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Arizona Tourism Boss Blows Chance to Show Vision

Sherry Henry is the new Arizona Office of Tourism director, recently appointed by Governor Jan Brewer. Her goal is to get more people to visit Arizona. She recently answered some questions posed by The Arizona Republic. I think she missed a great chance to address some real issues, so I’d have to give her a grade of C.

There were three particular questions in her interview that I wish I could’ve answered for her: Getting foreign travelers to Arizona, helping Arizona residents find more of the state’s unsung treasures and identifying her favorite place in the state. Really, I think Henry needs to think more like a traveler. She needs to better understand the obstacles people face in getting here, and she needs to know that there are many alternatives that offer much of what Arizona does – golf, shopping and sun. And those need to stop being the main weapons in her arsenal.

If Henry wants travelers to visit Arizona, she must start with Phoenix Sky Harbor International (in name only) Airport

Sky Harbor needs more than a daily flight from London to make Arizona a major tourism player.

Sky Harbor needs more than a daily flight from London to make Arizona a major tourism player.

One lousy daily flight to London along with a few to Canada and Latin America do not a true international airport make. The lack of international flights should deeply embarrass the officials of America’s fifth-most populous city.

People want to get to their destinations quickly, with as few stopovers as possible. Henry identifies her craving for French, Japanese and German tourists – but she doesn’t say “I’m going to work with Sky Harbor officials to do everything possible to get Air France, JAL and Lufthansa flying to Phoenix weekly, if not daily.” And it works both ways – Arizona residents also want to fly directly to France, Japan and Germany without stopping in LA , New York or Chicago.

Visit state parks! Shop! Dine! Welcome to Generica!

Promote Arizona's distinct beauty more, pimp shopping and golf less.

Promote Arizona's distinct beauty more, pimp shopping and golf less.

On my recent visit to Auckland, a Kiwi asked me about some cool, out-of-the-way places to see. I directed her to Colossal Cave, SP Crater and the Chiricahua Mountains. And I’m not the damn state tourism director! I certainly didn’t give generic answers. Henry must, must, must do better. She keeps 40 years of Arizona living too close to her chest – and seriously, can we not shop, dine and play golf just about anywhere? Henry needs to embrace the state’s distinctive features, not those that can easily be trumped by Melbourne or Singapore. And yes, either of those cities will spank Arizona from a shopping and dining perspective without raising their heartbeat.

“Sigh … I just loves me some sun”?

While riding a ski lift at Snowbowl with a visiting Australian, I asked him about his favorite spots in Arizona. I got a nice rundown of outdoor stuff, plus a few local hangouts. He also answered better than Sherry Henry. She needs to give this question better thought, and needs to give a response that gives someone some real action they can perform. Believe it or not, awesome sunsets are found in many place on the planet. Arizona is not alone.

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