Stanton-Led Tourism Program Gets Final Approval, Could Generate up to $181 Million in Spending in First Year

The federal spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law before the end of the year included a key provision that could generate millions for Arizona’s economy. Rep. Greg Stanton led the bipartisan effort to include a pilot program that will expand travel opportunities for travelers from Mexico to Arizona — a move that could generate up to $181 million in additional spending in the first year alone.

Rep. Stanton visits the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales in 2019.

Every year, thousands of frequent, short-term visitors travel from Mexico into Arizona to conduct business, visit family and friends, or travel and shop and local stores — spending billions of dollars collectively and making up a notable portion of Arizona’s tourism sector. Currently, pre-cleared travelers with U.S.-issued Border Crossing Cards are only permitted to travel as far as Tucson or Yuma. The new pilot program would allow those card holders to travel anywhere in Arizona and New Mexico.

“It’s going to open Arizona to more business, more tourism, and more economic opportunities.”

“Our state benefits in so many ways from our strong relationship with Mexico — and this pilot program will strengthen those ties,” said Stanton. “This is a critical step to expand the travel zone to those with valid Border Crossing Cards, and it’s going to open Arizona to more business, more tourism, and more economic opportunities.”

Stanton is committed to working with the Biden Administration to ensure the pilot program gets up and running in a timely manner.

Stanton first worked on expanding the travel zone with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) during his time as Phoenix mayor. The organization strongly supported the effort.

“This program is a win-win for both tourists and Arizona’s economy and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

“This pilot program extends Arizona’s tourism and shopping zone so that business and leisure travelers can visit and enjoy Arizona’s many breathtaking landscapes and quality shopping experiences which in turn benefits our economy and our communities by generating increased tax revenues,” said Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, chair of MAG. “This program is a win-win for both tourists and Arizona’s economy and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The pilot program earned bipartisan support from members of Arizona’s congressional delegation including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. David Schweikert and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.

The pilot program will permit Border Crossing Card holders to travel statewide, including to popular tourist destinations such as the Grand Canyon.

The measure also has broad statewide support among MAG’s many partners, including the Arizona Councils of Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, the Arizona Tourism and Lodging Association, and the city of Nogales, Arizona.

Tourism is Arizona’s largest industry, which supported 194,000 jobs statewide and generated $26.5 billion in direct travel spending and $3.78 billion in tax revenue last year. A 2015 University of Arizona study found that expanding the border zone to the entire state could generate up to $181 million in annual additional spending, bringing the total projected spending of Mexican visitors to Arizona to nearly $3.1 billion, with a total jobs impact of 31,766. These numbers would be expected to increase each year.

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Rep. Greg Stanton

Rep. Greg Stanton

Proudly serving Arizona’s 9th Congressional District