Senior Vice President, AAA Arizona
As senior vice president of AAA Arizona, Jim Prueter is part of a company that provides automotive, insurance and travel services to nearly 800,000 Arizona members. He’s no stranger to AAA, having worked as vice president of AAA Mid Atlantic in Philadelphia, and as executive vice president of AAA Chicago Motor Club. But he didn’t get his first taste of the travel industry side of the company until 1998, when he arrived in Arizona.
In his current post, he is responsible for heading up the largest leisure travel agency in Arizona, AAA Travel Agency. In addition, he is the publisher of AAA’s member magazine, Highroads Magazine. With a subscription of nearly half a million, the magazine is the largest in the state. In his various professional affiliations and as current chair of Arizona Tourism Alliance’s board of directors, Prueter recognizes the importance of tourism advocacy efforts.
“It is vitally important that the Arizona travel industry has a voice that is heard by our elected officials, the business community at large and the public. Tourism has a huge economic impact on our state, that is largely unknown, that must be heard,” Prueter says.
The ATA, Prueter says, is a driving force in spreading the message about the enormous impact the travel industry has on the state’s economy.
“The ATA serves as a catalyst and voice for the Arizona tourism industry dedicated to providing advocacy and generating awareness of the industry by providing education and leadership to the industry,” says Prueter. “Over 37 million domestic and international overnight travelers visited our state in 2008, spending some $18.5 billion. That equates to more than $51 million pumped directly into our economy every day. It is the only industry that brings prosperity to all 15 Arizona counties.”
He adds that taxes paid by visitors have a direct and measurable benefit on Arizonans, generating $2.6 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues in 2008.
“The point is, out-of-state visitors spend money that benefits businesses far beyond traditional travel entities. The purchases travelers to Arizona make generate taxes that create tax revenue that fund jobs and public programs, such as police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers,” Prueter says.
The dismal economy certainly put a strain on the industry, as did the faltering state budget and bad press regarding corporate meetings (Meetings account for more than 70 percent of resort revenues in the state).
To counter this, Prueter encourages individuals to join organizations such as the ATA, the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, the Arizona Restaurant Association, local convention and visitors bureaus and other industry organizations. His goal is to continue to work with the ATA on advocating tourism to all industries. With events such as the Unity Dinner and the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the ATA will continue its efforts on behalf of travel and tourism in Arizona.
Getting the industry back on track will take some time, but Prueter offers this advice: “Don’t sit on the sidelines wringing your hands … Let them know what the economic impact of the Arizona tourism industry means to their business and the positive impacts travel has to the benefit of all Arizonans.”