Several major events boosted Tucson's hotel occupancy in February by 10 percent over the same time last year, the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau says.
Some of the increase can be attributed to the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase taking place a week later than in 2012, but mainly, it's a result of several signature events happening at once.
Other high-profile February events included the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the Tucson Rodeo and FC Tucson's Desert Diamond Cup, which featured four Major League Soccer teams playing matches at Kino Stadium.
"These events play a major role in making February our peak tourism month," MTCVB President and CEO Brent DeRaad said.
New events are key to boosting tourism in the region, the agency said.
For example, the Tucson Festival of Books has helped offset the decline in room nights that resulted when most of the local Major League Baseball spring-training games moved to the Phoenix area.
The Festival of Books continues to expand and is now the fourth-largest literary festival in the country, attracting more than 100,000 people to the University of Arizona's campus and downtown district.
Other major Tucson draws to outside visitors include El Tour de Tucson and the All Souls Procession in the fall. In the spring, the Tucson Invitational Games bring in more than 100 college baseball and softball teams to train and play in Kino Sports Complex and at Abraham Lincoln Park, filling more than 9,000 hotel-room nights.
But Tucson's hospitality sector is still suffering from the lingering effects of the recession. Tucson's year-round hotel occupancy averaged 66 percent in 2006 and 2007 but only 56 percent in 2011 and 2012, the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau said.