Arizona is more than a great place to live. It’s also a prime tourist destination, one that weathered the depths of the recession to again become an area where visitors choose to spend time and money.

Tourism is the lifeblood of our state. In 2012, visitors spent $19.2 billion in Arizona, according to statistics reported by the state’s tourism department. Of that total, $3.3 billion was spent in Southern Arizona, resulting in 280,000 direct jobs.

In Marana, we have several amenities to offer tourists, including golf courses, hiking and biking trails and the award-winning Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. Our proximity to Tucson and Phoenix puts us in a unique position to capitalize on tourism opportunities. It’s easy to get here and even easier to stay.

Everyone benefits when visitors come to the region. Tourists rent cars, eat in restaurants and shop in stores. It’s vital that we get our community’s name in front of potential visitors and prove why they should see what Marana has to offer.

That’s why the town last month signed an agreement with Davidson & Belluso, an advertising, branding and interactive agency from Phoenix, to serve as our consultant as we establish a destination marketing organization. Davidson & Belluso has been in business for more than a decade and works with many high-profile clients, including the Hyatt Hotels, Xanterra Resorts and the Tempe Tourism Office.

Davidson & Belluso’s first step will be identifying our community assets (hotels, tourist sites, events, etc.). The firm then will develop marketing and staffing plans and create a three-year budget for the destination marketing organization.

The town’s partnership with Davidson & Belluso is the beginning of a long-term commitment to the enhancement of tourism in Marana. Our ambitious plans include the development of a Heritage River Park and a revitalized downtown, two attractions that will make ours an even more desirable community to visit.

The consulting agreement with Davidson & Belluso is a responsible way to spend taxpayer dollars to benefit our community. It forms a partnership with an experienced agency to make Marana a destination for tourists from around the world.

We’re all proud of Marana and the progress the town has made since incorporation in 1977. We’re a maturing community with a great story to tell. It’s time to take more steps in that direction.

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