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December 23, 2020

ICYMI: Rep. Kirkpatrick & AZ Colleagues Deliver Funding Victory to Launch New, Expanded Tourism Program

New pilot program projected to generate millions of dollars for Arizona’s economy

(Washington, D.C.) —The new federal spending bill passed by Congress Monday night includes a provision for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to initiate a pilot program to expand travel opportunities” for travelers from Mexico, a move that could generate up to $181 million dollars in additional spending in just the first year alone.

Every year, thousands of frequent, short‐term visitors travel from Mexico into Arizona to conduct business, visit family and friends, or shop at local stores — thereby contributing directly into the local economy. Currently, pre-cleared travelers with U.S.-issued Border Crossing Cards cannot travel beyond Tucson or Yuma. The new legislation, which was originally introduced by Congressman Greg Stanton (AZ-09) as H.R.  5405, the Southwest Tourism Expansion Act, would allow those visitors with the card to travel anywhere in Arizona and New Mexico.

“As a representative of a district that shares a border with Mexico, I know first hand the direct, real and positive impact of cross-border exchange in our region,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “Expanding the accessibility of our state to our southern neighbors will enrich our tourism industry, bolster our local economy and strengthen our relationship with Mexico. I’m proud to have worked with fellow members of the Arizona delegation and my colleagues on the Appropriations committee to get this much-needed provision added to the final package.”

“Our state benefits in so many ways from our strong relationship with Mexico—and this pilot program will strengthen those ties,” said Rep. Greg Stanton. “This is a critical first 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.”

Modernizing and expanding Arizona and Mexico’s approved cross border travel fuels jobs, promotes commerce, and expands economic opportunity across our state,” said Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

“Arizona’s economic growth has been created largely in part by our welcoming business environment and tourist attraction,” said Rep. Schweikert. “By expanding the accessibility for our neighbors in Mexico across the state we will continue to grow our economy and help support local businesses, I am pleased to see this legislation in the final package, and look forward to seeing the economic growth it will provide for Arizona.”

Tourism is Arizona’s largest industry, with 194,000 jobs statewide, generating $26.5 billion in direct travel spending and $3.78 billion in tax revenue last year. A University of Arizona study conducted 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 and a total jobs impact of 31,766. These numbers would be expected to increase each year. 

The measure has broad statewide support among Maricopa Association of Government’s (MAG) 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. 

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