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YVB inviting neighbors to ‘stop, stay & play’ in Yuma
This article originally appeared in The Yuma Sun > http://www.yumasun.com/articles/yuma-80093-visitors-jordan.html
By Ann Walker / Special to The Yuma Sun
Just add water.
As a desert survival tip, it’s not exactly rocket science.
But this year, the Yuma Visitors Bureau is betting that cool water – along with a warm welcome and some hot bargains – can attract visitors even during the scorching days of summer.
The “Soak Up Yuma” billboards that have sprouted along Interstate 8 are the most visible sign of a new bilingual campaign directed to folks on both sides of the border, according to YVB Executive Director Linda Jordan.
“We’re inviting our neighbors to ‘shop, stay and play’ in Yuma this summer – to soak it up, or in Spanish, ‘refréscate en Yuma’,” Jordan explained. “Especially with Waylon’s Water World opening this week, we believe Yuma has something unique to offer.”
Is advertising Yuma as a destination a bit like paddling upstream when temperatures are unlikely to dip below triple digits until fall? Jordan doesn’t think so.
“People who live in Mexicali or the Imperial Valley know it’s hot,” Jordan said. “What we sharing is that Yuma has lots of cool ways to have fun despite the heat, from tubing on the Colorado River to fishing at Martinez Lake to a day of family fun at a brand-new water park.
“And when you dry off, we still have a lot to offer, with great shopping, all kinds of entertainment, three casinos and culinary options from taco trucks to fine dining,” Jordan added. “By taking advantage of affordable summer rates at Yuma hotels, you can treat your family to a mini-vacation without breaking the bank.”
The centerpiece of the new promotion is a full-color Spanish (and English) flyer to be marketed in Mexicali, handed out at border crossings and distributed in commercial racks up the Colorado and throughout the Imperial Valley. Visitors who present the flyer when they check into a participating hotel receive a shopping bag full of special offers, coupons and promotional items – what YVB describes as “a piñata of Yuma awesomeness.”
Adding a treat to the piñata is free and easy for YVB members, Jordan said – just bring 250 items to start, and be ready to supply more if promotion catches fire like crispy salt cedar on a August afternoon.
Among those on board is Debbie Mansheim, owner of Basket Creations at 245 S. Main St. Her store was the beneficiary of Yuma’s first cash mob last month, and while she doesn’t currently see that many shoppers from Mexico, she’s all for “anything that works for visibility.”
“Yuma is such a transient city in so many ways that no matter how much you market, it’s never enough,” Mansheim added. “Everything helps.”
Her downtown neighbor, Fred Earle of Yuma’s Main Squeeze, agreed. He’s offering a coupon for a free wine tasting and/or 20 percent off a bottle of wine, and is curious to see the returns.
“Wine is a big thing in Baja, and some great wines come from there,” Earle noted, though he currently only sees “a few” customers from Mexico. “There’s a huge market there, I’m just not sure we’re going to benefit.”
Still, Jordan said marketing to Mexico is a natural for Yuma, and part of the reason the keynote speaker at YVB’s recent annual meeting was an expert from Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau. J. Felipe Garcia, the Tucson CVB’s vice president of strategic partnerships and Mexico marketing, also kicked off the new “Know Yuma Inside and Out” speakers series sponsored by The Yuma Sun the following morning.
“You have all the elements here to attract them,” Garcia told that gathering of Yuma business people. “You have everything customers want … it’s up to business owners to attract them.”
The potential audience is huge, Jordan said. With a population of nearly a million in Mexicali, and nearly 200,000 in San Luis Rio Colorado, “the numbers speak for themselves.”
The dollars spent by Mexican visitors also speak, according to a 2007-08 study by the University of Arizona: an estimated $271 million in spent that year in Yuma County on food, clothing, entertainment and other activities - more than 6 percent of all taxable sales. Jordan also points out that the U of A did not survey visitors who entered in California, which would include most visitors to Yuma from Mexicali, “so the real number is probably a lot larger.”
The same study found that nearly 13 percent of visitors to Yuma already spend the night here – and that overnight visitors spent more than ten times as much as “day trippers,” Jordan said.
“Even a small increase in the number of overnight visitors can really boost in the dollars spent,” Jordan said. “This is just a baby step, but it could mean a lot to the bottom line.
“Sometimes you just have to jump in,” Jordan added. “We’re taking the plunge.”
Ann Walker is a writer for the Yuma Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 376-0100.
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