Arizona Highways Magazine Drives State’s Tourism

In April 1870, seven nuns left their convent in Carondelet, Missouri on a mission to the Wild West and headed for Tucson in the Arizona territory. Traveling through harsh terrain and facing continuous threats of Indian attacks, they pioneered on by train, covered wagon and boat. By the time the sisters reached Arizona, they had “nearly drowned, suffered from heat and fatigue, and saw the graves of many settlers who had been killed by the Indians.” Settling in Old Pueblo, they started a school a few days later and by 1880 had opened St. Mary’s hospital, the first one in Arizona.

Such nuggets from Arizona history are sprinkled throughout the Arizona Highways magazine from time to time, but the majority of content deals with more contemporary subjects such as special issues on photography, hiking, best places to eat, weekend getaways and family adventures. The writing style is fresh and insightful as one would expect from a native. Forever memorable, the back drop to these stories is breathtaking photography selected by the art director from a treasure of submissions from a remarkable group of photographers.

Attracting Tourists Pays Off

And therein lies the secret to the magazine’s success. Circulation has grown to 150,000 dedicated subscribers who come from all 50 states and over 100 countries. About 60% are in state residents and 40% live outside the state. While satisfying to Publisher Win Holden, members of the State legislature, under which the magazine falls, are more excited about the 37.4 million tourists in 2008, a significant increase from the 35.2 million in 2007. A 2005 study attributed $35 million of tourism revenues each year to the publication.

Arizona Highways is a self sustaining publication that doesn’t receive any funding from the State. And Holden plans to keep it that way. He has re-engineered the organization, saving approximately $600,000 per year, and hired and retained a first-rate management team.

A New Dynamic

Whether you want to read about the ‘rootin, tootin and shootin old west’ or contemporary spectacles of tourists hiking in the Grand Canyon, you’ll find it all as you move from one issue to another. These stories don’t develop by chance. Editor Robert Stieve has brought a new dynamic to the publication with disciplined planning at the core of the process. The staff takes pride in the 11 international magazine awards for writing, photography and design given by the International Regional magazine Association.

“We’ve worked to slowly migrate from sedentary content to service stories such as hiking and adventure travel guides,” says Holden. “When the publication started in April 1925, its purpose was to showcase the work of the Arizona Highway Department. By the 1930’s the charge was prophetically changed and Arizona Highways became a tourist publication. Today, that mission has expanded to promoting travel to and through Arizona.”

Creative Talent

It is all made possible through the use of 300 photographers, illustrators and writers who regularly contribute to the magazine. With access to such a talent pool, it extends the magazine’s capability. But they are aided and permanently blessed with access to some of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the world. The results speak for themselves.

Magazine covers cry out for attention as they portray nature’s best…for example, Sedona’s Cathedral Rock at sunset, a lightning storm over Tucson at night or snow covered Ponderosa pines in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. But it’s the mountains that create the spiritual aura over the land and give visitors and residents alike pause. One can only admire the talent of the photographers, illustrators and art directors who are able to bring the reader into that moment.

Guidebook to Nature’s Best

Large numbers of tourists and residents alike love to commune with nature’s best and rely on the magazine to guide them to the unspoiled and sometimes little known sites. What’s most remarkable is long time subscribers (15 to 20 years) still find something new in each issue. It’s what brings tourists to Arizona.

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