Undergraduate course identifies tourism strategies for Apache Junction
ASU Project Cities helps generate niche marketing pathways for the Positively Apache Junction campaign.
CommunityApache Junction, Arizona, USA
Community Size41,739 (2018 Census Estimation)
UniversityArizona State University
Case TypeProject Stories
School SizeGreater than 40,000
Focus AreasEconomic and Social Inclusion
RegionEPA Region 9, USA
Community Partner DepartmentCommunity Relations, Economic Development
PolicyPlace Making, Rural, Tourism
University Department CodeCommunication
Community Population Sizes41739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Population TypeBusiness Owners and Consumers
The City of Apache Junction is rich with enticing natural assets, from recreational outdoor spaces to a personality synonymous with ‘The American West.’ Yet, while long-term seasonal visitors are attracted to the city each winter, Apache Junction is not known as a short-term travel destination. Municipal officials feel as if the city is missing out on a short-term tourism industry that could support the growth of both their community and economy.
To turn Apache Junction into a regular tourist destination, local officials created the “Positively Apache Junction” program, designed to generate ideas for maximizing the city’s tourism potential while benefiting its population.
To support this city program, Apache Junction invited an undergraduate course from Arizona State University’s (ASU) Project Cities, a member of the EPIC-Network, to identify reasons for its limited growth as a tourist destination and generate sustainable strategies that could develop its tourism economy.
The undergraduate ASU students partaking in this specially designed Tourism Planning class assessed Apache Junction’s characteristics regarding its tourism economy, from interviewing community members to gain context of the city’s strategy to determining the overall strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to their tourism industry.
Methods utilized by students included:
- Leading community focus groups to garner citizen engagement.
- Conducting interviews with vested stakeholders, performing literary analysis to compare nearby community approaches tourism strategies.
- Undertaking SWOT analysis—which lends a measurable quantification to community traits, and overall categories, to garner insight into the effectiveness of current approaches.
Having gained insight from the research conducted in Apache Junction, students compiled an evidence-based report that provided recommendations for Apache Junction and its “Positively Apache Junction” program. The primary findings of students identified one primary strategy and two secondary strategies to grow the city into a considerable tourist destination:
- Promote the city’s outdoor adventurism and Western roots through social media to target niche audiences, such as adventure travelers.
- Create urban resources targeted towards short-term tourists, including dining, entertainment, and lodging.
- Develop a community-driven, walkable downtown to increase residential interest in supporting the city’s tourism industry.
Due to analysis conducted by the Project Cities course, they provided three actionable, tenable tourism strategies for Apache Junction. By directing development attention and funds to these strategies, the city now has identifiable pathways towards attracting new visitors to a reinvigorated tourism market.