The Gateway Saguaro is lighted during a ceremony near the Oracle Road median, just north of Drachman Street, Monday, April 5, 2010. The 30-ft-tall neon public art piece, by local artist Dirk J. Arnold, shows people traveling northbound on Oracle the history of the roadway, and if they are traveling southbound it welcomes them to Tucson. 

Jill Torrance/Arizona Daily Star file photo

The Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tourism agency with the tongue-twisting acronym - MTCVB - will have a new marketing "brand" to go along with its shortened name of "Visit Tucson" beginning in June.

The agency, funded by local governments through a bed tax on hotel stays, is working with the destination-marketing firm MMGY Global to discover the attributes of our region that can be best promoted to travelers - the kinds of experiences they brag about to friends on their social-media sites.

MMGY Global, based in Kansas City, included Tucson for the first time in its annual survey of travelers, which measures "the emerging travel habits, preferences, social values and intentions of Americans," according to its website.

It held focus groups with local tourism-dependent entities and interviewed travelers in target markets of Chicago and Denver, said Allison Cooper, vice president of marketing at the bureau. It is being paid $175,000 for its services.

Tourism in the region is already a $2.4 billion industry, "but it could be substantially more," Cooper said.

Tucson always does well with white-haired boomer retirees, but could gain a needed boost from younger travelers seeking outdoor adventures, she said.

That became clear in the surveys in Chicago and Denver, she said. In Chicago, the region is regarded as a haven from winter temperatures; in Denver, it's known as a place where activities like hiking and biking are available.

"Cycling is huge. We are a cycling mecca," she said.

She said MMGY Global is "rebranding this destination and following a very disciplined process" to do so. The initial results were well-received by "stakeholders" in the tourism industry who were given a preview recently, she said.

Cooper said MMGY Global's 2013 survey of 2,511 active leisure travelers "was actually quite positive for Tucson." Cooper said 16 percent of those surveyed said they intended to travel to Tucson in the next couple years. A negative image of Arizona politics didn't carry over. "Here in Tucson we're neutral to positive," she said.

Cooper said the "rebranding effort" will emphasize what is real about the region - "What is our essence, our heart and soul, our value and our grand promise."

She declined to say specifically what that rebranding might entail until "Visit Tucson" rolls out the new "brand architecture" and related marketing materials on June 13.

Contact reporter Tom Beal at or 573-4158.