Thursday, March 5, 2009


Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Friday, April 27, 2007

Last weekend, Arizona greatly expanded in size, appeared on national television and added millions and millions of dollars to its economy with a NASCAR event, one of two held annually in the Phoenix metro area.

Yet when it comes to promoting tourism in Arizona, state government efforts have waned.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Arizona Highways was the No. 1 way of drawing people to Arizona. It must have worked. We were fewer than a million statewide then, and have nearly 7 million residents now. Yet few outside of Arizona in their 20s or 30s have heard of this publication because the state has abandoned putting promotional dollars behind it.

Tourism is not where it should be in Arizona. Neighboring California does a splendid job of promoting tourism. That state has Hearst Castle, the Huntington Library, the Getty Museum, the San Diego Zoo. Las Vegas is surpassing Arizona. Denver has a billboard at Seventh Avenue and Camelback promoting tourism to the Mile High City.

What does Arizona have? We have the Tovrea Castle that has been shuttered for almost two decades. We have the Wrigley Mansion that nearly bankrupted the late Geordie Hormel. The city should have a statue of this man who literally rescued one of our great heritages from a bulldozer. We have the Arizona Biltmore, visited by Hollywood celebrities as well as presidents. Yet if you went to Chicago, people who have even heard of these places would think they're in another state. Great job we're doing in promoting our national wonders!

How many local residents know the Grand Canyon is one of the world's leading tourist draws? We have two of the largest national forests in the nation.

We have the Cactus League, as well as the Arizona Fall League, keeping major league baseball alive in the state for 10 months of the year. What other state can make that statement? None!

Las Vegas, Denver and Anaheim draw more conventions than Arizona. Why? We have outstanding convention facilities in both Phoenix and Tucson. Airfare is relatively cheap compared with other states.

Arizona should go back to things it practiced in the past. Invite those national morning television shows to Arizona during spring training. Pay for lodging for the best East Coast radio station morning teams to broadcast from Arizona during our fine spring weather.

We have the Super Bowl coming to Arizona in 2008, and possibly 2011. Do you think tourism officials will take the opportunity to advertise that Arizona has all this going for it? Will we advertise that Arizona will be celebrating its centennial on Valentine's Day, 2012, the last state in the continental U.S. to celebrate its centennial? Not a chance! We ought to do better.

Richard C. Kelleher is a public relations specialist in northeast Phoenix.