Ted Simons: Arizona's office of tourism is out with new numbers that show among other things, that 38 million people visited the state last year, making for $19 billion in direct spending. Joining us now is Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona office of tourism. Good to see you again.
Sherry Henry: It’s nice to be back. Thank you.
Ted Simons: What is the state of tourism in Arizona?
Sherry Henry: It is fabulous. We are finally beginning to climb out of what has been a very deep valley. I think we all know over the last four years, and the 19.3 billion dollars the visitors spend is the largest visitors spend we've ever seen in Arizona.
Ted Simons: So climbing out and then some.
Sherry Henry: Climbing out and then some, right.
Ted Simons: Who are these visitors?
Sherry Henry: 80% of them are probably leisure visitors. 20% still fall into the business group market. But the leisure visitors, they're the ones that keep coming. And they're Canadians, they're from Mexico, they're from all across the country. They're even coming from China, they're coming from Brazil, they're coming from the U.K. So we've got a nice mixture going of the domestic and the international.
Ted Simons: As far as business and leisure, I'm hearing the Phoenix convention center, conventions are down there. What's going on with that?
Sherry Henry: It's really a shame. I think that unfortunately that group market really got caught in sort of that ultimate perfect storm. Do you back in time three years ago, we had swine flu, then we had the recession, you had the legislation issue, then you had the government wasn't going to travel anymore, so you put all those things together and on top of everything else you had all of these other cities out in our part of the world opening their own beautiful big million square feet convention centers. So unfortunately that got caught up in that cyclone, and what's happened is these things take time. These conventions book way, way out in advance. So I think what we're seeing is just sort of the result of what happened three years ago, but this beginning to show that climb, it's beginning to come up, the leisure market is actually been stronger throughout this whole three-year period.
Ted Simons: Why do you think that is?
Sherry Henry: I think people still wanted to take vacations. So we did some things on a marketing side that really encouraged particularly the regional visitor, as well as our strong international visitors. And those leisure people, they came, and people started taking those shorter vacations closer to home, so we really went after that market. We didn't have the funding in those years, you kind of look back and go, why do certain things happen. We didn't have the funding in those years to be on the national scene, to be in the international consumer Mother Nature kinetic so we hit target cities and went regional.
Ted Simons: Do we have the funding now?
Sherry Henry: We do, thanks to our governor and the legislature, they allocated money last year for fiscal near '13, that enabled us to be back on the national scene, to get into the international market, to do some exploration for the international mayor kinetic as well.
Ted Simons: How does that compare to what the tourism industry saw years ago.
Sherry Henry: When you go back to the middle 2000s, looking at about , that money began to taper off, and it got really low obviously, '09, ‘10 , '11, and even '12. Now in '13 we have enough money to be back on the national scene to begin to make things happen.
Ted Simons: Does that mean people in Michigan are seeing how swell Arizona?
Sherry Henry: Yes. Finally those Michigan people are seeing Arizona. Yes. On "USA Today," "Wall Street Journal," the Travel Channel. Architectural digest, radio, TV, you name it, we're there.
Ted Simons: You mentioned China and Brazil, that's a focus for marketing correct?
Sherry Henry: It is. That was a request of our governor; we had made the recommendation if we could have additional funding what would we do? Those two international markets absolutely sit at the top of the most traveling of the international markets, and we're also in partnership with brand USA, which is the new marketing organization for the entire United States. And that enabled to us leverage those dollars, let us do some exploration in those two markets. They are predicted to be the number two markets for international travelers coming into this country.
Ted Simons: Isn't that something? What about Arizona tourism needs to be emphasized? When those folks in Michigan are watching commercials about us, what are they seeing?
Sherry Henry: I think there's the misnomers about Arizona, and I think the big surprise about Arizona is diversity. And I think that's a story that we need to keep telling. Obviously we have the Grand Canyon, we have the fabulous weather. We have these iconic images, but what we need to do is make sure the people in Michigan and the rest of the country and the rest of the world know that you can do anything in Arizona. I can ski, you can water board. You can play golf, you can go to the spa. You can see great iconic images, you can go hiking. In other words, the diversity is almost so big it's hard to tell the whole story.
Ted Simons: Bottom line, it sounds like morale in the tourism industry is up. Accurate?
Sherry Henry: Fabulous, yes. We just came off our annual governor's conference. I have been coming to this conference for more years than I'll tell you about, but believe me, this was one of the greatest positive energy conferences I can remember. Because all of a sudden there is this movement of positivity, and this high energy. And it was so apparent with the 450 people all from the tourism industry that were there.
Ted Simons: That's good news, it's good to hear things are on the rebound. It's good on to have you here.
Sherry Henry: Always a pleasure.