Veteran residents of Cochise County might take for granted our natural wonders – the beauty of our sunsets, the amazing mountain ranges and the diversity of our wildlife, just to name a few attractions.

We assure you that the Cochise County Board of Supervisors don’t underestimate the value of where we live.

Supervisors, who have been in need of good news lately, were recently reminded of the economic benefits of tourism in a report prepared by the National Park Service. The cumulative impact of three national attractions in Cochise County is about $10.2 million. And that’s not counting the number of visitors to Kartchner Caverns in our own backyard.

Last year Coronado National Memorial drew more than 103,000 visitors who spent an estimated $6.1 million; Chiricahua National Monument registered more than 60,000 visitors who spent $3.6 million and Fort Bowie National Historic Site brought some 8,400 people to the northeast corner of the county, bringing in about $500,000.

Supervisors said all the right things in receiving the report. Ann English noted the county’s dependence on tourists, pointing to the 152 jobs generated by the “industry,” and indicating that visitors were the best advertising to other potential travelers. Tom Borer said the economic benefits are “fantastic,” and the area should welcome visitors with open arms.

We agree, and we hope Supervisors put money where their mouth is.

Tourism is often referred to as the “low-hanging fruit” of economic development in Cochise County because we are blessed with beautiful natural landscapes and lots of great weather. Attracting visitors to the county should be easy with these assets, which are not available in many vacation destinations.

Tourism and drawing visitors to an area is nothing less than science. It requires the right message to be delivered at the right time, to the right audience. An example is telling people living in Minneapolis during the winter months that Southeast Arizona has plenty of sunshine and warmer temperatures.

But there are obstacles and accomplishing progress does take investment.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year, that investment has already been decided with a new budget. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Supervisors appreciate the value of tourism to Cochise County.

When the next opportunity to support tourism – beyond just statements of encouragement – presents itself to our county board, we’re expecting they will wholeheartedly endorse those efforts, even if it means spending a bit more money.

It’s obviously an investment worth making.

Published in the Herald/Review

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