Border Crossing Card’s Effect on AZ Tourism
Guest Feature by Kim Sabow is the President and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, the leading statewide public policy organization advocating for Arizona’s hospitality, sports, lodging, and tourism industry.
Arizona and Sonora share much more than an international border. Through strategic partnerships, trade missions, travel and tourism, Arizona and Sonora have created a region that thrives on mutual success and collaboration.
Mexico is Arizona’s top international market. Prior to the pandemic, Mexican visitors spent more than $3 billion with 4 million overnight visits in 2019, a 5.2% increase over 2018. Our border communities are dependent on daily visitors from Mexico for shopping, dining, and other leisurely activities. Unfortunately, according to recent data released from the Maricopa Association of Governments, the COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating blow to our communities that depend on travel and recreation from Mexico visitors and vice versa.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited land border crossings in North America to “essential travel,” eliminating trips for individuals traveling for tourism purposes impacting the region. Between the months of January 2020 through July 2020, only 2.1 million persons crossed the northbound border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, a reduction of 62.6% from 2019.
COVID-19 has been the single greatest crisis our nation’s tourism industry has ever faced, wiping out 10 years of job growth. Here in Arizona, we lost nearly 50% of hospitality jobs during the height of the pandemic and more than $1.3 billion in hotel revenue. This sector has been hit far deeper than any other, having lost $10 billion in visitor spending in the first six months of 2020 alone.
Even with these challenges, we remain optimistic about the industry due to the strong local and international partnerships that help promote travel and tourism. As COVID-19 numbers decline and mass vaccination efforts increase, we must begin restoring international travel across the region. There are many efforts underway to position the region to regain market share when international travel increases.
Arizona is well-poised to welcome back international visitors from our neighbors to the South. One reason is due to a new federal law that extends the border crossing card zone statewide for Mexican visitors. The Southwest Tourism Expansion Act allows Mexican citizens who carry a valid Border Crossing Card to travel statewide, instead of the previous 75-mile
limitation. An estimated $1 billion is expected in additional spending by tourists from Mexico, Arizona’s top foreign market. This new program will provide a much-needed lifeline to Arizona as we recover from the pandemic.
But first, we must immediately lift restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S. land border ports of entry. It’s the only way we can help our struggling border communities, revive our tourism and hospitality industry, and welcome Mexican visitors back to Arizona.
Submitted by: Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association
July 12, 2021