Experience Scottsdale continues to define pinnacle of tourism industry

A view of the crowd gathered to hear Experience Scottsdale officials speak Thursday, Sept. 27. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

With a humble demeanor, a frank diction of facts and an eloquent delivery, Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco Thursday, Sept. 27 explained to hundreds of local movers and shakers the power of the Scottsdale brand.

Nearly 500 business executives and local political dignitaries descended upon The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway, to attend the Experience Scottsdale 2018 annual meeting.

Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco, right, leads the 2018 annual meeting held at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch Thursday, Sept. 27. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The annual meeting featured presentations and discussion from top local tourism officials and a one-on-one conversation with Kate Birchler, Macerich assistant vice president of tourism and marketing, and the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

“This year, we are talking about all the value travel adds to our city and to our country,” Ms. Sacco said at the on-set of the annual report pointing out the establishment of the Scottsdale community was begun by a visitor.

At the turn of the 19th Century, U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott saw potential on 640 acres of land where locals now call “Old Town” with hopes of developing a farming operation.

Scottsdale historians say while the favorable climate was a lure for agriculture expansion of the southwest, Mr. Scott encouraged others to come and enjoy the beautiful scenery he experienced. Those who came, local history experts contend, came armed with college educations and an appreciation for the arts of all cultures.

“Here we are today and people are still coming for our healthy climate — it is a century later after Winfield Scott and Scottsdale is truly a tourism hub. Our united goal is to see our industry and our community thrive,” Ms. Sacco said.

Under a 501(c)6 nonprofit umbrella, the private company known as Experience Scottsdale holds contracts with both the city of Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley to conduct marketing efforts on behalf of the municipalities.

For this current fiscal year, the city of Scottsdale — through the usage of bed-tax remits — allocated $9,839,054 to Experience Scottsdale as the entire operation budget for the marketing entity is $14,693,449, according to the annual report.

Over the last three fiscal years, which is a period of time from July 1 through June 30, total bed-tax allocations have increased 5 percent. A breakdown shows:

  • For fiscal year 2015-16 the city of Scottsdale accumulated $17,380,084 in bed tax remits.
  • For fiscal year 2016-17 the city of Scottsdale accumulated $18,942,068 in bed tax remits.
  • For fiscal year 2017-18 the city of Scottsdale accumulated $19,834,320 in bed tax remits.

In addition, the Town of Paradise Valley this fiscal year is providing $1,311,919 in bed-tax remits, which is in tune to the municipality’s five-year agreement with the marketing entity, Independent archives state. Experience Scottsdale also partners with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for its marketing needs.

“Experience Scottsdale’s mission is to add to the economic base,” Ms. Sacco said of the marketing outfit. “For me and my team it is such a privilege to do this work, but that work is also met with challenges. How can I tell you that we moved the needle to actually bringing new businesses here.”

Mike Surguine, who serves as the vice chairman of the Experience Scottsdale board of directors, served as co-host for the annual report on local tourism in Scottsdale.
(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Emerging marketing practices

As the marketing acumen begins to demand a more digital approach for certain efforts, Ms. Sacco says Experience Scottsdale is beginning to see those efforts pay off.

Over the last year, Experience Scottsdale has generated 345.6 million traditional advertising impressions, 119.7 million digital views and 824,446 digital brand engagements, which translates to content downloads, email click-through and social media followers.

Of the total operating budget at Experience Scottsdale $6,492,899 was allocated directly to marketing efforts including digital, traditional and emerging mediums.

Jose Leon of the Scottsdale Charros attended the 2018 Experience Scottsdale Annual Meeting.(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“These efforts alone by our communications team resulted in 300 editorials that were read by 1 billion readers,” Ms. Sacco said of the Experience Scottsdale communication efforts.

Numbers show the marketing tactics are working: the Experience Scottsdale website saw 2.1 million visitors accounting for 4.2 million page views over the last year, which represents a 19 and 27 percent increase year-over-year respectively.

“It’s impossible to imagine Scottsdale without the tourism industry,” said Mike Surguine, who serves as the vice chairman of the Experience Scottsdale board of directors.

Our tourism industry has created an economy that has improved all aspects of quality of life — travel contributes so much to our community. Nearly a quarter of all bed and sales tax revenues are derived by our visitors.”

Mr. Surguine is the managing director at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, a beloved resort at 5700 E. McDonald Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley.

“Because our visitors are increasing our hotels are as well. The indications are that this trend of increased visitors and spending will continue into 2019. In the good times and the bad times Experience Scottsdale keeps the brand top of mind. For the sake of our industry while is cyclic it is also resilient.”

Cyclical or not, Ms. Sacco says the devil oftentimes is found in the details and for Experience Scottsdale that translates into percentages of return on investment.

“How about when the rubber hits the road?” she said. “On average, we added $274 million in annual economic impact. We brought back $274 million into our community; how is that for ROI?”

A broader sense

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, provided an affirmation and reminder of the role tourism plays in the economic engine of capitalism — the city of Scottsdale is no exception.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, delivered a speech on the American tourism industry Thursday, Sept. 27 in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“This is the center of the world when it comes to tourism, I think, for me, this is a very important place to be,” he said at the onset of his remarks during the annual report.

“We all know what we do, but I want to reflect on the impact that our industry has on the entire country. “When you really look at this industry it really is a small business industry. We are the front door to economic development. Nothing ever happens unless someone visits here first.”

Mr. Dow joined the U.S. Travel Association — a national nonprofit organization representing and advocating for all components of the travel industry — in 2005 where he regularly meets United States administration officials and congressional leaders on all things tourism.

Mr. Dow points out the impact tourism has on communities is paramount.

“The combined impact is extraordinary,” he said. “The most important thing we need is to get the message across: how many teachers, how many firefighters how many schools … are there because of what we do? We are a strong industry but we are a fragile industry.”

Mr. Dow explains he sometimes feels as if the tourism industry lacks the respect of other industries despite its direct positive impact on communities.

“We are the Rodney Dangerfield of industry,” he said.

“We are an industry that almost gets no respect. One out of every nine Americans get a job because of what you do. We build careers. This industry is better to build careers and to build a family’s life than any other industry. In this industry, you can work anywhere in the world.”

Scottsdale resident Diana Smith looks on during the 2018 Experience Scottsdale Annual Meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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