Experience Scottsdale delivers annual address, lauds municipal projects

Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco during the Oct. 23 annual meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Local executives, elected leaders and tourism connoisseurs gathered at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch Monday, Oct. 23 to hear Experience Scottsdale officials deliver its annual report on the collective return on investment.

About 450 people came to the resort at 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, to hear Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco deliver the annual address while two other speakers rounded out the tourism presentation. They were:

  • Michael Surguine, who is a member of the Experience Scottsdale Board of Directors and is the general manager at the Sanctuary on Camelback Resort and Spa, which is based in the Town of Paradise Valley; and
  • Doug Lansky, an international travel author who served as the keynote speaker of the event.

Emboldened through Proposition 200, Scottsdale City Council this fiscal year has approved a total contribution of $9,902,016 in funding to Experience Scottsdale to promote local tourism and provide dollars and cents to pay for events, research and tourism-related capital projects.

Scottsdale voters in 2010 voted to increase the transient occupancy tax — also referred to as “bed tax” — from 3 percent to 5 percent with 50 percent of those dollars earmarked for tourism marketing, tenets of the ballot initiative state.

The total amount of bed tax remits for fiscal year 2017-18 for the city of Scottsdale is $19,441,159, records show.

Coined, the “Tipping Point,” Ms. Sacco outlined the various efforts Experience Scottsdale has implemented and the returns experts there say are being delivered through various marketing efforts.

“We are making no apology for being in the desert,” Ms. Sacco said of marketing efforts focused on bringing tourists to Scottsdale during the summer months. “It’s working. Programs like that — ‘The Desert is Hot’ — are helping keep our city programmed all your long.”

The return on investment was outlined as “Experience Scottsdale uses resources efficiently for the benefit of the Scottsdale area and our members.”

A breakdown of Experience Scottsdale revenue sources are:

  • The city of Scottsdale provides 69 percent of the funding at $9,591,166, in addition to $310,850 in event funding.
  • Proposition 302 provides 14 percent of the funding at $1,943,737.
  • The Town of Paradise Valley provides 9 percent of the funding at $1,275,037.
  • The private sector provides 7 percent of the funding at $1,017,650.
  • Other funding sources account for 1 percent of funding including dollars provided by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Experience Scottsdale officials say bed-tax collections have steadily been on the rise recently increasing by 9 percent — going from $17,047,042 in fiscal year 2014-15 to $18,950,951 in fiscal year 2016-17 — over the last three fiscal years.

According to its annual report, Experience Scottsdale has two main expenses: personnel at an annual cost of $4,753,317 and marketing efforts with an annual cost of $6,313,136.

Experience Scottsdale recently commissioned a third-party economic study to better understand its impact on the general Scottsdale community whereas the report contends the direct economic impact of tourism efforts is $229 million.

Analysis from Longwoods International and Tourism Economics show every dollar invested in Experience Scottsdale directly generates $67 in visitor spending and $3 in local tax revenue, an Experience Scottsdale press release states.

The direct impact — both in reality and virtual reality — of marketing efforts created $341.2 million in traditional advertising impressions while digital efforts created $110.7 million in online impressions.

Ms. Sacco, during the report unveil, outlined each of Experience Scottsdale’s seasonal campaigns, which are Summer in Scottsdale, A Warm Southwestern Holiday, Loonie Love and Scottsdale Golf Week, where collectively the digital campaign garnered 216,731 page views, the annual report states.

A view of the crowd Monday, Oct. 23 at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

In full support

Ms. Sacco and Mr. Serguine, the Experience Scottsdale Board of Directors vice president, lauded several city projects headed to Scottsdale City Council as being supported by the tourism community.
They are:

  • The development of an update to the Scottsdale Stadium Master Plan whereas initial, immediate improvements are reconstruction of the stadium’s outfield parking lot; expansion of the east practice fields; modifications to the existing half-diamond and bullpen; and the addition of an agility field with a half-diamond.
  • Approved expansion plans at WestWorld of Scottsdale, which at this time include the paving of a portion of the facility; the under-grounding of a power source and the significant expansions for portable RV hook-up spaces.
  • The pending Scottsdale Desert EDGE proposal where Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale has unveiled its plan for a proposed desert-appreciation venue just south of the established Gateway trailhead.

Ms. Sacco says each of the projects Experience Scottsdale supports could bring in more tourism dollars.

“Can you imagine if WestWorld is really activated all year long?” she asked the audience. “There are several projects that are moving forward or at least those discussions are happening.”

But Ms. Sacco says projects can’t be built for a project’s sake.

“Even if those projects don’t get embraced by the community — do you know how lucky we are to have choices?” she told the crowd. “How can tourism play a part? But don’t ever build something just for the tourists because tourists want to go where the residents want to be.”

Mr. Serguine echoed some of those same sentiments while pointing out Experience Scottsdale is also expanding its focus to include downtown marketing considerations.

“Millions of dollars have already been spent to improve our downtown,” he told the crowd noting certain planning efforts and private investment already occurring in the downtown sector of the city.

“We believe there are projects that will help improve the overall tourism effort. But we need to make sure these projects continue their momentum. These are exciting projects that have been well thought out and all present opportunities that will improve the Scottsdale tourism market.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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