Brent DeRaad, the new president and CEO of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, says one of his main missions will be to find funding for the group that works to bring visitors and their money to Tucson.
The tourism industry is said to employ approximately 20,000 residents in southern Arizona and provides about $2 billion to the local economy, but in recent years, the bureau has been hampered by an erosion of funds from city coffers.
DeRaad says the budget used to be about $10 million in 2007, compared to about $6 million now. The money comes from hotel bed-tax revenues, a portion of which supports the bureau. That portion has dropped from about 45 percent to about 28 percent, due in part to the recent recession.
"And when we look at the competitive marketplace and what other destinations are doing, we're certainly falling behind," DeRaad says.
In addition, DeRaad says he would like Tucson to increase air service out of Tucson International Airport, improve its convention center, and have a major hotel in the downtown area with at least 500 to 1,000 rooms.
DeRaad feels the convention center is operating more as a community center than as a convention center.
"We probably book more special events and sports-related events in there than we do actual conventions themselves," he says.
DeRaad used to work in Scottsdale and Phoenix, cities that don't suffer from some of the challenges that Tucson faces. But he says Tucson has resources and potential-such as its history and natural beauty--that can continue to provide true economic development.
"We have to make sure that to get that valuable tourism dollar in here that we're doing everything that we can to market, sell and promote Tucson out there to the masses," he says.