ASU class helps small Arizona town with tourism, retention planning

Image of the Miami, Arizona welcome sign. Stating "one mile long, 100 years of history"

The Miami, Arizona, welcome sign says, "1 mile long, 100 years of history."


Town Manager Alexis Rivera has a goal in mind for Miami, Arizona — population 1,500.

Rivera wants to increase tourism and residence retention in the historic city, and now has access to ideas from Arizona State University students through a partnership with ASU Project Cities.

Students in ASU’s Justice Studies Research Methods course with Gregory Broberg, an instructor in the School of Social Transformation, recently shared their recommendations with the town.

Their final presentations answered: “What cultural, historical, social, and economic factors/descriptors articulate Miami as a destination?"

The students noted the town already has a great start to increasing tourism with their "Small Town Christmas" event, where attendees gather in the town's center each year for a visit with Santa, treats, music, toys and train rides for the children.

Based on the student's field research, they came up with a variety of options the town could also explore to help increase tourism and resident retention.

For tourism, they encouraged Miami to host more festivals to highlight the creativity and culture of the town.

For retention rates, students put themselves in the shoes of Miami residents, asking "What would I like to see here or what would keep me here?"

Students found there is a lack of diverse careers in the town, so many individuals don't see a career path for themselves, especially after pursuing higher education. There is also a strong entrepreneurial culture in the town, so students recommended that the schools offer more education on entrepreneurship, especially for high-school students.

The students also encouraged the town to build a field house for community activities and events. They said that by having a place for children to go, the town can build up their image and bill themselves as a "family destination."

Students pointed out that social media is an important resource for both tourism and retention and can be launched quickly. They recommended letting younger town residents manage the accounts, using organic and paid social media to highlight news, the history and beauty of the town, future events and more.

“This is a team,” Rivera said. “This is not a solo team, this is not a golf team, this is not a volleyball team. … This is a huge team in order to accomplish everything that we want for the future of Miami.”