Gem Show Here to Stay; How to make the Most of It

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, which will bring thousands of buyers, sellers and treasure hunters from around the world to Southern Arizona through Feb. 14, will remain a Southern Arizona tradition and economic rainmaker.

Fears that the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show, commonly referred to as “the gem show,” will leave Tucson are “unfair” and “unrealistic,” said Kimberly Schmitz, director of communications and public relations for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One of Tucson’s premier events, the showcase packs an annual $100 million wallop into the local economy. On its heels: Accenture Match Play Championship, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (the Tucson Rodeo) and Spring Training. (The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies leave Tucson for a new spring training facility east of Phoenix in 2011.)

The gem show is not a single event or show, but a collection of 44 shows that convert hotel lobbies and meeting rooms, and the enormous white tents that dot the streetscape into busy marketplaces. These shows, many of which are wholesale, are a prelude to “the main show,” the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show™ presented by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.

The main show will fill the Tucson Convention Center downtown Feb. 11-14 with more than 250 mineral, gemstone, jewelry and fossil retail dealers; displays from museums and private collections; and hands-on exhibits for school children.

The non-profit Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, founded in 1946 to encourage interest in geology, mineralogy, lapidary and earth sciences, is based in Tucson and it plans to stay here, said Schmitz. The first show was in 1955 at Helen Keeling Elementary School.

In addition, 40 percent of the series of shows stretching across the region are locally based with no plans to move elsewhere, she said.

Schmitz acknowledged that there is at least one show threatening to leave the Tucson Convention Center if is not refurbished. If that show left, there would still be more than 40 in the showcase, she said.

While talk of losing the gem show appears to be a single, albeit loud, voice getting attention, it is easy for business owners and operators to become complacent in the nurturing of and capitalizing on established events.

Schmitz offers some business-boosting and event-promoting tips applicable to any community:

• Make visitors feel welcome by hanging banners, jotting notes on chalkboards, putting signs in windows that greet visitors and encourage their business.
• Offer discounts or a special to anyone with a show badge.
• Create value packages by partnering with attractions or other businesses. For example, a restaurant and a museum could team up for a meal and a visit to the museum for a discount.
• Attach show-related names to specials or packages, such the Tanzanite Treat, which will helps visitors feel it was created especially for them.
• Advertise in show-related publications.
• Plan ahead. It may be too late for an extensive promotion this year, but next year’s gem show will be Jan. 29—Feb. 13.

Even though the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase’s presence seems secure, a welcoming attitude will reinforce the gem show and benefit local businesses.

(Thanks to kenkopal for the photo.)


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