Sunset over Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona

WHY IT RATES: Arizona becomes the first state to take a crucial step toward inclusivity by having the first state office of tourism become a Certified Autism Center. – Mackenzie Cullen, Editorial Associate

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The Arizona Office of Tourism is the first state office of tourism to earn the Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). The Certified Autism Center designation is awarded by IBCCES to organizations who have completed a training and review process and are committed to serving individuals with autism and other sensory needs.

The Arizona Office of Tourism is leading the way for tourism offices across the nation and globe to take this important step toward inclusivity. This achievement cements their commitment to providing resources for individuals on the autism spectrum looking for new experiences.

Home to 32 state parks and 22 national parks and monuments—including the Grand Canyon Monument Valley—Arizona is on the bucket lists of travelers worldwide. More than 44 million visitors travel to the state each year.

“The work of the IBCCES has opened my eyes to the benefits of travel for children and adults on the autism spectrum, and I am beyond proud that the Arizona Office of Tourism is the first state-level destination marketing organization to become a Certified Autism Center,” said Debbie Johnson, executive director of the tourism office. “Our entire team is now better equipped to understand the needs of travelers with autism, and we’re committed to sharing this new knowledge with tourism stakeholders across Arizona.”

For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training and certification for healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. While many destinations tout “autism-friendly” options, this phrase does not necessarily indicate a true understanding of these individuals’ requirements. More parents are seeking destinations that have completed research-based training and professional review as they choose travel options.

“The continued growth of our partnerships with organizations like Arizona Office of Tourism is a positive sign for travelers and businesses alike. The realization that being autism aware is simply not enough ensures that in the years to come inclusion will become the norm for those on the autism spectrum. We are excited to see Arizona champion this cause,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.

IBCCES also created, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center (CAC) requirements.

For more information, visit

SOURCE: Arizona Office of Tourism press release.