Tucson turns on the charm to attract Mexican shoppers
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Tourism officials here have long lured visitors and their dollars to the region with images of fantastic desert sunsets, wellness resorts and endless nature trails.
But to entice their most prized foreign visitors, they tout great shopping at good prices. Louis Vuitton, Dillard's and Apple attract Tucson's neighbors in Mexico, who account for nearly 68% of its international tourists.
For decades, millions of Mexican shoppers from neighboring Sonora and Sinaloa have trekked to Arizona for a full day, and sometimes a long weekend, dedicated to buying clothes, electronics and other goods. They camp at area hotel rooms, dine at local restaurants.
"Sometimes they spend a couple hours at most in the hotel room because they are shopping and just dropping off bags at the room," said Jessica Stephens, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Spending by Mexican visitors constitutes more than 5% of Pima County's sales tax revenue, according to the visitors bureau. And tourism officials have further ambitions.
Faced with political backlash from the state's tough illegal immigration laws and increasing efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, local officials have tried to mitigate the long border lines and bad perceptions with grass-roots public relations.