In my 10 months at the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, the question I have been asked the most is, "When is the gem show leaving?"
Based on reactions at this year's shows from thousands of buyers, vendors, show owners, local businesses, city of Tucson staff and the MTCVB team, it looks like they are here to stay. We heard from many customers that the series of 44 separate shows, which ran Feb. 2-17 throughout metro Tucson, may have been the best yet.
This was by design.
City of Tucson staff, led by City Manager Richard Miranda, planned for months to ensure the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase would set a new standard. Tucson police set up a mobile command post downtown to enhance public safety, while fire officials worked with vendors and show owners on tent guidelines and other logistics.
Tucson Convention Center was managed by a dynamic team to ensure a smooth flow of operations and client satisfaction.
Parkwise reinstated GemRide, a free shuttle that circulated customers among 20 shows and parking facilities.
And the city recruited volunteers to provide maps, directions and other information to visitors throughout downtown.
Those volunteers complemented the MTCVB's promotion of the gem shows. Jane Roxbury, our convention services director, dedicates half her time to this event providing gem show clients with year-round assistance, connections and marketing support. She is also our liaison to the city departments and City Council representatives who meet throughout the year to organize these shows.
We tripled our Twitter followers this year at @TucsonGems, and our tucsongemshow.org microsite had thousands of visitors. Our mobile site for smartphones was integrated with a map of the GemRide shuttle, and we topped more than 1,000 customers per week at our visitor center seeking recommendations for dining, attractions, shopping and gem shows to visit. We also staffed a gem show hotline, which was a popular information source.
All of us should take pride in hosting these gem shows throughout Tucson. The shows generate a $65 million economic impact, led by an estimated 60,000 visitors who fill 150,000 hotel and resort room nights throughout the region, along with our restaurants, retail shops and attractions.
Considering the city and MTCVB are already planning for the 2014 shows, I hope the question I'm asked most frequently in the future is, "How did the city of Tucson make the gem shows so successful?"
Brent DeRaad is president and CEO of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.