Korte: Economic diversification, new approach to tourism message key to Scottsdale recovery

By Vrginia Korte
Posted 5/14/20

The past few weeks I have spent a lot of time talking about the need to diversify our economic structure in Scottsdale, bringing in different industries and high paying jobs so we don’t have an …

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Korte: Economic diversification, new approach to tourism message key to Scottsdale recovery

Posted
No matter how you spin it, this is a devastating blow to the tourism industry and it makes me sad every time I think about all the incredible employees and business owners who are suffering because of it.
– Virginia Korte

The past few weeks I have spent a lot of time talking about the need to diversify our economic structure in Scottsdale, bringing in different industries and high paying jobs so we don’t have an over-reliance on tourism.

I truly believe that we have been hit harder and remain overly vulnerable because of our lack of economic diversity. As your mayor, I will work hard to remedy that.

However, I want to be clear that the tourism industry in Scottsdale is one of the best things about our city and I believe we need to do everything we can to not just rebuild it to what it was but to build on it and make it better moving forward.

COVID-19 hit during our peak tourism season, causing steep revenue declines and temporarily shuttering some hotels, along with spas, retail and attractions. Other businesses --- like restaurants --- had to shift their business models overnight. For hotels that remained open, occupancy and revenue declined approximately 90% year-over-year in April.

No matter how you spin it, this is a devastating blow to the tourism industry and it makes me sad every time I think about all the incredible employees and business owners who are suffering because of it.

But even during the crisis, tourism advocates like Experience Scottsdale has been working to keep the destination top of mind. They’ve been working with media to generate editorial coverage to inspire travelers to consider Scottsdale when they’re ready to travel again.

Meetings are being booked for the summer and fall, travel agents are being trained virtually in how to sell Scottsdale, and American Express Travel named Arizona as one of the top five travel destinations.

There has been a heightened focus on outreach to the southwest region, since tourism will be driven more by road travel than air travel. Experience Scottsdale is rolling out a summer program immediately after Memorial Day and will be leading with messages about our wide, open spaces, experiences that allow visitors room to roam, and ways for visitors to create connections with family and friends – something we are all missing these days.

They continue to work with travel writers to produce Scottsdale travel features in key markets as well as luxury travel advisors to help drive customers into our resorts, art galleries, restaurants and retail stores. All of us can support our tourism base by scheduling a “staycation” and spend some leisure time at some of the finest resorts in the world!

On top of all the outreach that organizations like Experience Scottsdale are doing, I have been working with other local mayors, chambers, business leaders, and local municipalities across the state to seek federal grants to help support the hit our city revenue will take from the economic impact. For tourism to recover in Scottsdale, we need to be able to guarantee our businesses and tourists are safe and that our city can maintain the high-quality city services and maintenance that makes Scottsdale such an appealing tourist destination in the first place.

Scottsdale wouldn’t be Scottsdale without the tourism industry, and I will fight to bring our number one industry back to a place where it’s stronger than before. Leadership matters.

Editor’s note: Ms. Korte is a member of Scottsdale City Council in pursuit of the mayor’s seat at the August primary

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