Scottsdale tourism industry seeks new fuel to spark summer ignition

A view of participants five years ago during the first Beat the Heat race held in and around WestWorld of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

The popular consciousness is a powerful thing, but overcoming those preconceived notions oftentimes leads to new opportunities.

As temperatures begin to reach triple digits, the Phoenix metropolitan area, and the industries within that geographical region, begin to accept a new reality: the summer slowdown.

But that mindset might be about to change.

Scottsdale tourism officials hope the Fahrenheit Festival can be the first of many events to beat the heat of the summer slowdown. (Submitted photo)

A growing chorus of event promoters, tourism chieftains and public relations aficionados are fueling the idea the Valley of the Sun — and perhaps most importantly the city of Scottsdale — can capitalize on changing the popular consciousness of summer tourism opportunities.

The new idea: embrace the summer and the heat to entice more human beings to discover all things hot in the Sonoran Desert.

Both the municipal tourism director and the city’s tourism marketing partner, Experience Scottsdale, are hopeful the heat of summer can spark new interest in Scottsdale vacations.

In addition, Scottsdale City Council has approved a $75,000 bed-tax subsidy to an event tourism officials and city leaders are hopeful can create new momentum for summer tourism in Scottsdale.

Bed tax dollars are derived from sales tax collected on hotel rooms within the city of Scottsdale. The Tourism Development Commission offers bed tax funding recommendations to the Scottsdale City Council on items relating to all things tourism.

The inaugural Michelob Ultra Scottsdale Fahrenheit Festival presented by Talking Stick Resort has a growing list of attractions for children and adults to enjoy June 16 at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road.

Organizers have added the world’s tallest inflatable water slide as a cool down from one of the festivals key elements, Scottsdale Beat the Heat: The Hottest Race on Earth, a 5- and 10.22-kilometer race happening during the middle of the day at the event, promoters say.

The average temperature in Scottsdale during the month of June is 104 degrees.

In addition, the event will consist of The Travis Bagent Arm Wrestling Super Series and the Arizona Ales & Cocktail Festival.

“I definitely believe in it,” said Scottsdale Tourism Director Karen Churchard on the opportunity of a solstice boost to local tourism.

“The Tourism Development Commission supporting the Fahrenheit Festival is a big step in the right direction. It is really about events that have a unique twist to them and it really tends to lure people to those events — I really feel like this event has that opportunity.”

Camille Hill

Camille Hill, Scottsdale Tourism Development Commission vice chairwoman, says the summer months continue to be a difficult time for marketing Scottsdale.

“When you look at the landscape and the tourism activity over the summer there really is a void,” she said of why she believes supporting the Fahrenheit Festival is good idea for the community of Scottsdale.

“It doesn’t bring nearly as much activity of spring, winter and fall. From a marketing perspective, if we can provide some investment there we can help to try to help fill that void.”

Ms. Hill is a local tourism expert recently being honored as one of the Top 100 Business Women in Arizona.

The Scottsdale Chamber has honored her with a Segnar and Legacy Award. She is also a five-time judge for the Telly Awards. Ms. Hill is president of Merestone, which is an award-winning, full-service production company based in Scottsdale.

Ms. Hill points out Experience Scottsdale has launched its summer effort embracing all things hot in the Valley of the Sun, but specifically the attractions of luxury resorts within the unique community of Scottsdale.

“They are going right at; ‘it is hot — you are right,’” she said of the Experience Scottsdale promotion noting bed tax investment is carefully weighed. “You don’t want to throw too much money at it, but let’s see what happens. Where is the best place and time to provide that investment, I think the summer is the right time to provide that support.”

Ultra Runner Jim Walmsley during a recent race. Mr. Walmsley is coming to compete in the 2018 Beat the Heat Race at the Fahrenheit Festival. (Submitted photo)

A new perspective

A recently completed research study conducted by Longwoods International suggests some who see Arizona as a vacation destination typically descend on the Valley of the Sun July through September.

The Arizona Office of Tourism contends the recent report shows that 24 percent of 43 million people who visited Arizona in 2016, who collectively spent $21.2 billion in the state, did so during the summer months.

Jason Rose, co-founder of Rose, Moser & Allyn Public and Online Relations, is taking lessons learned from the Scottsdale Polo Championships, which is the largest polo event on Earth, and applying those teachings to the Fahrenheit Festival, due later this month.

The Travis Bagent Arm Wrestling Super Series will make a stop at the Fahrenheit Festival at WestWorld of Scottsdale this June. (Submitted photo)

“It started six years ago, when we were in the tourism commission meeting talking about the difficulties of marketing Scottsdale in the summer,” he recalled of where the idea first sprout legs six years ago this month.

“We heard from people after that; are you going to bring that back? We gave it a lot of thought. Besides going to a Diamonbacks game or go to Harkins Theaters what else can we do here?”

But beyond hosting a successful event, Mr. Rose contends, he is trying to support his local community and do right by the taxpayer subsidy.

“To some extent, it is doing right by Scottsdale tourism. It is about doing right by the Scottsdale taxpayer, and to some extent it is about community patriotism.”

But Mr. Rose acknowledges the tough road to hoe that is a tourism draw in the dead heat of the Valley of the Sun.

“I don’t know if we are able to do it, but we are going to try,” he said. “When we did polo, we saw potential and that potential has been realized. In the case of the Fahrenheit Festival we are bullish on the platform, because when you think about it, there is an unlimited potential on what you can showcase.”

Mr. Rose says he believes the Fahrenheit Festival can become a keystone event, not only for Scottsdale, but it could also spark a renewed interest in finding a solution to the summer slowdown.

“The race is really the one that intrigues, scares and excites people,” he said. “It is almost the Running of the Bulls — it is not for everybody. We think it could grow to a bucket-list kind of deal.”

In late May, Experience Scottsdale announced its It’s That Hot summer campaign to help entice more patrons to the Scottsdale community.

“Come summer, we don’t just see triple-digit temperatures in Scottsdale,” said Experience Scottsdale President & CEO Rachel Sacco. “We see budget-friendly hotel rates, weekly pool parties and special events. We know Scottsdale thrives during the summer months — it’s time for our visitors to realize it too.”

While the marketing entity traditionally has promoted summer travel, the organization is aiming to build more awareness with revamped messaging that emphasizes all things hot under the Desert sun.

The revamp comes after Experience Scottsdale’s tourism partners tasked the organization to drive additional visitation between Memorial Day and Labor Day, officials say.

Franceska Drozdz, who is 74 years young, is eagerly anticipating Beat the Heat: The Hottest Race on Planet Earth. (Submitted photo)

A new kind of tourist?

For many, running a marathon in the dead of heat during the triple-digit temperatures of an Arizona summer would be the road less taken.

But for a 74-year-old marathon runner hailing from the West Valley of Phoenix — that’s exactly where she likes to be.

“I have always been a big risk-taker,” said Franceska Drozdz. “I did it five years ago when they did it the first time — when it came back, I was the only one who signed up amongst the people I know.”

A majority of the 2018 runners participating in Beat the Heat: The Hottest Race on Earth are between the ages of 40- to 64 years-old. Ms. Drozdz has completed a marathon in all 50 states.

Furthermore, registrants from six different states are now represented, a number that is expected to grow as June 16 looms, event officials speculate. Within Arizona, some 22 cities and towns are already represented. Sonoran, Mexico, is also represented.

Ms. Drozdz says as people age more risks ought to be taken.

“We are older now — and we need to take more risks!” she exclaims. “I ran my first marathon in 1979 when women weren’t allowed to swim let alone run. Sometimes what I do is I don’t tell people what I am going to do until I am done because I don’t need that discouragement in my life.”

When asked why she runs, Ms. Drozdz says it’s for her health.

“Now, I have run 79 marathons because it’s a way of life for me,” she said. “I am also a motivational speaker: do you want to be a spectator of life, or do you want to be in it?”

Ms. Drozdz says living a life of purpose keeps her heart young and her feet fluttering.

“Everyday I wake up with a purpose and I do something for my mind, body and soul,” she explained. “And, i don’t get on Facebook until I do something spiritually for my soul and for my fitness.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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