Will Rudeness Slam the Upcoming Tourist Season?

It’s a big question as the State lines up for a ‘super season’

by Don Henninger

A national survey recently asked residents in the 30 largest metro areas to rate their cities in a way that could give potential tourists a glimpse of what to expect if they decide to visit there.

It asked them to evaluate the rudeness levels of their cities to give travelers a sense of what kind of attitudes they might encounter. Phoenix did not fare well in the Preply study, and was ranked as the 11th-rudest metro region in the country.

Ordinarily it would be easy to shrug off the survey. Studies like this, it seems, can be a dime a dozen.

But this is not an ordinary year for Arizona tourism. The state is about to put out the welcome mat for visitors from around the world in what could be an epic tourism season, and the survey was a reminder that everyone in the state can play a supporting role in how our visitors are received.

After a couple down years of struggling through the symptoms of the COVID pandemic, state tourism officials are hoping for a full recovery as it lines up for a “super season.”

There’s a lot at stake. The industry has been a steady, reliable economic driver for more than 100 years. While many industries have come and gone as the state has evolved, tourism has been steady as a rock. 

The industry’s best year ever was 2019, when the state hosted 46.8 million overnight stays and took in in $25.6 billion in direct spending from travelers. Then COVID arrived, and the dollars took a nose dive in 2020, dropping to $15 billion. It began to rebound in 2021, improving to $23.6 billion, with a lot of that spending from in-state leisure travelers. Even in a down year, it generated $3.4 billion in tax revenue and supported more than 167,000 jobs.

The state’s high season is getting under way now as the weather improves and people start traveling again. About 88% of travelers in the U.S. reported in August that they plan to travel in the next six months, and that’s good news for destinations like Arizona.

The hotel industry could use the boost. The state tourism office says its most recent lodging reports show that hotel occupancy was 67% from April to June, up 7% from the same time a year earlier.

This all comes in a year when the ultimate attraction returns to the state — the Super Bowl — which will be here in just about four months.

The economic impact of the game is huge and benefits all segments of the tourism economy. When it was last here in 2015, the resorts in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley recorded their second-highest daily occupancy rate ever the night before the game — 97.5%. In essence, the market was sold out.

The Super Bowl is the main attraction but not the only one in the “super season” year. The WM Phoenix Open, Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show also draw huge numbers of visitors from around the world. And right after that comes the Cactus League, and this could be the first year since the pandemic that features a full slate of games with no interruptions.

The tourism industry benefits everyone in the state, from the economy at large to individual residents. The state’s tourism office, for example, says tourism-related revenues have cut the annual tax burden per household by an average of $738.

That should be incentive enough to encourage everyone to embrace visitors this year, or at least be polite to them. So back to the survey. Preply, a language-learning app and e-learning platform with operations in the U.S. and 30 countries, surveyed more than 1,500 residents in 30 metro areas over the summer.

Here are 10 factors that respondents said were signs of rude behavior:

  • Being absorbed by phone in public 
  • Drivers not letting other cars merge in traffic
  • Drivers not slowing down around pedestrians
  • Being noisy in public
  • Not acknowledging strangers
  • Watching videos in public
  • Talking on speaker in public
  • Closed-off body language
  • Not respecting personal space
  • Being rude to service staff

As citizen ambassadors for Arizona, this would be a prime year for everyone to practice behaviors that embellish the visitor experience, encouraging them to return to Arizona in the future, bringing their leisure dollars and perhaps business investments back to the state.

Actually, shouldn’t we all be treating each other like that anyway?  

Here’s what the 2015 Super Bowl meant to the overall economy:

  • $720 million economic impact to the Valley
  • $2 million in grants to 27 Arizona nonprofit agencies
  • 5,500 visiting media members
  • More than 120,000 visitors to Arizona
  • 175,000 passengers through Sky Harbor International Airport
  • A 53% hotel occupancy increase across the Valley compared to the year prior

Source: Seidman Research Institute at W. P. Carey School of Business

Don Henninger, executive director of Scottsdale Coalition of Today & Tomorrow (SCOTT), spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business in the Valley with The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette, where he served in numerous roles, including managing editor, and at the Phoenix Business Journal, where he was publisher for 14 years. SCOTT is a nonprofit group of business and civic leaders who work to educate and advocate for issues important to the city’s economic health and quality of life.

Did You Know: In a recent study, Phoenix was ranked as the 11th-rudest metro region in the country — a concern as state’s high season is getting under way. The tourism industry benefits everyone in the state, from the economy at large to individual residents. The state’s tourism office, for example, says tourism-related revenues have cut the annual tax burden per household by an average of $738.

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