently shared a snapshot of how the industries are doing, as well as the agency’s current activities and strategic plan for the future.
Travelers to Yuma County in 2018 spent $651 million, just about 3% over the prior year, according to Dean Runyan Associations, a firm that studies travel and tourism.
These industries generated 6,210 local jobs in 2018, which generated local earnings of $169.4 million. Although local earnings were up by 3% over the previous year, for the first time since 2016, Yuma County experienced a drop in job creation, a loss of about 40 jobs.
“That’s due largely to automation and also the minimum wage, and because the hospitality industry typically relies on a lot of minimum wage workers,” Morgan explained.
Local and state tax receipts generated $52.2 million, up by just over 3% for 2018.
Morgan also shared lodging figures, “an indicator of how we’re doing in the hospitality industry,” she noted.
In September 2019, occupancy was 68.2%, up by 3.7% over the previous year, and the average daily rate was $88.19, up by 2.7% over the previous year.
In October, the average daily rate was up 3.2% and the revenue per available room was up 5.7%.
Through November, the hotel occupancy was up 2.1% over the same time the prior year, and the average daily rate was up 2.9% when compared to the same time last year.
“This is really good news,” Morgan said. “We’re not realizing the same type of increases we’ve had over the last couple years largely due to some Homeland Security contracts running out and some DoD (Department of Defense) things, but in talking to hoteliers, they do believe it’s going to come back.”
Revenues from the 2% hospitality tax collected by lodging accommodations, bars and restaurants was up 2.9% through November and 8.5% year to date.
CELEBRATING THE ARTS
This year, Visit Yuma has put a “real heavy emphasis” on arts in Yuma. “You’ve probably noticed it’s really blossoming here in Yuma, every kind of art, whether performing arts or visual arts,” Morgan noted.
“There’s a lot going on with the murals. We’ve got some really dedicated people,” she added, pointing out Lindsay Benacka at the Art Center and the LIttlewoods with the Littlewood Fine Art and Community Co-op.
“We really wanted to focus on that to attract a little bit younger audience and also those with a little bit more disposable income,” Morgan said.
The agency is doing a few things to up its marketing strategy in 2020. First, it’s completely redesigning its website using Simpleview, a worldwide company that works with destination organizations.
“So this really put us in the game with all the big players like Phoenix and those big destinations,” Morgan said.
In July and August, the Visit Yuma website had 197,000 pageviews and almost 76,000 unique visits.
As part of a partnership with the Arizona Department of Tourism, the agency will get $12,000 worth of marketing for $6,000 because the state will pay half the bill.
Visit Yuma’s social media presence continues to grow. It received 1.4 million impressions throughout all social media platforms from July through Nov. 11.
The Visit Yuma app is “doing very well” with 8,980 downloads and 55,703 pageviews. “This is where people are getting information from,” she explained, adding that a kiosk with a large version of the app is at the Visitor Information Center.
NEW THIS YEAR
Visit Yuma introduced new events this year, including the Ag to Art Market, a combination of art and farmers market, being held at different locations every month. It took place in the Foothills in November, Wellton in December and at the Colorado River State Park in Yuma in January. It will be Somerton in February, at the Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex in Yuma in March and the Sanguinetti House in April.
Also new this year are the Sunset on the Ranch Dinners and History Dinners With Tina Clark and Cathy Reeves. “Ticket sales are going like crazy,” Morgan said.
SALES AND CONVENTIONS
Leslie McClendon, group sales manager, has been busy traveling the country to promote Yuma as an ideal sight for tour stops and conventions. The efforts have resulted in 4,100 total room nights.
Several organizations have held conventions here, including the International Brotherhood Organization, which drew 300 people; the USS Haven Military Reunion, which had 200 participants; and the Desert Botanical Conference with 200 attendees.
Yuma will be hosting more conventions this year, including 100 farmers from Germany and Japan, 250 for the Oregon California Trail Association, and 350 for the USS James Military Reunion.
Yuma is also quickly becoming a stop for tour operators. From Canada, Fun Tours brought two bus groups; Promotion Tours brought three bus groups; and Tours of Destination and Vernon Tours each brought one bus group.
U.S. tour operators are also stopping in Yuma. Day Tripping has brought two bus groups; Free Spirit Vacations three bus groups; and AM Tours four bus groups.
VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER
Visit Yuma continues to operate the the Visitor Information Center at the Colorado River State Park every day of the year, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. The center welcomes more than 50,000 visitors each year, providing them with information about all things Yuma.
It has a gift shop offering gifts and souvenirs “to enhance the experience and share with others,” like coloring books with works from local artists. The online store is able to reach customers worldwide.
JUST FOR MEMBERS
Visit Yuma, just over 400 strong, also organizes events exclusively for members, such as speed networking, blind date lunch, quarterly and annual memberships meetings and other events.
“We are doing so much work, we are so busy,” Morgan noted.
To reach the Visit Yuma Administrative Office, call 928-376-0100. The Visitors Information Center can be reached at 1-800-293-0071 or 928-783-0071.