Football fans scored a touchdown for Scottsdale tourism in January. And marathoners made Scottsdale hotels rock and roll during the typical post-holiday travel slowdown.
Local inns were swamped in early January with jocks and those who came to see them perform.
During the days leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, which kicked off its final year in the East Valley on Jan. 2, Scottsdale hoteliers filled more than 70 percent of their rooms. That’s up nearly 10 percent from the days surrounding last year’s college gridiron clash.
Even more important, the football fans paid an average $184 to stay in the upscale destination, compared with a year earlier when they shelled out $40 less a night on average.
In fact, Scottsdale hotels’ room revenue for Fiesta Bowl business even soared past the take from 2003 — the last year the Valley hosted the national college football championship. Business was up nearly 20 percent for this year’s powerhouse matchup between Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Scottsdale hotels outflanked inns in other Valley cities, too, snagging much more revenue from the Fiesta Bowl visitors than the Valley average.
With the U.S. tourism industry finally in recovery, the city could command premium prices from corporate VIPs who typically follow their alma maters to bowl games, said Brent DeRaad, marketing vice president for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“The cachet associated with the destination helps drive rate,” DeRaad said.
P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon & 1 /2 Marathon on Jan. 15, also scored a win for Scottsdale. While other local hotels landed a few more guests, Scottsdale rooms sold for a much higher tab.
It’s an indicator of how the whole winter tourism season is shaping up, said Richard Behr, general manager of the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas.
“Rate is king now, for the first time since 9/11,” Behr said.
Behr isn’t worried that when the Fiesta Bowl heads to the West Valley in 2007, the fans will, too. His hotel hosted Rutgers, the Insight Bowl’s only visiting team in December, and that brought even better business than the Fiesta fans, he said.
The Insight Bowl moves from Phoenix to Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium next year. And Behr is pleased.
“We have done very well for three years with the (Insight Bowl),” he said.
But DeRaad said the Fiesta Bowl remains the biggest guest-getter overall, and the city’s tourism agency is working with organizers on a new contract to keep teams staying in the city even when the game is in Glendale.
Wherever the teams stay, alumni groups, out-of-town media and fans want to be nearby, DeRaad said. And if that is in Scottsdale, it means lots of local rooms to fill and lots of revenue to take in.
“Fiesta Bowl is just so important to us,” DeRaad said. “During the holidays you just don’t have much group travel, and 60 percent of our business is in group travel.”