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Tucson Hotel Occupancy Down 6-7% during January and February 2008
 Compared with the Same Period a Year Ago
By Becky Pallack, The Arizona Daily Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 26, 2008 - After a good tourism season last year, many Tucson events and attractions are experiencing slowing sales this year.

Weather, traffic and rising gas prices all played a part in the slight downturn, but event hosts and business executives remain optimistic.

Here are their responses to the question:

"How is the tourism season shaping up this year?"

Debbie Backous, president of Agro Land and Cattle

The tourism season has had its ups and downs for the company that owns favorite tourist spots Pinnacle Peak and El Corral Steakhouse.

Because of rising gas and food prices, "people are being a little more selective about where they go and how often they go. They're watching it like they've never watched it before."

Event crowds and tour groups have seemed smaller than in years past, but plenty of local fans are still stopping by.

Brian Johnson, president of the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association and managing director at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Business is "a little slower" at local resorts because of the economy slowing, but it's not bad. Business travel is strong, although those guests have scaled back on entertainment.

For four months in a row, the pace for reservations has been slower than last year. Travelers are being cautious and waiting to see how bad to downturn will be before booking trips.

J.P. de la Montaigne, president of the Cactus League

Attendance is up at spring training baseball games. Good seasons for the Rockies and Diamondbacks led to a better following for spring training -- plus, the weather has been great.

A economic impact study last year showed 61 percent of fans came from out of state to watch the league's 12 teams.

Jonathan Walker, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau

"We're going to be down a little bit but we're feeling pretty good," given the economic downturn.

Hotel occupancy rates for January and February were down 6 to 7 percent from a year earlier as people spent more cautiously, but March and April are shaping up well. Average daily rates, a measure of hotel revenue, have held steady.

And while the leisure market is softening, the group convention business is holding strong.

Gary Williams, Tucson Rodeo general manager

Ticket sales generally were good, but rain cut attendance on the first day of the annual event, causing a little decline. Last year was a great year.

"We're basically at the mercy of the weather. When we have good weather, we do really well."

About 30 percent of rodeo-goers are tourists, so a small decline in tourism doesn't hurt, but families looking to save some money also are cutting back on events and entertainment.

Judy McDermott, executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores

It was a good year for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, even though ticket sales were down a little.

Mishaps with shuttles and a rumor that the tournament was sold out were small hits, but the group had expected slightly lower sales anyway after last year's truly sold-out games. Next year Match Play moves to a new, more spectator-friendly course, which should stir up new excitement.

The event has an estimated $100 million economic impact on the Tucson area.

"We're right up there with the Gem Show, and it's a totally different audience."

By the numbers

6 to 7 - Estimated percent decline in hotel occupancy in January and February, compared with the same period a year ago

61 - Percent of Cactus League fans who came from out of state to attend games last year

$100 million - Estimated economic impact of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana

--Contact reporter Becky Pallack at 573-4224 or at


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