TUCSON, Ariz. — "It's definitely challenging," Dan Gibson, of "Visit Tucson," said.
The gem that was tourism in Tucson has seen a huge cut right through it.
Gibson said travel spending totaled more than $2.5 billion dollars in 2019
This year, the tourism lobby said they're still attracting visitors, but not the kind who fly in.
"We're still having success in marketing Tucson to drive markets, it's the challenge of going out from there."
Gibson said more than 7 million people visited Tucson from within the U.S. last year.
Those visitors, and their money, fund thousands of jobs in tourism industries in the city.
"In Pima County that's about 25,000 travel related jobs."
The pandemic is blamed for canceling or delaying some big time events: the rodeo, the main gem show, El Tour de Tucson, Gibson said it's also caused thousands of tourism jobs to roll out.
The outlook might seem bleak, but there's something the region has, Gibson said, that gives it a ray of hope.
"It's the very nature of being outside."
Marketing the city as a destination where you can properly distance, take your mask off and play outside.
"There are non-scripted entertainment shows that are filming in Tucson right now because they can take over a whole wing of hotel and be isolated and have a space to themselves," Gibson said.
He said it'll take a few years to see the kind of tourist numbers and dollars they saw in 2019.
"The best thing we can talk about in tourism in Tucson is the idea of these open spaces."
With news of a vaccine and marketing the right attractions, Gibson said, Tucson will make it through the wild ride.