Month of tourism kicks off with the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase
Rodeo, Accenture Match Play Tournament to also provide boost to local economy
Reporter: Justin Schecker
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - As the calendar flips to February, businesses across town are preparing for a series of major events in Tucson that bring in thousands of visitors from around the world.
The first of those events, the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase, gets underway this weekend.
White tents are set up all around the Holiday Inn just west of I-10 for the GLOBEX Gem and Mineral show. Inside the hotel's lobby, vendors from Tibet prepared their jewelry display.
Piyush Patel is a promoter for four of the gem shows. He also owns the Days Inn.
"For (the) first part of February from the first to the tenth, we are probably pretty much full for the hotels on a renting part," Patel said. "The vendors are already in full capacity."
Hotel owners depend on the tourism during February to make a profit, Patel said.
"We usually make all the money for whole year for hotels basically," he said.
In two weeks, Richard Trapp and his team from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society will move into the Tucson Convention Center for the main event.
"This is probably the biggest show in the world," Trapp told 9 On Your Side.
The non-profit society cooperates with the hundreds of other vendors because they recognize how important this month is for Tucson's economy, Trapp said.
"Naturally, the whole winter is important in terms of any kind of tourism here," he said. "But this is like the bubble that sort of happens every year and you might think of it as the peek of the bell curve."
While gem show vendors have started to take over town, another annual event later this month also puts Tucson on the map.
"The rodeo really defined the identity of this community," said Gary Williams, the General Manager for "La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros."
One of the main reasons for the Tucson Rodeo's appeal is that it attracts some of the best competitors in the circuit, Williams said.
"Traditionally, we were the only event in February," Williams said. "So we kind of had February as rodeo month. There really wasn't much else going on."
Now, with the rodeo, gem shows, Accenture Match Play Tournament at the Dove Mountain golf course and more, this month is crucial for the hospitality industry.
"Because Tucson, we don't get a lot of visitors here anymore," Patel said. "There used to be."
The Tucson Rodeo brings in an estimated $16 million over a nine-day span, Williams said.
"It will be a feeling of electricity in the air that's very hard to describe," Williams told 9 On Your Side.
"Tickets are still available. We're very fortunate. We're running about six percent ahead of our ticket sales as of this time last year and last year was a record year."
Nearly 40 percent of the attendance at the rodeo will be people from out of town, Williams said.
Williams compared the Tucson Rodeo to college football's Rose Bowl, calling it the "granddaddy of them all."