Tucson Tourism: Missing a Gigantic Opportunity in its Own Backyard?

airplane

Entrepôt: (Webster #7 NCD)[French]:A center of trade & transshipment”, i.e. a critical jumping-off spot

Now that Metro Tucson is down to just 3 legislative districts in the Arizona statehouse (Metro Phoenix is up to 14), perhaps the local establishment will adjust their fossilized thinking on the “Old Pueblo”?   For decades, that mentality was rooted in the belief it was a small college town and exclusive retirement destination.  Those days are long gone.

Tucson is certainly no longer the ‘Hollywood in-crowd’ destination it was when actor Lee Marvin died, up in his Catalina Foothills home in 1987.  It’s not even the midwest or northeast destination; too much western “urban resort” competition, both on the high-end (parts of Phoenix, Sedona, Santa Fe, Durango, Park City, etc.) and the low end (Motel 6), and everything in between.  New developments in nearby Marana, Oro Valley, and even Pinal County now beckon.

Tucson’s tourism industry, another group suffering early-onset ‘Denialitis’, seems befuddled.  They’ve been razzled-dazzled by the new downtown and their banker, a.k.a. ‘Uncle Fletcher’ McCusker, and his magic tax-money machine, Rio Nuevo.   It’s still “destination-oriented”; paying absolutely no attention to critical railroad developments there, and Arizona’s looming water situation.

While the Old Pueblo used to have a deep bench in the hospitality industry, that’s also been hollowing-out pretty fast.  Techno-Cactopolis (Phoenix) is poaching like crazy, and paying much better.

Plus, the city has a big money problem.  Aside from its “Wokerston High” ditzy local government, it ain’t got NO MONEY.   So given these new parameters, Tucson tourism will have to work smarter, not dumber and harder.  Doing more with less, start small & simple, and then grow the heck out of it.

Reminiscing on our frequent Tucson visits from New Mexico since the early 1980’s, it always mystified me that Tucson doesn’t take greater advantage of its proximity to ‘Old’ Mexico, and especially the Baja, one of Planet Earth’s supremely unique natural environments.

But it seems nobody’s thinking out of the box here, tourism-wise. 

Yeah, there’s the existing “let’s attract rich Mexicans” (more destination-mentality) with an underperforming outlet mall (and why is that?) on the Interstate, and high-end retail up in the Catalina Foothills; and maybe some trophy house hunting.  Hey, it works in Phoenix, right? (don’t get me started on the absolutely faux hysteria of Tucson becoming another Phoenix; it will never happen)

Yet, Tucson could be the American entrepôt for Baja eco-tourism, and that’s a truly unique, authentic experiential monopoly (before Cactopolis catches on).   The key will be air travel.  Not “big-jet-to-big-airport, then-to-big-hotel-on-big-beach, with-big-drinks-and-big-flags/umbrellas-in-‘em, etc.”  Yuck.

Think small; think simple, think cheap, think—what’s at your fingertips & available.

Small airports in the Baja region (I count 9), within 2 hours airtime of Tucson, are now getting needed makeovers from the Mexican government.  Back in the US, Uncle Sam allows a “custom’s desk” at designated private or municipal airports like Marana’s; i.e. checkout the Scottsdale Airpark.

The Cessna Caravan (C-208), holds 12-13 passengers; the more expensive, but faster Pilatus PC-12, holds 6-9.  I’ve flown in both; they’re standard tourism commuter workhorses worldwide.

In closing, I have a question for Uncle Fletcher, “Can you say, Rio Nuevo Baja Air?”

Sellers is a Southpark Republican living in incorporated Oro Valley; his background is federal technology commercialization

About Bill Sellers 68 Articles
Sellers is a South Park Republican who lives in incorporated Oro Valley.  His background is federal tech-transfer commercialization.  Contact him at readbill19@usa.net Sellers is also a grad of Clemson’s Architecture School and the University of NC School of Business. He was a founding member of the Albuquerque Friday Morning Breakfast Group (’82-’96) which elected numerous conservatives. He has lived in the SouthWest & PacNorthWest more than 40 yrs.

3 Comments

  1. So the solution to Tucson’s malaise is small plane tourism to Mexico? Great idea! Pair up a money losing air operation in Tucson with the kleptocracy that IS Mexico. Rather than this idea, let’s just take the tax money and throw it away. We’ll receive the same result either way.

  2. As long as the grijalva’s and regiiina are in charge, Nogales Sonora will be better run than Tucson.

    • Can you translate this to English Bill? You’re all over the place on this.

      I do ask, if you are as anti Tucson as you appear, why do you still live here?

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