Last year, Arizona hosted approximately 31 million domestic and international overnight visitors, with travel spending accounting for earnings upwards of $9.3 billion. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, the domestic overnight leisure travel segment was responsible for 69 percent of the state's total overnight person trips, which represents Arizona's highest overnight leisure demand in the past 6 years.
Suffice to say, Arizona
relies on leisure travel for a good chunk of its economy, and why not? The
state's warm climate, desert and mountain landscapes, championship golf
courses, multiple outdoor activities and its wide array of resorts entice
couples and families to visit.
However, the myriad choices of hotels and activities make
the task of familiarization difficult for a travel agent. That's where the ArizonaTourismCenter
comes in. Not only can the center facilitate direct bookings for travel agents'
clients, it may also boost agent commission payouts.
Pamela Mikesell, who is the Arizona
marketing director for the ArizonaTourismCenter,
spoke exclusively with Travel Agent to herald the center's prospective
benefits to the travel agent community. The Sedona, AZ-based center, which is a
private branch of the Sunterra Corporation, one of the world's largest vacation
ownership companies, is making a push to become a conduit for bookings in
Arizona, whereby agents, instead of working directly with suppliers, would
enlist the services of the Arizona Tourism Center to make bookings on their
behalf. "Instead of an agent calling individual suppliers and businesses
or working out individual commission structures, we'd like to supply all of
that to travel agents and work out a single commission structure with
them," Mikesell explains. In that capacity, the center hopes to work as a
clearinghouse for many of the bookings made throughout Arizona,
including such hot destinations as the Grand Canyon
Because of the center's location, it has the advantage of
local knowledge, which can help travel agents to personalize an Arizona vacation for a
client more effectively. The center has already done due diligence at many of Arizona's top
destinations, as well as some of the state's more esoteric gems. The center
even went as far as to hire Arizona
specialists who know the flavor of the state better than most. "If you are
a New York travel agent, let's say, you may
not necessarily know the specific highlights of an Arizona vacation like we do," says
Mikesell. "We can help provide for your clients the best experience
possible, which, in turn, will keep clients coming back to you."
also promises that the rates it can get for travel agents' clients are far
better than ones that travel agents might be able to procure on their own. The
reason? Mikesell explains, "We can get the rates because of the volume we
are pumping into the hotels. Pumping in volume allows us to extend better
prices to a client through a travel agent with a commission."
Those commissions right now consist of $5 for every night
booked in a hotel room and 10 percent commissions on activities booked such as
Jeep tours, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, helicopter flights, mountain
biking and spas. A flat $5 commission is paid per round of golf booked.
"Agents can make more money, and clients can get better savings,"
is known for its golf, and, in an effort to cater to the golfing set, the
center has partnered with a company called Hospitality Tee Times, which is a
golf course booking platform. Mikesell says that the company extends the
center's preferred daily rates—and even competitive last-minute rates.
For more information about booking a trip through the ArizonaTourismCenter,