Cultural Tourism and Economic Strategy for the Arts

Cultural Tourism is an important component of economic development and revenue for most any community large or small.  The Arts Commission supports the development of cultural tourism in communities across Arizona through seminars, grants and informational resources.  Most recently, we  partnered with the Arizona Humanities Council and Smithsonian Magazine.

Our statewide arts and cultural industry and artists contribute to the richness of our state and attract tourists from across the world.  As President Obama speaks about tourism as an economic driver and source of jobs in Arizona this week, we thought it was important to bring the focus in just a little closer, and further discuss tourism from an Arts and Culture point of view.

President Obama recently said, “I directed my administration to send me a new national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs. And some of America’s most successful business leaders — some who are here today — have signed up to help. We’re going to see how we can make it easier for foreign tourists to find basic information about visiting America. And we’re going to see how we can attract more tourists to our national parks. We want people visiting not just Epcot Center, but the Everglades, too. The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. It’s that simple.”

Arts and Culture in Arizona is also a direct reason why individuals visit our state. Cultural festivals with international acclaim at the Heard Museum, the Museum of Northern Arizona and in Tucson celebrate Native, Hispanic and multicultural communities. Arizona’s nationally recognized art museums, theaters, literary centers, dance organizations, zoos, botanical gardens and science centers draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, and provide high quality arts and cultural opportunities for adults and children alike.

A colleague of mine from my Minnesota days, Garrison Keillor, says, “We need to think about cultural tourism because really there is no other kind of tourism. It’s what tourism is…They come for our culture: high culture, low culture, middle culture, right, left, real or imagined — they come here to see America.”

The Arts Commission uses very inclusive terms to define culture tourism, as Travel to authentic historic and cultural places, attractions, and events to encounter people, traditions, history and art. Annually, over 7 million individuals take part in activities sponsored by the Arts Commission.

The cultural tourist typically has a higher income level, often has a greater likelihood of staying in hotels or resorts, has a higher level of education and spends more time in a destination, resulting in a trip of longer duration. According to Americans for the Arts, a national arts service organization, cultural tourists visit art exhibitions and galleries, folklife and craft centers, theaters and museums, downtowns and ethnic neighborhoods, historic sites and monuments, architectural and archeological treasures, fairs, festivals and national and state parks.

The Arts Commission suggests the following as ways for your community to grow cultural tourism and its economic benefits.

Arts and cultural organizations can:

  • Host or produce events that link the arts to tourism and the economy.
  • Create promotional pieces that can be utilized by your local hotels, businesses, and chambers of commerce.
  • Offer special free days for the tourism sector; give your partners in the tourism industry a first-hand experience of your product.
  • Connect with information centers at your airport, shopping centers, rest areas, etc.
  • Join your Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Association, or Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Hotels, inns, and resorts can:

  • Provide flyers and rack cards about arts events and festivals near your property.
  • Keep a list of local galleries, studios and museums, plus their hours and contact information.
  • Engage artists to exhibit, perform or provide demonstrations or lectures in your lobby.
  • Have your front desk staff become familiar with the arts and cultural activities near your property.

Chambers of commerce and convention and visitor bureaus can:

  • Get to know your local arts partners.
  • Realize the economic impact of the arts sector in your community.
  • Use arts images on your visitor guides, brochures and website.
  • Promote arts and culture as one of the primary reasons tourists should visit your community.

Local Businesses can:

  • Get to know the leaders of your local arts and cultural industry.
  • Sponsor live readings and storytelling events at your business.
  • Offer half-price or discounted drink or dinner coupons in conjunction with purchased arts and cultural passes and tickets.
  • Be a season sponsor for your local theatre, museum, chorus, musical, dance or cultural group.

Take some time today to consider how your product, your organization, or your community can enhance your work in the area of cultural tourism. If you would like a seminar or workshop on growing cultural tourism in your community, please contact the Arizona Commission on the Arts to arrange a presentation.

To learn more about President Obama’s remarks, click here for an article by the Tucson Citizen or read the transcript from the White House.

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