Tourism Boom Could be Dwindling

 

Tourists watch the daily Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on a sunny February afternoon.
Tourists watch the daily Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on a sunny February afternoon.

 

As the tourist season begins in Tombstone, business owners and shop workers have mixed feelings about the effect of the economy on commerce in the town.

“This year is the slowest year I’ve had for snowbirds in our history,” said Sue Sinsley, co-owner of the Stampede RV Park in Tombstone.

“I think the economy is what kept them from coming when they could come,” Sinsley said. “I know I’ve talked to three different people that normally come here every year, and they were antsy because of the price of gas and all that kind of stuff.”

Sinsley also said while the RV park was almost entirely booked for the rest of the season, most of the tourists who had booked were from overseas, as opposed to visitors from the East Coast or Midwest.

Kyle Bengel, who runs the Silver Strike Winery with his parents, doesn’t believe that his business will be affected.

“I think the people that frequent my establishment are not your hat and T-shirt crowd,” Bengel said, “So the ones looking for the free family day walking on the boardwalk, a sour economy may affect them.”

“The reality is that wine is a different market than a lot of other stores in town, and our clientele is pretty consistent year-round,” he added. “I can’t guarantee what it’ll do to the other shops in town.”

Bengel said many Silver Strike visitors come to Tombstone and the surrounding areas for wineries, as opposed to families and retirees who come to town for the history and Western atmosphere.

“There’s a lot of good wine within 50 miles of here,” he said. “You drive in a 50-mile radius and there’s a ton of wineries,” he said. “I feel that we’re drawing in a lot of our own crowd, not just picking up what the town brings in.”

Josh Hawley, who works at the O.K. Corral, said he believes that the economy won’t affect the town in the short term.

“I don’t think it’s so much the economy,” Hawley said. “There’s enough people out there in the middle class that can still afford it without a problem. If they’re looking for a cheaper vacation, if the economy was that bad, they wouldn’t be going to Disneyland either. They’d be coming to Tombstone instead of Disneyland.”

Hawley said, however, that the future economic impact of Obamacare could affect potential visitors’ tourism plans. He feels that penalties for not signing up for the program, which are taken out of tax refunds, as well as monthly costs for insurance could prove to be an economic burden.

“If you get on Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, whatever you want to call it, you are subject to a $100 to $200 to $300 a month,” Hawley said. “That plays a big role in how much money you have to spend, and people don’t think about that. It’s going to be your daily life, and your vacation time.”

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