Q&A: positive economic development, tourism growth to continue in Scottsdale

Rachel Sacco

The Scottsdale Independent reached out to Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco to better understand why the Scottsdale hospitality trend is seeing significant gains in hotel occupancy illustrated in a three-year snapshot of sales tax remits.

This is how she explained the gains in hotel occupancy within Scottsdale:

•There are three areas I was specifically looking for regarding my numbers request: automotive, retail and hotel. And, I was surprised to see each of those sales tax areas showing consistent increases year over year. To me, those numbers suggest a bit of a reverse trend on the overall narrative I hear and read about regarding traditional commerce. Do these numbers suggest the same to you?

RS: Scottsdale’s tourism industry has seen a lot of positive growth over the past few years. Mega-events such as the Super Bowl and College Championship Game, new resort product and increased amenities, as well as Scottsdale’s new brand and ad campaign are helping to attract both new and repeat visitors to the area.

Our research shows that we have great traction in our target markets for repeat leisure visitors and group business. Plus, repeat guests tend to spend more in the destination than first-time visitors.

• What do you make of bed-tax remits seeing steady increases over the last three fiscal years?

RS: Scottsdale’s overall recovery since the economic downturn has been slow, but steady. We are nearing our record-high occupancy levels and outperforming many other top markets in rate and revenue growth. In addition, Experience Scottsdale has worked to fill need times.

Since Experience Scottsdale first launched our holiday campaign six years ago, we’ve seen occupancy in the November/December timeframe increase by more than 15 percent, helping to bring more visitors during an important need period.

•From the disruption I read about occurring in the vacation-rental game, these numbers really surprised me. Is Airbnb and others like them a true threat to Scottsdale tourism?

RS: As today’s travelers look for additional options on where to stay and what to do, it is important that our destination offer the amenities that meet their needs.

Now that Airbnb is contributing to bed-tax collections in Scottsdale and throughout the state, it is creating a more level playing field and allowing more visitors into the destination, especially during high-demand times.

• I don’t see much negative in the data presented. From the tourism perspective, what kind of picture do these levels of sales tax remits suggest for the health of the Scottsdale economy?

RS: Scottsdale is forecast to see continued growth in occupancy, rate and revenue in 2018. While hopeful that this positive growth will continue, the industry is cyclical so we are cautiously optimistic.

Experience Scottsdale continues to work with our partners to help fill need times, such as around the holidays and summer. We also continue to see strong conversion numbers for group business.

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

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