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NRA tourists laud convention center, say downtown Phoenix lacking

Phoenix Convention Center

Phoenix Convention Center

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix Convention Center impressed many visitors at this month’s National Rifle Association convention, but some attendees felt there wasn’t enough to do downtown. Tourists’ impressions from the NRA convention are important because the May 15-17 event was the largest gathering in the convention center’s history.  It was also an opportunity for Phoenix to showcase a $600 million center expansion, light rail, and a new hotel.

Several convention attendees said that they were impressed with the sleek convention center, which is within walking distance of major hotels.  “It’s one of the nicer ones that I have been in,” said Craig Dutton, who is based in Smyrna, Ga., and is an exhibitor for Glock Inc.

Las Vegas residents Michael Villegas and his wife, Lisa, say they were also wowed by the convention center. They only wished that there were more activity at night.  “It reminded me of what San Diego was like 20 years ago,” Villegas said.  While there are eateries and nightspots near the convention center, a few blocks away, it was tougher for the couple to find things to do.  Villegas said he and his wife frequently talked to orange-clad downtown ambassadors to get information about restaurants and that they had a good time.  They also attended a concert in a downtown park, Villegas said.

Downtown leaders say they received positive feedback from the NRA and have been asked to bid on the 2015 convention, said David Roderique, president and CEO of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.  The business group helps market the neighborhood as an economic and tourist destination.  “Downtown does need a few more things to do, and that is something that we are working on,” Roderique said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Airline woes pinch Arizona, Phoenix tourism

[Source: Dawn Gilbertson, Arizona Republic] — Airline flight cuts and higher airfares this fall will bring fewer visitors to Arizona, delivering a punishing one-two punch to the state’s limping economy.  In Phoenix, more than 1 of 10 flights are gone from a year ago.  Nearly 70 daily departures have disappeared from Sky Harbor International Airport’s schedule, the equivalent of losing service from almost every major airline except US Airways and Southwest.

Fewer seats for sale means airlines can charge more.  Tickets for Phoenix flights departing in October are up an average 28 percent from a year ago, according to  Flights to Boston and Chicago are each up 50 percent.  In a tourism hotbed where the majority of visitors arrive by plane, fewer flights and higher fares mean fewer customers for hotels, restaurants, spas, and golf courses.  At risk: A substantial slice of $19 billion in annual visitor spending in Arizona.  This comes after months of reduced numbers in hotel occupancy and airport traffic as people struggle with a plunging stock market, the housing meltdown and other economic woes.  “We know we’re in for a period of some rough times,” said Steve Moore, chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]