Arizona outpaces nation in 2021 tourism recovery

Above: Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort. Business News | 12 Jul |

Arizona’s status as a top-choice travel destination was reaffirmed again last year, as the state’s tourism recovery of both visitor spending and overnight stays outpaced the national average, according to new research released today by the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT).

In calendar year 2021, overnight visitors spent $23.6 billion across Arizona, which is 92% of the all-time high mark set in 2019. The nation as a whole recovered 76% of 2019 spending levels in 2021. This state visitor spending equals $64.7 million spent per day in Arizona by visitors during 2021.

Total overnight visitation showed similar results, with Arizona welcoming 40.9 million visitors in 2021, representing 87% of the benchmark 2019 level. The nation recovered 85% of overnight visitation in 2021.

“It’s no surprise to see droves of people coming to visit our state. Tourism in Arizona directly translates into economic benefits for communities statewide,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “This is a huge testament to the efforts of Director Debbie Johnson, the AOT team and all the hard-working people across Arizona’s tourism industry.”

“Arizona’s tourism industry continues to do an outstanding job of marketing our state’s amazing experiences and wide-open spaces to leisure travelers,” said Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “There’s strong competition and plenty of work ahead, but we’re very happy that visitors are seeing and selecting Arizona as one of their favorite vacation destinations.”

Additional 2021 data highlights include:

Visitor Spending: Visitors spent $23.6 billion in Arizona in 2021, which is a 58% increase from $14.9 billion spent in 2020 and is getting closer (92%) of our 2019 peak of $25.6 billion.

County-level Visitor Spending: In 2021, 8 of 15 Arizona counties fully recovered or surpassed 2019 levels in visitor spending.

Annual Domestic Overnight Visitation: Arizona welcomed 37.9 million domestic overnight visitors in 2021, which was 25.7% higher than 2020, and 87% of the peak 2019 level.

Last Quarter Domestic Overnight Visitation: In the last quarter of 2021, domestic overnight visitation levels surpassed those in the same time frame in 2019 by 1.2%.

As expected, all Arizona tourism metrics are up year-over-year comparing 2021 to 2020, driven primarily by the recovery of leisure travel. The industry has yet to fully recover to the banner year of 2019, which highlights ongoing areas of AOT focus, including building back conventions and meetings business and international visitation.

International overnight visitation remains heavily impacted by the pandemic. Arizona welcomed an estimated 3 million international visitors last year, which is up 101% over 2020, but still down 51% from 2019. Visitation from overseas travelers specifically is still down 81%, further underscoring the need to rebuild this sector.

AOT continues to promote visitation and support industry recovery across Arizona. These efforts include ongoing visitor marketing campaigns, supporting industry partners and communities with strategic planning and promoting sustainable and responsible tourism.

AOT will provide further insights into this data during its 2022 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, July 13-15. The annual meeting connects leaders from across the state’s travel and hospitality industry.

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