Each year, NAU’s spring graduation brings thousands of visitors to Flagstaff. As families, friends and loved ones all gather to celebrate, the local economy is strengthened through their business — in particular, the hotel and house rental industries.
Jasmine Landavazo, a sophomore hotel and restaurant management major, has been a front desk agent at the GreenTree Inn since September 2018. Landavazo discussed the influence of graduation on the local economy.
“Flagstaff’s economy benefits a lot from graduation season,” Landavazo said. “The majority of hotels are sold out and restaurants are getting a higher volume of guests as well.”
Landavazo also spoke about how the graduation period requires more planning and organization within the hospitality industry, specifically at her workplace.
“We have been booked for May’s graduation probably since November,” Landavazo said. “We adjust by holding rooms just in case something happens. We also have more staff working on our busy days.”
Landavazo said Flagstaff is a popular destination year-round. However, specific times and seasons are busier than others.
“Graduation is very busy, but we are sold out at various times of the year, like the holiday season and summer time as well,” Landavazo said.
Airbnb owner and property manager Deanna Comish discussed the benefits of NAU’s graduation season for both her business and the local economy.
“NAU’s graduation absolutely benefits both me personally and economically, and the Flagstaff community as well,” Comish said. “All of our local businesses are booked solid for the entire week of graduation.”
Comish said during this season, Airbnbs can be filled months and years in advance, similar to the local hotel industry.
“We are completely booked two years ahead of time for the weekends of graduation, both in May and in December,” Comish said. “I have several rounds of guests every year on a waitlist to see if that weekend opens up to be able to book my property.”
Comish said graduation represents the beginning of a busy summer season within the Airbnb business.
“[Graduation] is my busiest time of year, second only to the months of June and July, which book every single night of both months,” Comish said. “The guests who come always take great care of our home and have such a good time with their extended family celebrating graduation.”
Comish and Landavazo both expressed the ways graduation benefits the lodging industry. In addition, the celebration strengthens other local businesses, such as restaurants and bars. Comish said NAU supports Flagstaff’s economy in great ways.
“Graduation brings in an influx of people that utilize all of the businesses here in Flagstaff,” Comish said.
Restaurants in Flagstaff are supported by graduation visitors from all over the country.
Freshman Jake Connolly is employed at Bun Huggers, a local restaurant that specializes in burgers and brews. Connolly discussed what happens around graduation time and how Bun Huggers’ business is affected.
“On a regular weekend, we have around seven workers in the morning and eight employees in the afternoon,” Connolly said. “Around one or two more people will come in and help with the afternoon rush, making it around 10 workers in total.”
Connolly described Bun Huggers’ methods for handling the graduation rush.
“We don’t have the biggest staff, so it's first come, first serve when we start to get busy,” Connolly said.
Connolly also discussed how the graduation period helps to increase tips for hourly employees.
“Normally, we make around $20 to $30 in tips on an average weekend, but with graduation we could expect up to $60 in tips,” Connolly said.
Freshman Chance Arnoldussen is a former employee at the Sweet Shoppe Candy Store on East Aspen Avenue. He said the Sweet Shoppe and other retail stores downtown become busy around graduation.
“[During] graduation, hundreds of people come into town,” Arnoldussen said. “We will be very busy, as we are one of the bigger shops downtown.”
Arnoldussen discussed other popular times throughout the year.
“The shop receives a lot of business in an average week, especially during the weekend,” Arnoldussen said. “During homecoming weekend and similar events we get overwhelmed with a rush of visitors.”
While restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the Flagstaff area are preparing for the graduation rush, locals should prepare.