This year has not been the year many of us expected. In the middle of March, Arizona’s Cactus League was in full swing, resorts were at full occupancy, and the weather was glorious. Some may have been on a spring break trip— which would turn out to be their last vacation of 2020. But Arizona was not immune to the virus that was beginning to make its way throughout the world, the U.S., and our state. Our ability to travel freely and do all the recreational activities that are important in our lives ended suddenly.
For the past nine months, the directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been to stay home— meaning no vacations, and no travel for any reason. Business travel has largely ceased, events have been canceled, attractions closed, and along with that, many summer and fall vacation plans canceled or delayed.
Now we face decisions about holiday travel for visiting family, or maybe a trip for skiing or other winter activities. And rightfully so. With the pandemic not yet under control, we are still being cautioned not to travel, or to avoid particular modes of transportation or types of vacations and activities.
As a result of this travel hiatus there is an enormous impact on travel destinations worldwide. Arizona’s tourism industry is significant to the state’s economy. The current estimate is a loss of $9 billion of direct visitor spending in the tourism revenues for the first half of 2020, according to the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. This is impacting many employees in tourism and hospitality, businesses large and small, and government-operated venues such as Sky Harbor Airport. Tourism is hurting, and so are the people, businesses, and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods.
As tourism researchers and educators, one of the first topics we cover with students or on surveys we conduct around the state of Arizona is, “Why do people travel?” What needs or motives underlie the act of travel? The most popular motives are to spend time with family or friends, be outdoors or experience culture, meet new people, see new places, try new activities, relax, and be safe and healthy while on vacation. While our instinct is to wander far and wide, these motives can also be fulfilled by staying close to home and taking vacations that require less travel time.
While tourism is often considered trips that are greater than 50 miles away from home, with the pandemic, getaways of any distance can satisfy many travel motives. Arizona as a destination has much to offer local residents, as well as seasonal or winter visitors. We can get our vacation fix and help our local and state’s economy at the same time. The Arizona Office of Tourism is now promoting staycations, road trips, and a rediscovery of familiar and lesser-known Arizona destinations (www.visitarizona.com). Arizona offers a plethora of natural and cultural attractions
that can be visited while still allowing travelers to follow safety guidelines. As a consumer of travel, now is a good time to think about taking a vacation to uncrowded places.
Be safer, more responsible, and greener by visiting lesser-known destinations, or popular places at less busy times.
Revisit some of the nearby places that are favorites. Staying overnight can be safe. Hotels have redesigned many of their features and services to be touchless. Dining can also be safe with takeout and outdoor dining options. In the southern part of the state, camping and RV trips are an option. Airbnbs are also a popular choice for travelers, as many homes offer seclusion.
Car trips are also popular, and Arizona has many scenic drives (check out any Arizona Highways magazine issue). The noted leisure activities offer an extensive menu of
Many museums have also reopened with appropriate safety measures in place, offering cultural experience opportunities. This is a disappointing year for Arizona’s tourism industry. Recovery will take time. Consider a vacation close to home,
particularly if being cooped up has taken its toll; travel is good for both physical and mental health.
Recent research from Phocuswright indicates that many U.S. travelers are not comfortable going too far from home. There are too many uncertainties and unknowns. But a large majority feel they will be ready to travel within the U.S.
during the coming year. Until that time comes, dream about and plan for a vacation, either domestically or internationally, and be ready to go when it’s safe to travel. In the meantime, reduce cabin fever by taking trips close to home in our beautiful state, and enjoy the time with family.
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