Scottsdale brand brings Valley billion-dollar opportunities

Paul Eckert, managing director, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, at the resort property in the Town of Paradise Valley Monday, Oct. 20. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Paul Eckert, managing director, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, at the resort property in the Town of Paradise Valley Monday, Oct. 20. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The Scottsdale brand is a powerful thing.

Tourism experts say the brand that is the city of Scottsdale is a billion-dollar industry that conjures up images of a mecca of opulence and, at the same time, a throwback to America’s western heritage coined, “The West’s Most Western Town.”

Businesses want to reap the financial rewards of operating in Scottsdale. Residents say there is no better place to live. Tourism officials agree: That brand is the straw that stirs the Phoenix metropolitan drink.

From hoteliers and resort managers, to car salesmen and real estate agents, everybody seems to want a taste of the Scottsdale cosmopolitan.

And even though the digital age has changed the way advertising reaches an audience, tourism officials say in terms of Scottsdale tourism the more things change the more they stay the same.

The reach of a brand

Sherry Henry, Arizona Office of Tourism director, says the brand that is Scottsdale — an affluent community offering travelers a slice of the better things of life — is something that is well established locally and abroad.

“The Scottsdale brand has been in place for many, many years,” she said in an Oct. 28 phone interview. “That goes back to the ‘50s and ‘60s with the focus on warm winters. They have done a really great job developing that brand.”

The Arizona Office of Tourism strives to enhance the state economy and the quality of life for all Arizonans by expanding travel activity and increasing related revenues through tourism promotion and development, according to its mission statement.

It also serves as a data repository of tourism metrics serving as a public resource for the general public.

Ms. Henry says if there is one demographic AOT is after it’s those described as the “affluent leisure traveler.”

“When you are going down to the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas you are going to some of the finest resort properties in the world,” she explained.

But oftentimes those resorts that proudly display the Scottsdale moniker — aren’t in Scottsdale at all, but actually in the most affluent town in Arizona — the Town of Paradise Valley.

“We give kudos to Paradise Valley and how they leverage the Scottsdale brand in such a positive way,” she said. “I think that Paradise Valley long ago recognized the brand is strong, and why not be a part of the Scottsdale family?”

That kind of thinking echoes throughout the Phoenix metropolitan tourism industry, and at high-flight resort properties it’s a well-established mantra of how to do business.

“We are a privately owned company and we don’t do franchises,” said Paul Eckert, managing director, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, on why Montelucia was a good fit for the Omni company.

The Omni Resort & Spa at Montelucia is at 4949 E. Lincoln Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley.

“To me, it was all about brand positioning. Brand positioning to go into the most interesting place you can get. We really wanted the digital platform Scottsdale has to promote all of the things that are associated with Scottsdale.”

In January 2014, Omni Hotels & Resorts and KSL Capital Partners, LLC announced the $133 million purchase of the Montelucia resort property.

The Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is a top-rated luxury Paradise Valley hotel featuring 253 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, 38 suites and two presidential suites.

The resort includes the Moroccan inspired Joya Spa, three resort pools and five dining options including the critically acclaimed restaurant, Prado.

Business has “been very good” since Omni Hotels and Resorts took over the Montelucia resort property, Mr. Eckert says, noting occupancy growth and business pace continue to grow.

“Our individual growth compared to our competitive set is one of the best,” he explained Oct. 20 at Prado at the Montelucia resort.

Ms. Henry says competition breeds excellence and Omni Hotels & Resorts is the tip of the tourism blade.

“The hotel industry is highly competitive as we all know,” she said of her hospitality industry experience.

“When Omni starts looking for another hotel in Arizona they are going to look at those at the highest level. Each of their properties are all very distinctive and certainly the Montelucia made that grade.”

Mr. Eckert says a main goal for the resort he manages is to embrace the surrounding communities and those who do business within them.

“We are trying to get out into the local community,” he said. “It is paramount; any local draw to the community is a big deal for resorts. We want them (local residents) to come to our resort; it is an important part of our business model.”

The business of the brand

The staff at the Scottsdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau is the purveyor of the billion-dollar Scottsdale brand.

“The Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s purpose is to brand Scottsdale as a world-class vacation, meetings and group travel destination,” said Megan Doyle, Scottsdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau community affairs manager, in an Oct. 21 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Over the past seven years, our focus has been promoting the ‘Richly Sonoran’ brand campaign, which is a great summary of what Scottsdale is: A luxurious travel destination in the Sonoran Desert.”

This brand, with help from the mild temperatures not typical in most parts of the world, has sold the idea of Scottsdale exceptionally well over the past few decades.

But those ideas might be changing to tap into a new generation of travellers, Ms. Doyle says.

“The campaign highlights outdoor adventure, golf, western heritage, and the resort and spa atmosphere, all with a Sonoran Desert background while maintaining a luxury feel,” she said of the established sales pitch.

“As we move forward with re-branding over the next few years, we’re researching ways in which we can even further entice potential visitors by showcasing Scottsdale’s allure and amenities.”

Luring those visitors is a major operation, numbers show.

In fiscal year 2013-14, the bureau had a total budget of $11,987,299 — with $10,920,761 from public sources that included the city of Scottsdale, Town of Paradise Valley, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The tourism entity also received $1,786,890 from tax remits as a result of Proposition 302, which was approved by voters in 1999. The measure collects a 1 percent sales tax on hotels in Maricopa County.

Proposition 302 is a available to any entity focused on promoting tourism in Maricopa County, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Tourism officials contend they generate $30 in economic activity for every $1 invested in the Scottsdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

The entity’s largest expense was marketing efforts totaling $5,018,193, with personnel costing $4,119,172 in fiscal year 2013-14, the annual report states.

Marketing efforts garnered 419 million ad impressions of which only 35 percent accounted for online efforts that encouraged 5 million page views — a 26 percent increase from last year.

In addition, the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has 51,850 fans on Facebook; 26,200 followers on Twitter; and a total of 87,876 views on YouTube.

The total economic impact to local tourism from online marketing efforts is estimated to be $102 million.

Mark Stanton, Arizona Office of Tourism assistant director, says the proof is in the pudding.

“When you look at the Scottsdale mechanism to get their message out, in terms of ability to get its message out they are on one of the best CVBs in the country,” he said in an Oct. 28 phone interview.

“Paradise Valley is the beneficiary of being on the vanguard of being on the front of those marketing efforts.

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