Every year, from late January to mid-February, the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase takes over the city. And every year, Tucson reaps big economic benefits from the international collection of vendors, according to a Tucson group that promotes tourism.
During the gem show, hotels are booked full, restaurants have long waiting lists, and tents throughout the city are a maze of vendors selling their goods.
Dan Gibson, spokesperson for Visit Tucson, says that the gem show brings economic benefits from additional sources, like sales tax.
"When people are spending money in this town and they're paying city sales for something they bought — a gem or even groceries, ... all of that stuff comes back to the community and it means better parks, better roads, better services for Tucsonans," Gibson said.
Gibson said the gem show contributed $120 million to the Tucson economy in 2014. His office is still calculating this year's economic impact, he said, but predicts the number will be even higher.
This year's gem show had second-highest number of shows since 2008, with 48 individual shows scattered throughout Tucson. "Shows" are described as the formal and informal events that take place in hotels, tents, convention centers and other sites around Tucson. More of these shows were also open to the public than in years past.
"The show was bigger this year, by all means," Gibson said. "There were more shows, there were more people, there were more hotel rooms than there were in 2014. ... It definitely stands to reason that the gem show was bigger this year."
Ongoing downtown hotel renovations will increase Tucson's capacity for overnight stays, which means the city could welcome even more gem show vendors and tourists in future years.
Gibson says his office is still calculating the economic impact of this year's show and will release those numbers in the coming months.
Emmalee Mauldin is an AZPM intern and journalism student at the University of Arizona.