TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — We’re jumping into the busiest time of year for tourism in Tucson.

A wave of big-draw events is coming to Southern Arizona, kicking off this weekend with the Tucson Jazz Festival (Jan. 13-Jan. 22).

Executive director Khris Dodge is optimistic turnout will improve this year, in part because the festival features more acts and venues.

One is ‘The Century Room,’ the swanky jazz club inside Hotel Congress that opened last February.

Dodge says there are more than 80 artists playing in the festival and he expects between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors.

“We’re a small part of the piece of the pie that makes Tucson a wonderful place to come visit,” he said Friday. “And for residents, it’s a place for us to be able to enjoy what, the riches of what our community brings.”

Another one of those riches — the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase (Jan. 28-Feb. 12) — will be shining soon.

Visit Tucson is expecting more than 60,000 visitors to the city during that time—about what Tucson typically saw before the pandemic. The organization also says tourism rebounded to 75 percent of pre-Covid levels during last year’s Showcase.

“We do get a lot of international travel coming to the Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase,” said Visit Tucson director of communications Cindy Aguilar. “So we are expecting a lot of that to rebound with ease of restrictions, ease of travel and that pent up wanting to get out there.”

That also means museum exhibitors from around the world can return to the Old Pueblo for the official Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Feb. 9-12).

Even without them last year, the show returned to 90 percent of normal turnout and set sales records.

“We had a number of dealers at the show last year tell us they had the best show they had ever had — by a multiple,” said show co-chair and exhibits co-chair Peter Megaw, who says the pandemic led to a bigger and younger group of mineral collectors around the world.

For that reason, there is optimism that this year’s crowds will reach pre-pandemic levels.

On the heels of gem show season comes the Tucson Rodeo, also known as La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Feb. 18-26).

That will be followed by the Tucson Festival of Books (March 4-5), with the number of in-person authors growing a more typical mark of about 300.

In late March, Davis-Monthan’s “Thunder and Lightning” Air Show (March 25-26) will light up the skies to cap off what will hopefully be a high-flying tourism season.

In addition, Old Tucson will re-open and feature “A Western Experience” from Thursdays through Sundays, from Jan. 26 through May 7.




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