Mesa hopes to rebound from COVID-19’s tourism hit The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa hopes to rebound from COVID-19’s tourism hit

Mesa hopes to rebound from COVID-19’s tourism hit

By Alexis Garibay
Tribune Contributor

The Arizona Office of Tourism says COVID-19 cost the state $10 billion in visitor spending and the financial pain is still being felt in Mesa.

The pandemic took away more than a third of the $25.6 billion that tourism brought to the state in 2019, affecting most every sector of Arizona’s tourism industry took a hit, officials say.

“Impacts were felt by hotels, event venues, attractions and dining establishments as well as small business retailers to name a few,” said Michelle Streeter, senior vice president, communications and partner relations with Visit Mesa.

Not only were tourists impacted by stay-at-home orders and shutdowns, but people employed within the hospitality industry also suffered.

In Arizona, approximately 40,754 jobs linked directly to hotels were lost from the 58,220 that existed pre-pandemic, according the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

This translates to roughly 70 percent of hospitality jobs that were lost.

“The tourism industry in Arizona as a whole, and across the US, was devastated by the abrupt halt in travel,” Streeter said.

While impact on annual visits this year is yet to be determined for specific cities, Mesa attracted roughly 4.5 million day and overnight visitors combined in 2019.

As for hotel cancellations, a COVID-19 Loss Report by Visit Mesa showed that 9,061 room nights were cancelled, costing the city 4,463 overall visitors.

Moreover, she noted, “Our COVID loss report only reflects group business cancellations between March 15 to June 30.”

With businesses slowly reemerging, city tourism officials hope visits will start to increase during the winter season.

“Our hospitality community is ready to welcome back visitors with our Mesa Clean Stay Promise,” Streeter said.

The Mesa Clean Stay Promise outlines specific guidelines for establishments in order to keep the community safe during the pandemic.

“We have a number of programs in place to help drive traffic,” said city spokesman Kevin Christopher.

Programs such as Escape to Mesa have been established in order to provide locals and statewide residents vacation packages that offer a $150 incentive for those who schedule a two-or-more-night stay at Mesa hotels through Dec. 15, according to Mesa Now.

“We are actively targeting Arizona residents with our Escape to Mesa promotion and have been targeting short-haul cities with promotion of Mesa’s outdoor recreation offerings,” Streeter said.

The incentives include a $50 gift card to a local participating restaurant and a $100 gift card good at a Mesa “experience, attraction or service.”

Not all the experiences are in Mesa, particularly where the “Weekend Warrior” package is concerned. Many involve river-based adventures at places like Saguaro Lake and the Verde River.

The “Family Fun” package stays closer to home with a number of the billings, such as the Escape Rooms Mesa at 86 W. University Drive, which calls itself the world’s largest set of escape rooms. The “Relaxation retreat features more than a dozen yoga studios, hair and nail salons and spas in the city.

“A lot of locals don’t ever see the advertising Visit Mesa does,” said Jaye O’Donnell, city assistant economic development director, adding much of its work is geared to out-of-state residents.

“It meets the needs of the current traveler’s state of mind, the people who want to escape but don’t want to get on a plane,” O’Donnell added. “They don’t want to drive too far.”

Another program called Mesa Al Fresco, specifically aimed at restaurants and bars, encourages establishments to open patio dining.

Businesses have been able to partner with the Mesa CARES Small Business Technical Assistance Program in order to offer, “a reimbursement of up to $1,000 to offset the cost of the patio expansion,” according to Mesa Now.

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