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Tourism Research Assists In Path Forward

Did you know Flagstaff receives nearly five million day and overnight visitors annually; and the effect from these visitors reaches nearly $1 billion in economic impact to our economy?


Exactly where are these visitors coming from?

  • Forty percent of all Flagstaff visitors are from Arizona.
  • Fifty-five percent of the Arizona visitors are from the Phoenix metro area.
  • Forty-nine percent of the total visitors arrive in Flagstaff from the other 49 states, primarily from California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico.
  • Eleven percent of visitation arrives from the international market with the majority from the U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany and France.


This is all according to the Flagstaff Visitor Study conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center (AHRRC) at Northern Arizona University in 2014. This study was commissioned by the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau (FCVB), a department of the City of Flagstaff. This study, and studies like it in the past, have been commissioned because marketing based on solid research tends to yield better results. Studies such as the one cited in 2014, answers questions such as:

  • What are the top origins of our visitors?
  • What is the average age of our visitors?
  • What is the party make-up of our visitors?
  • Who makes the travel decisions in the family and who pays more often pays for the travel?
  • What is the main reason for their trip and what supporting activities are they planning to do while in-market?
  • What is their length of stay in your destination and what other destinations might be on their itinerary?

The answers to these questions and more are the foundation of destination marketing organizations’ strategic and focused short-term marketing plan and marketing programming that is intended to drive visitation throughout the year.

The research should provide a solid understanding of the who, what, why and where, which enables the FCVB team to tailor messages and ideally capture the interest of our “natural customer,” select appropriate advertising placements based on time of year and audience, and use imagery that speaks to the aspirations and motivations of a particular traveler.

For example, the FCVB created a spring flight targeting the sports enthusiast based on the knowledge that this customer is coming from key markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as Cleveland, Kansas City and Seattle. Their party size averages two people, and their decision timeframe is typically 30-45-days. It is not only sports these visitors are seeking . . . outdoor treasures such as national parks and monuments, and cultural experiences rank amongst the top of their must-see list.

The FCVB is slated to commission a new study using the services of NAU in the fiscal year of 2017/2018. On average, a study of this nature will be commissioned every three to four years by a destination to be sure that they are keeping an eye on the demographics, psychographics and behavioral data of their visitors. Although these statistics tend to be a slow transition, not too different from the slow transition of generational shifts, there are trends in travel that move a bit faster and every three to four years holds to industry standards for a smaller destination.

The FCVB plans to unveil the findings from the 2017/2018 visitor study at its annual marketing event next year in September 2018; so if this data is of interest to you and/or useful in applying to your business, be sure to keep an eye out for the annual marketing event save the date information in August 2018.


If you would like to review the 2014 study, please stop by the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, 323 W. Aspen Avenue. Also, the visitor profile can be found at flagstaffarizona.org/visitorprofile/. FBN


By Trace Ward

Trace Ward is the director of the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau.



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