Tourism in Arizona plunged in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic — with the number of overnight international visitors plummeting an estimated 68% — but tourists still spent $15 billion in the state last year, state officials say.

Spending by visitors in 2020 fell 41% compared with 2019, while total overnight visitation declined 31%, according to a report by the Arizona Office of Tourism.

On the bright side, the agency said, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona welcomed 32.1 million total overnight visitors last year who spent $15 billion overall and contributed about $1.5 billion in combined state and local tax revenue.

Tourism by Arizonans and travelers from other U.S. states made up a larger proportion of overnight tourists last year as international travel was pinched off by pandemic restrictions.

International overnight visitation was down 68% overall to an estimated 2 million tourists, with tourism from Mexico dropping 61% and Canadian tourism declining by 77%.

Overseas visitation from European and Asian nations was down 84%, the state tourism office said.

Visitation by Arizonans and people from other states fell about 26% from 2019 to just over 30 million people, but those domestic visitors made up 94% of all visitors to Arizona — an increase of 7 percentage points from 2019.

Arizonans were the state’s largest overnight visitor group, numbering 9.1 million, followed by visitors from California (6.8 million), Texas (2.1 million), New York (1.8 million) and Florida (1.5 million).

“Arizonans and visitors from drive markets were crucial to carrying our tourism industry through last year,” said Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Office of Tourism announced the state would use $101.1 million in federal recovery money to give grants to Arizona tourism-related enterprises to help them recover from the pandemic.

“With the Visit Arizona Initiative providing much-needed resources, we’re excited to be able to enhance recovery and build for the future,” Johnson said.

The Visit Arizona Initiative includes marketing funding for destination-marketing organizations — tourism bureaus — statewide, local community programs and events, and marketing support for domestic and international airline flights and outdoor recreation.

Tourism-related businesses and nonprofits will be able to apply online for the grants starting at the end of the month at

Construction has started on The Eddy, a boutique hotel nestled in the Catalina Foothills north of St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church. The Eddy will be a two-story building with 106 rooms, expected to open next summer. Video by: Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star, April 29, 2021.

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Contact senior reporter David Wichner at or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: