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TOURISM IN TUCSON Separating fact from rumor about the annual gem show

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Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 6:00 am

Is the gem show leaving Tucson? We get that question a lot. The short answer is "which one?" Here is the longer answer.

With consistently more than 40 shows across the metro Tucson region, 40 percent of them are locally owned and/or operated. So the notion of the entire Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase uprooting and leaving en masse would be a tad ambitious, to say the least. After all, it's the largest event of its kind in the world.

Are there shows that leave Tucson? Sure; one or two a year as natural attrition. Shows consolidate or go out of business.

Other shows follow a business model of routinely holding events in other cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver, at other times of the year, then have a show in Tucson.

As part of this year's events, there is a new show conducting Tucson site inspections with an eye toward 2013. Another is scouting a second location in the hopes of adding to their offerings.

The Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is also the event with the largest annual economic impact on Tucson. The last study, conducted by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau (MTCVB) in 2007, reflected an economic impact of $100 million, with 55,000 visitors. This year, show expansion is the theme, with select owners and promoters reporting increases in the number of vendors and hotel rooms reserved. In some cases the increases have been as much as 8 percent.

You can't cast a wide enough net around the swath of businesses that benefit each year from this cornerstone, signature event. Consider one family here to do some buying for their shop. Within the first 36 hours of arrival, they rented a golf villa at Starr Pass, visited to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, shopped at a grocery store, and one of them had to pay a visit to an oral surgeon.

The Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase stems from humble beginnings. The one that started it all, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, launched itself at a local middle school in the 1950s. Now, it routinely sells out its vendor space in the Tucson Convention Center (with a wait list) and still upholds its original mission of sharing and educating. The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show along with 80 percent of the other shows around the region are open to the public.

The number of annual February shows dramatically increased in the 1980s about the time the MTCVB came along. We are proud to include the gem shows among the hundreds of clients we serve annually with the following initiatives:

• Facilitates the production of 40,000 Gem Guides that are distributed, free, at all the shows and various business throughout metro Tucson.

• Maintains a dedicated page on with general information about the overall showcase, frequently asked questions, transportation information and show listings.

• As part of our ongoing marketing efforts and Gem Show Welcome program, we have enabled quick response (QR) codes for visitors accessing information via mobile devices. They are featured in ads, on banners and on various pieces of Gem Show collateral materials.

• Continue to maintain a user-friendly, mobile site with interactive features that gem show visitors can access on the go.

• Respond to inquiries in real time and post timely updates, visitor comments and general news regarding gem show on Twitter ( and Facebook (

We've been doing all of the above annually. Our new initiatives this year, include:

• A callout box in the MTCVB Gem Guide box to specifically highlight downtown shows.

• Coordinating efforts with the City of Tucson to further promote the existing MTCVB Gem Show resources.

• An expanded Gem Show Welcome Program with more than 200 local businesses. The program offers business owners an opportunity to provide coupons or special offers to Gem Show visitors.

• Launch of the "Real Gems" Web pages - - dedicated to positioning Tucson as a year-round gem, mineral and fossil destination. Listings include gem show venues open throughout the year, jewelers with open studios or hours by appointment, museum displays, trunk shows and more.

• Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, a.k.a. "The show that started it all," has been designated an official Arizona Centennial Event. Gov. Jan Brewer recognized it at a ceremony Thursday (Feb. 9).

There is a lot of work that goes into planning and executing an event of this scale. The MTCVB works diligently and continuously with show owners, vendors, local organizations, government entities and others to make sure the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase remains among the best and largest shows of its kind in the world.

You can see it for yourself, online at

Contact Jane Roxbury, director of Convention Services at the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau at at . This monthly column is prepared by the MTCVB.


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