Heaton: Keeping Scottsdale’s tourism industry strong

This is an exciting time for Scottsdale’s tourism industry.

Hotels and resorts throughout the area experienced one of our strongest years since the Great Recession, and all indications point to another healthy year ahead for the Scottsdale area.

Last year, Scottsdale-area hotels and resorts saw our highest occupancy levels since 2006. By filling more hotel rooms, our properties generated more revenue than years prior — helping generate more important visitor-paid tax dollars for the city.

Current industry forecasts predict Scottsdale should see another uptick in revenue in 2019.

But this success isn’t limited to hotels and resorts. Scottsdale-area golf courses saw revenue increase 7 percent in 2018. And our retail giant, Scottsdale Fashion Square, saw sales per square foot increase 52 percent over the year prior.

Plus, our signature events are experiencing more foot traffic. In fact, attendance for the most recent Canal Convergence was up more than 700 percent.

It’s important that we as an industry and as a community celebrate these successes as they come. After all, tourism is cyclical, and we face some uncertainty — just as the entire economy faces uncertainty — as we move into 2020 and 2021.

But the current strength of our local tourism industry is largely due to the strength of our destination brand. If you go to New York, Chicago, Toronto, London or beyond, people recognize the Scottsdale brand.

We are a mid-size, suburban city on the outskirts of a much larger metropolis. Yet around the world, people can distinguish Scottsdale from Phoenix or Tucson or Sedona. That strong brand will carry us through whatever may come in the years ahead.

I have been privileged to serve on Experience Scottsdale’s board of directors for four years. In July, I am excited to step into the role as chairman of the board and to lead this distinguished organization of 45 staff members and 25 community volunteers, all of whom are passionate about Scottsdale, our businesses, our residents and our visitors.

As the gatekeepers of Scottsdale’s destination brand, Experience Scottsdale’s staff and board members understand the weight of carrying and elevating an industry that is of critical importance to Scottsdale.

More than 21,000 people depend on tourism for their livelihoods, a third of whom live in Scottsdale. They, along with some 250,000 other residents, rely on the $44 million in visitor-paid tax revenue to fund city services, public safety, tourism-related projects and more.

The organization also feels a great responsibility to Scottsdale’s 9 million annual domestic visitors, as well as our international customers. Experience Scottsdale shares Scottsdale’s stories around the world.

We want the destination to deliver on our promise, so that travelers keep returning here year after year.

As we celebrate our current accomplishments and look ahead to the future, we can all take comfort in knowing that there are talented, dedicated people constantly researching and strategizing ways to ensure that this industry remains a success in perpetuity.

Editor’s note: Doug Heaton is the board chair of Experience Scottsdale, which establishes Scottsdale as a year-round, luxury travel destination. He is the area general manager of the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley-Scottsdale.

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