Winter is the peak season for local tourism-related businesses, said Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson. In the next two weeks, the gem shows will attract more than 50,000 visitors and hundreds of vendors.
“We need to make our money during this time of year,” DeRaad said. “The best way to do it is through events.”
The gem and mineral shows are one of Tucson’s biggest attractions with 40 shows across town, he said.
In 2007, they brought about $100 million into the Tucson economy. During the recession, that number dropped to $65 million, but DeRaad said he thinks the economic recovery means the number will be in the $80 million range this year.
"We’ve seen things pick up in terms of the economics of tourism here in the past couple of years,” DeRaad said.
Visit Tucson calculates the economic impact through interviewing gem show operators and vendors, and takes into account the housing, food, car rental and hotel expenses, DeRaad explained. The visitor's center hasn't done an economic impact study since 2007, but DeRaad said one is being commissioned this year to get a more accurate dollar figure.
The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase will take place Feb. 13-16 at the Tucson Convention Center, but several exhibitors sell items at venues and hotels throughout the Tucson area for a two- to three-week period in February.
The economic impact of the shows are important for the area, DeRaad said.
“Tourism and quality of life go hand in hand,” he said.