Spring training is back in full swing this year after being cut short last March, but how dangerous is it to entice more people to travel and come here as they normally do at this time?
Venues have implemented the usual measures associated with COVID-19. But mask mandates and social distancing do not mean much when over 1,000 people are coming together.
However, there’s more beyond the surface.
Arizona is a prime destination for tourism, and spring training is only one factor that draws people in during the springtime. Two other large factors are the great weather and beautiful landscapes.
A large demographic of those who migrate down are from Canada. The Arizona Department of Tourism reported over 960,000 people travelled to Arizona from Canada in 2019.
International border crossing is still tedious at this time. Exiting Canada means opening yourself up to the dangers of COVID-19 abroad, which includes being subject to healthcare in America.
But for those who have found themselves already here, the case can be made to stay put beyond just seasonally.
Christine Vogt, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University, said, “If they can get to Phoenix, I think they can feel comfortable about being outside.”
She told the story of neighbors who came from places like Chicago and New York and figured the outdoor space and lower population density made staying in Arizona a safer option than returning home.
The Arizona Department of Tourism reported drops in most areas of income over the past year, except for two categories: state and national park visitation.
“I think outdoors has been the saving grace of the tourism industry in terms of this COVID pandemic,” said Vogt. Tourism accounts for over $1 billion to our economy, and the ability to maintain outdoor activities has allowed the hospitality industry to stay afloat.
Initially, I felt a surge of frustration about trying to return to “normal”. But a lot of variables go into reopening.
There’s also rising COVID-19 vaccinations. As we work towards getting more people vaccinated, having outdoor gatherings is no longer as troublesome of a thought as it once was.
The idea of slowly returning to how life was before the pandemic has been discussed ever since we began our quarantine efforts a year ago. My hesitancy to buy into that idea no longer feels as justified as it once was.
I might have been hesitant about spring training, but the weather and outdoor beauty of Arizona have a bigger impact on people coming to Arizona. Baseball seems to be an amenity for those who already find themselves in the area, and not the driving factor for bringing even more people here.
Editor’s note: The original story date is March 22. Due to newspaper and college-wide technical difficulties, this story is now made available on April 16.