Consolidating the Grand Canyon State

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. Church of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ

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 and Sedona.

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."

Travelers with Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona

The ArizonaTourismCenter 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," Mikesell adds.

Arizona 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, call 877-444-8044.

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