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Fri, Feb. 28

Year-long survey nearly done<br>

The study, which is expected to cost in the $100,000 range, is being partially underwritten by the Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Department of Transportation and Grand Canyon Railway. Those sponsoring the study have received quarterly reports and will receive a final report this winter. Cothran said it will also be available to other interested parties for a fee not yet determined.

Cothran said a comprehensive survey has not been done at the park for more than 10 years, and that Park Service surveys could not be as intensive.

The results, she said, will help not only the tourism industry but other entitites as well.

“It will help with targeted marketing, strategic planning, product development and advocacy,” she said. “It covers all of northern Arizona, the park and surrounding community. But it will also be useful in Phoenix.”

Compiling the data will take several months with the final report due out this winter.

“We’ve only just started scratching the surface,” Cothran said. “There a lot of information we can work with. When we’re finished the fourth quarter, we’ll be able to determine the economic impact of tourism at the Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. That’s an important number.”

So far, results have been compiled for the first three quartters. Among the findings:

So far, in fall, winter and spring, the percentage of visitors who said Grand Canyon was a planned stop remained fairly constant at around 65 percent. Those visiting the Canyon primarily also stayed constant through seasons, at between 28 and 31 percent. Those who made unplanned visits to the Canyon fluctuated, with 5.3 percent in the fall, 6.5 percent in the winter and 3.5 percent in the spring.

There was some variation on additional destinations based onseason. In the fall, Las Vegas topped the list, followed by Sedona, Hoover Dam, Phoenix, Zion and the Painted Desert. In the winter and spring, Sedona was the top destination, followed by Phoenix, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and the IMAX. In the fall, drivers traveled 713 miles in Arizona, while winter drivers covered 821 miles and spring drivers traveled 826 miles.

Regardless of season, the average stay for a day visitor was between five and six hours, and overnight visitors stayed an average of two and a half days. In the fall, 76 percent of visitors stayed overnight. In the winter, 74 percent of visitors stayed over and in the spring, 81 percent spent the night. Flagstaff was the top overnight destination for pre- and post-visit.

Detractions from visits, taken from a multiple choice question, also varied by season. In the fall, visitors said air quality influenced by the North Rim fires, followed by helicopter overflights detracted from their visit. Winter visitors said helicopter tours, lack of parking and private vehicles took away from their stay and springtime visitors cited parking and the number of people and visitors in the park as a detraction. Even so, Cothran said a fairly low percentage of people said anything detracted.

The survey showed that the average visitor is a “geo-tourist,” said Cothran, averaging 55 years old, with an interest in national and state parks, historic sites, museums and culture and dining out. At the bottom of the list of interests were gambling, rock climbing, golf, fishing and hunting and mountain biking.

The state representing highest visitation was California, accounting for 12.7 percent, followed by Arizona with 8.1 percent, Texas with 4.7 percent, New York with 3.9 percent, Washington and Illinois with 3.8 percent each, Colorado and Massachusetts with 3.3 percent each, Ohio with 2.9 percent and Florida with 2.8 percent. The survey showed that 75 percent of visitors were from the United States. Of the remainder from foreign countries, 44.2 percent came from Canada, 22.7 percent came from the U.K., 10.4 percent came from Germany, 5.5 percent came from the Netherlands and 4.9 percent came from Australia. Cothran said Japanese visitors are being contacted through a separate survey and haven’t been added in yet.

The study took a year and a half to prepare and contained questions that have been used in parks around the country. Survey workers contacted visitors, asked some questions and provided a written survey for respondents to mail back. According to Cothran, the sample size was about 6,900 and they received a response rate of 70 percent. Tour buses were underrepresented, she said, because drivers were not willing to delay their itinerary to allow passengers to be contacted. In the future, researchers will seek to assemble a focus group of tour operators “to get a qualitative sense of how the tours operate.”

An executive summary will be available on the Web at the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center, along with information on how to get the complete report. Visit /www.nau.edu/hrm/ahrrc/.

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