Tourism was up at Fort Verde State Historic Park in 2007, where more than 18,000 people stopped in to take a look at the former military base that originally put Camp Verde on the map.
It’s nearly a 10 percent jump in visitors over 2006.
But those numbers pale in comparison to other local destinations like Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Out of Africa Wildlife Park, two popular attractions that brought in about 618,000 and 300,000 visitors respectively.
To call the jump in visitors at the fort “growth” is misleading. There were more visitors to the fort last year than in 2006, but just barely more than the number of visitors in 2005, and nowhere near numbers in the early ’90s, when the fort saw upwards of 40,000 visitors a year.
So how do you get some of the thousands of visitors to the area more interested in downtown Camp Verde?
It’s a problem that the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce has been wrestling with for quite a while, said Roy Gugliotta, chamber director.
“We need more business, and we need more infrastructure,” Gugliotta said.
Specifically, the town needs a restaurant capable of accommodating groups of tourists, Gugliotta said, as well as an overall unifying “theme” for downtown with more places to shop.
There are already nearly 160,000 staying in local hotels, according to chamber estimates. With a few more rooms and more places locally for tourists to shop, the town could potentially see an influx of $100 million to the local economy.
Of course, bringing in new business takes infrastructure, Gugliotta said, like an expanded sewer system that stores and restaurants could hook onto.
More businesses could also keep more local money inside town limits. Gugliotta points to Wal-Mart in Cottonwood, where he estimates Camp Verde residents spend $260 million a year.
The town is still a popular destination for people traveling the country in RVs, but there’s more to Camp Verde than just the scenery.
There’s the history.
In that respect, the town’s location in the Verde Valley is a boon, Gugliotta said.
“People can go to Sedona for the red rocks, then they can come to Camp Verde to see a Western town and the history here, to see what was Southwestern and who was Southwestern, ” Gugliotta said.
Every town nearby has something different to offer, and Gugliotta said that works to Camp Verde’s advantage if tourists can be enticed to spend a few days here to get a taste of the entire Verde Valley.
So what’s the answer to get more tourism dollars spent locally?
“The No. 1 thing we can do is promote Camp Verde,” Gugliotta said.
The chamber has been running advertisements in publications around the country, touting what the town has to offer. Gugliotta said getting the town’s name out there is an important first step in getting more tourists to spend money here.
As for bringing in more businesses, that will be a challenge, Gugliotta said, but he feels it’s not an insurmountable one. Gugliotta said the best chance of succeeding, however, will depend on the entire town pulling together to meet the needs of the community.