The State of Arizona
Travel is an experience that unites us.
Pulling us closer to those things that we taken for granted in our daily lives.
Travel is a basic need for many in our species. While some don’t leave a hometown but once in a lifetime, they still travel among the streets, parks and people within it.
Travel is a joyous experience, an adventure, one of the few defining moments in our personal history.
Travel is a common experience.
At the same time, travel can be dangerous, controversial and destructive. Specifically, tourism can be used as a political pawn, source of greed and focal point for anger.
The recent news from Arizona has highlighted the challenges that come with the promotion of tourism.
Budget deficits and a lack of leadership have placed the Arizona Office of Tourism, and therefore the entire tourism industry in Arizona, in a tenuous position.
Local organizations that once benefited from grants are now desperate for funds, political survival has replaced trusted partnerships and many of my former colleagues have been forced to leave the office they gave so much for.
It is difficult to accept the argument that the state will market itself.
That organizations have prospered without a plan.
That the Grand Canyon does not need promotion.
Perhaps the Grand Canyon does not, but I know several local treasures that do.
Damage to the tourism industry in the state has already been done.
State parks are closed or forced to operate with reduced hours. Funds for sorely needed infrastructure improvements have been reduced. Rest stops have been shuttered.
The latter providing more material to the endless and pointless 24-hour news cycle.
Surely that would be enough hard luck for one state to absorb.
However, the introduction of a new immigration law has further cast Arizona into the national spotlight…and once again, not a positive one.
Regardless of your political stance, one must admit that the current controversy, protests and endless string of social petitions is causing further damage to the reputation of the state.
Conventions have canceled, travel plans have been changed and hundreds of brand advocates have requested email anonymity.
While the impact is still to be determined, somehow I doubt that the rush of anti-immigration tourists looking for prime Scottsdale pool-front property will outweigh the financial benefit received from, but rarely attributed to, those without official papers.
A tough subject, but one that with so much impact to so many industries…including tourism…that it must be addressed by the tourism leadership in Arizona.
Travel, such a simple pleasure.
A simple pleasure that is rooted in the fabric of our being and therefore a causality of personal agendas.
I would like to travel to Arizona again. But I think my upcoming adventures are best left to another sliver of planet for the time being.
Time will remove the mismanagement, incompetence and negative perception from the state.
Soon, it will return to a natural wonder while shedding the reputation of a national controversy.
Time, after all, did produce some amazing tourist attractions in the Grand Canyon State.