Monday, June 17, 2013

Tucson - The Real Southwest

I think it's clear from what I've written on this blog that I love Tucson. I think it's one of the great secrets of the United States. We'd prefer not to keep it a secret, but that's been kind of difficult.

How many people think of Tucson as a tourist destination? I'll wait... Yeah, that's what I thought.

If you think of visiting the Southwest at all, you'll probably think of Santa Fe or Albuquerque or Scottsdale. Those southwestern cities have done a much better job of marketing themselves than Tucson has.


Tucson was trying to compete with them for the convention trade. We built a new Convention Center and focused on the luxury hotels in the area. But when organizations thought of holding a convention in the Southwest, they didn't think of Tucson. They thought of one of those other cities.

It's true that Tucson hosts the largest gem and mineral show in the United States, but we couldn't seem to attract many other major events. There is the Accenture Match Play Golf Tournament every February. Tucson is one of the few places in the country where you can play golf in February. (Please ignore the snow during last year's event!)

Recently the Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau decided it was time to update our image and play to our strengths. They surveyed local businesses and organizations as to what image they felt Tucson should present to the world. This has resulted in a brand new web site with the focus on what makes Tucson different than those other places.

And you know what that is? It isn't Canyon Ranch or Miraval, where celebrities go to rejuvenate. It isn't Casino del Sol or the Hilton El Conquistador or the Marriott at Starr Pass. You can find similar accommodations in lots of places.

It's that Tucson is the blending of cultures that is the real Southwest. If you see a guy in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, he isn't putting on a show for the tourists. In all likelihood, he's actually a rancher. Skip the Taco Bells in town and eat at a real Mexican restaurant with authentic Mexican food. I know of one where they get their green corn tamales from a local woman. No commercial supply house for them.

Nearby, you can find old Spanish missions, Indian culture (no, they don't call themselves Native Americans), science and technology, and guest ranches and stables. There are multiple art galleries and the Historical Society maintains a museum.

And did I mention the weather? Tucsonans, at most, own a light jacket for the "cold" winter months. So, while those up north are putting on hats and gloves and snow boots and down coats, we're enjoying cool, comfortable days and nights, perfect for sightseeing in the desert Southwest.
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