Compared to the Valley’s 100-plus degree days and stifling summer nights, Northern Arizona is an oasis of mild weather and cool temperatures. It’s no surprise that Flagstaff, the hub of the high country, is a popular tourist destination for Phoenicians in the hot summer months. Indeed, 40 percent of Flagstaff’s annual visitors are traveling from within the state of Arizona, with 18 percent coming from Phoenix, 8 percent from Scottsdale and 7 percent from Mesa.
“During the summer, we see that many visitors are simply visiting Flagstaff for climate relief,” says Heather Ainardi of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “During summer months, hotel occupancy ranges between 75 to 85 percent and our attractions see a dramatic increase in attendees.”
A yearlong study conducted by the Flagstaff CVB has shown just how much of an economic impact tourism has on the city. Flagstaff saw 4.6 million visitors from February 2014 to January 2015, garnering a total economic impact of $575 million and creating 7,311 local jobs. Tourism produced more than $38 million in state and local taxes, including an all-time high of $6.2 million from Flagstaff’s Bed, Board, and Booze (BBB) tax, a 2-percent tax on restaurants, bars and lodging. The BBB tax, which targets tourist-driven services, provides funding for parks and recreation, city beautification, tourism, economic development and arts and sciences in Flagstaff.
According to the study, 75 percent of the visitors that Flagstaff sees are overnight visitors and 60 percent travel with family. This means that family-friendly destinations are among the most popular tourist spots.
“Lowell Observatory, the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Scenic Chairlift Ride at Arizona Snowbowl still rank very high,” according to Ainardi.
While Flagstaff is the primary destination of 53 percent of its visitors, many also use it as a base to explore the rest of Northern Arizona. The Grand Canyon is an 80-minute drive from the city, while Williams, the departure point of the Grand Canyon Railway, is only 30 miles west of Flagstaff. Just east of the city are popular destinations like Meteor Crater, the site of a 50,000-year-old meteorite impact, and Twin Arrows Casino Resort.
“We see an increase in visitors each summer,” says Navajo Gaming CEO Derrick Watchman. “Our busiest months are from June through August.”
Twin Arrows is working on its second phase expansions, which include a spa that is sure to entice more valley visitors in the future.
The Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau kicks up its tourism campaigns in the summer, inviting Valley residents to escape the heat. Last summer the #VisitCool promotional campaign included a “Cool Zone” outside of Chase Field, where fans could escape the July heat before an Arizona Diamondbacks game. Visitors to the Cool Zone took in imagery of Flagstaff, including some of its most popular tourist destinations. The #VisitCool campaign will return this summer, reminding overheated Phoenix residents that they can retreat to cooler weather without leaving the state.
5 fun things to do in Flagstaff
Planning a summer getaway to beat the heat? Here are five things you can’t miss in Flagstaff.
Historic Route 66 & downtown district: A drive down the historic Route 66 will make your modern car feel like a classic cruiser.
Lowell Observatory at Mars Hill: This historic observatory will bring out your inner scientist.
Day hikes in the Coconino National Forest: From easy beginner paths to advanced heart-pumping hills, every hike is packed with beautiful nature and scenic adventures.
Museum of Northern Arizona: This museum will be a hit with any history, art or culture fans.
The Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail: This self-guided pub crawl offers up to $25 in food and drink discounts at some of Flagstaff’s finest craft breweries.