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Economic and Business Research Center
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Mexican Visitors Contribute Nearly $1 Billion to Metro Tucson Economy

June 2009

By Liz Warren-Pederson

The Economic and Business Research Center recently released a new economic impact study commissioned by the Arizona Office of Tourism

A new Arizona Office of Tourism-commissioned report from the Eller College Economic and Business Research Center (EBR) reveals economic impact of Mexican tourists.

Metro Tucson garnered almost $1 billion from Mexican visitors during the period July 2007 through June 2008, according to EBR economists Vera Pavlakovich-Kochi and Alberta Charney.

In 2007-2008, some 65,000 Mexicans came to Arizona to legally work, shop, and visit family and friends — every day. The money spent by visitors from Mexico adds up to $7.3 million every day. Many Mexican families make weekly shopping trips to Tucson, resulting in a 245% increase in economic benefit since 2001.

"This spending has occurred even when our regional economy shows signs of recession," says Pavlakovich-Kochi. "It has offset to a degree the effect of the declining regional economy."  Mexican visitors are not afraid to spend their money during the economic crisis because they are more used to it and better prepared, she says. Concerts, shows, casinos, and Tucson tourist sites offer further inducement for these visitors to stay overnight; and, says Pavlakovich-Kochi, "Overnight visitors always spend more than day trippers."

Though Mexican visitors currently have a major impact on the Southern Arizona economy, metro Phoenix cities and Las Vegas have ramped up efforts to reach this coveted tourist market. In addition, revised peso valuation translates into a higher U.S. cost for Mexican tourists. Tucson and Southern Arizona will have to work to maintain the current level of 24 million Mexican visitors annually.

"Maybe we had an extraordinary year of Mexican visitors and expenditures in Arizona," says Charney. "But it will continue: It is not something that will be erased overnight."

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