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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
10:32 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Connection? Rising gas prices boost local tourism?

Tourism numbers are up across the state, according to several visitors bureaus and the Arizona Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

More and more people are coming to Arizona, booking rooms and eating meals, an Associated Press article in Monday's Courier states. Even though the numbers are not what they were four or five years ago, officials are optimistic.

Why? Look at how Prescott has fared, as a prime example.

David Sommer, president and CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that if the number of tourists and visitors who stop in to the Prescott Chamber's Tourist Information Center, 117 W. Goodwin St., is any indication of the upcoming tourist season ... "it looks hot."

"So far our visitor numbers are up 26 percent from 2003," Sommer said. "In a typical day, we will have 90 to 100 people visit our center. Most are here for the day, but many times they are revisiting our area and checking it out as a possible future home."

The Prescott Chamber of Commerce has seen increases in the number of visitors every year for the past four years (or more; I did not access figures beyond that). For example, in the first quarter of 2001, 5,023 people walked through the doors of the chamber/tourist center. That number went up to 5,352 in 2002; to 6,327 in 2003; and, in the first quarter of this year, 7,974 people visited the chamber.

That's about 37 percent more visitors since 2001.

The chamber's Tourist Information Center receives financing from the membership of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce and non-dues income. "We are open seven days a week and have limited hours on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Our weekend traffic has really picked up," stated Robert Coombs, tourist information specialist. "We use to have 40 to 50 visitors and now we have doubled those weekend numbers and the season is only getting started."

Naturally, the statewide numbers tout events such as P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, the Fiesta Bowl, the Grand Canyon, Major League Baseball and spring training, among other attractions, as reasons why more people are coming to the state.

Prescott? Well, as events go, my top two are Prescott Frontier Days (the "World's Oldest Rodeo") and the Christmas celebrations (the parade, the courthouse lighting, etc.). In addition, "Everybody's Hometown" has such charm, history and character, it's no wonder we have weathered the economic slumps so well.

I find it ironic, however, that the article touting the statewide tourism numbers being up appeared just across from a short story about gasoline prices rising another 2.5 cents.

It's all interconnected, folks.

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PARTING SHOT – "Together with thousands, (tourists) are granted immunities and broad freedoms. You are an army of fools, wearing bright polyesters, riding camels, taking pictures of each other, haggard, dysenteric, thirsty. There is nothing to think about but the next shapeless event." – Don Delillo, U.S. author.

Think about it.

E-mail the columnist at twieds@prescottaz.com