Scottsdale hotel revenue — and the bed tax collected from guests — has improved so much, the city bestowed an extra $400,000 on the Convention & Visitors Bureau to help pay for TV commercials aimed at fueling tourism for future years.
By juxtaposing such local pursuits as rock climbing and spa treatments, desert adventures and night-clubbing, the ads will woo the city’s traditional visitors — the aging baby boomers — and the hoped-for future guests — the boomers’ children and grandchildren, said Rachel Sacco, the tourism bureau’s president.
Sacco told local tourism leaders the highlights of the past year and plans for the upcoming season at the bureau’s annual meeting Friday at The Phoenician, a resort in Phoenix.
"Business is really strong," Sacco said. "It may be one of the best years ever based on the booking pace at all level hotels."
While visitors may be clamoring for rooms at a nearrecord pace, Sacco admits not all the city’s inns have been able to command the same premium price per room as they could in the heady years of 1999 and 2000.
"Occupancy comes first, rate comes next," she said.
Sacco said the key to keeping hotels full in the future is taking steps to ensure a steady supply of new visitors, and that means appealing to generations that have not typically thought of Scottsdale as a vacation hot spot.
"The face of Scottsdale is changing," Sacco said. "It has a tremendous amount of options and experiences. Our traditional guests play golf, go to spas. Our new customers are people who want to go out and experience urban nightlife in a beautiful atmosphere. One family group may have four or five different experiences. The agility of our destination is compelling."
The bureau has been working with Neil Howe, an economist, demographer and consultant for such brands as Pepsi, Hewlett-Packard and Nike, to learn how to grab the attention of "high-value visitors" of the future, Sacco said.
Howe spoke at the annual meeting, telling local tourism leaders they have to understand the varied expectations of the different generations to market to them. And it’s a moving target because each generation is now moving into a different phase of life, he said.
Boomers, born between 1943 and 1960, will be retiring soon.
They will have more time and significantly different ways to spend that time than their parents’ generation, Howe said.
"They have always had a stronger focus on the environment, and they are fixated on culture," he said.
"They turn away from big and bland luxury."
Preserving desert vistas, providing cultural activities and offering time share options will be important to keep boomers interested in Scottsdale, he said.
Gen-Xers, people born between 1961 and 1981, are individualistic and difficult to pigeonhole, he said.
They are moving into midlife, he said. As a whole, the generation is commercial and cutting-edge.
"We think the key attractors will be flexible accommodations," Howe said. "We’ll have to amp up the entertainment for this generation."
A thriving downtown night life and "safe-risk," adventures, such as ballooning, are likely to appeal to this crowd, he said.
Gen-Xers are also high-tech and expect to be able to effortlessly research and purchase vacation plans on a realtime basis, Howe said.
While the Gen-Xers are anti-kid, the Millennials — those born 1982 or later — are child-focused and into civic participation, Howe said.
They are teens and young adults now. Look for them to travel as families, and for the kids to have a say in where and when they vacation, he said.
"The Millennials will be the next traveling generation, so the message is, if Scottsdale is going to be positioned properly, we need to appeal to all three generations," said Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau chairman Richard Bibee.