/ Modified dec 8, 2010 2:26 p.m.

Mexican Visits to Arizona On the Rise Again

Shopping mall executives say visitors never really left

U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics show the number of Mexican visitors to Arizona declined by as much as 10 percent while the state was in the throes of heated dissent over the new immigration law, known as SB 1070, and as the economy continued to falter. However, that decline seems to be a thing of the past.

Local shopping malls are reporting brisk business as the holiday shopping season progresses. They got a first glimpse right before Thanksgiving, when many Mexicans had a four-day holiday to celebrate the anniversary of that country’s revolution.

“It was very noticeable that they were here visiting,” says Jim Heilmann, senior general manager of Park Place Mall. “There were vehicles in the parking lots with roof racks that were full, multi-generational families.”

park place night spot Park Place Mall at night.
Park Place

Heilmann says traffic counts are up at Park Place and Tucson Mall, both of which are owned by General Growth Properties.

While the malls don’t specifically count Mexican visitors, U.S. Customs and Border Protection does. Those numbers are further analyzed by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We closed November very strong...our best November in a long time and December is looking really good,” says Felipe Garcia, MTCVB vice president of community affairs and Mexico marketing. Shoppers are coming out in larger numbers and hotel reservations are up, says Garcia.

The latest large-scale study on Mexican visitors and their shopping habits was conducted in 2007 and 2008 by the Economic and Business Research Center at the Eller College of Management in the University of Arizona and a number of partners, including the MTCVB. The study concluded that 68 percent of Mexican visitors to Tucson come here to visit one of the local shopping malls, with Tucson Mall being the most popular, followed by Park Place and Foothills Mall.

The report also shows expenditures of more than $976 million from Mexican visitors to Pima County, which translates into 5.2 percent of the county's overall taxable sales. Pima County receives 36.3 percent of the total expenditures by the visitors to the state.

UA Report on Mexican Shoppers

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