Community & Government Affairs

Keeping Scottsdale’s tourism industry strong

By Doug Heaton, Experience Scottsdale

This is an exciting time for Scottsdale’s tourism industry as local hospitality businesses experienced one of our strongest years since the Great Recession in 2018.

That 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 our community. 

But this success wasn’t limited to hotels and resorts. Scottsdale-area golf courses saw revenue increase 7%. Our retail giant, Scottsdale Fashion Square, saw sales per square foot increase 52% over the year prior. Plus, our signature events experienced more foot traffic. In fact, attendance for Canal Convergence in November 2018 was up more than 700%.

Current performance metrics indicate 2019 was another healthy year for our industry, and it’s important that we 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 – in 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 am honored to serve as chair of Experience Scottsdale’s board of directors and lead this distinguished organization of 45 staff members and 28 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. Nearly 28,000 people depend on this tourism industry for their livelihoods. They, along with some 250,000 residents, also rely on the $57.7 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 11 million annual visitors. 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.

Doug Heaton is the board chair of Experience Scottsdale and the area general manager of the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley-Scottsdale.