Napolitano did not immediately say how much additional money the AOT will receive to implement the reclamation of the Grand Canyon. The AOT witnessed its budget slashed from $14 million in 2002 to $9 million this year. AOT Director Margie Emmermann issued a statement last week in reference to Napolitano’s announcement. Emmermann claims that Arizona can earn more returns on its investment in the AOT with the Governor’s proposal to reinstate formula funding. This system would increase AOT’s general fund appropriation from $9 million to $11.6 million, enabling the agency to do much more to increase tourism to both small and large communities throughout the state.
For every $1 AOT spends promoting the state, Arizona gets $6.36 back. In the third quarter of 2003 alone, tourism-related spending in Arizona’s lodging, restaurant/bar, retail and amusements sectors generated $2.9 billion for the state’s economy. That income put almost $100 million in taxes into state programs such as education and health services, Emmermann said.
In November alone, 220,124 individuals visited Grand Canyon National Park. An astounding 3,940,980 visited the Canyon through November 2003. Even with December numbers unavailable, visitation for November 2003 was up three percent over November 2002. Increased state funding to the AOT in 2005 would be a welcome shot in the arm to our local economy.
Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Donna Eastman-Cochran reported that while the Grand Canyon Railway enjoyed an increase of 7.5 percent in visitation in 2003, numbers were down slightly for the year at the Williams-Forest Service Visitor’s Center. Cochran’s goal was to see 100,000 visitors walk through the Visitor Center’s doors in 2003. The numbers fell short when only 93,239 visitors visited the center — a three-percent decrease from 2002 when 96,215 visitors obtained information.
Calls for information to the Visitor’s Center were down as well. In 2003, 11,591 individuals contacted the center for information. The center saw a 13.7 percent decrease from 2002, when 13,430 people contacted the center. The decreases did not depress Cochran for long; she is once again anticipating that 100,000 individuals will visit the center this year. Cochran’s enthusiasm is contagious.
We applaud the Governor’s stance on “reclaiming the Grand Canyon.” Not only would an increase in the AOT budget benefit tourism, but will have a positive effect on us all. Let’s all become a part of the reclamation by showing our support of the Governor in letting Nevada know the Canyon belongs to Arizona.