Economic troubles ahead as tourism faces realities of COVID-19

By Jason Rose
Posted 3/16/20

While the media can’t stop reporting on the coronavirus it has been underreporting the devastating impact just starting to be fully realized on tourism communities.

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Economic troubles ahead as tourism faces realities of COVID-19

Posted

The various debates that had been taking place now seem so trivial. The Desert Discovery Center, Southbridge 2 and the latest civic issue that may be creating anger or acclaim still matter to the vested but matter little to a wounded community whole.

While the media can’t stop reporting on the coronavirus it has been underreporting the devastating impact just starting to be fully realized on tourism communities like Scottsdale.

Tourism is the number one industry in our city. But hotel room and occupancy rates are collapsing. Special events that drive business for so many are being canceled or could be later this year.

Just wait. When the city treasurer reports again on tax revenue watch what happens. It’s not going to be pretty. Vital funds needed to fund vital services will be depleted.

I mean no disrespect to my friends in the “slower growth” camp, because there is a time and a place for every voice. But it is those intoning support for business that are now desperately needed.

One can’t always rail against “growth” saying tourism should and will be our savior when tourism itself is facing a future worse than after 9/11.

I appreciate those who say Scottsdale should go slow when it comes to new business and buildings. Such opinions are not always misplaced. But such observations are a luxury of good economic times. Those will not be ours over the coming months.

I hope I am wrong.

Good times and economies don’t just happen. Bernie Sanders may think so. As the insightful New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently opined, to listen to Sen. Sanders is “to listen to someone who seems to believe that the American economic pie just miraculously appeared and exists on its own. He never discusses where that pie came from, how to bake it or how to enlarge it.”

And so it is with a certain segment in Scottsdale. The city and its enviable lifestyle and business profile didn’t and doesn’t just happen. They are curated by the custodians of commerce.

It’s important to understand that you can say no to those who may knock on your door, but it’s tough to build a house if no one ever shows up to help. In other words, there are opportunities and investments never known because the marketplace understands they are not overly welcome there.

Scottsdale is a collection of thousands of rejuvenating small businesses, developments, events and entrepreneurs. Now more than ever they need to be celebrated not scolded. Helped, not hindered.

Scottsdale, more than most communities, is facing an economic tsunami. If its leaders and future leaders engage in the anti-business rhetoric that has arisen more in the past couple of years, voters will punish them.

There is a reason Scottsdale’s City Council was a 6-1 pro-business majority after the obviousness of the Great Recession. Voters wanted people who knew what it took to pull the community through.

This city need not sacrifice its soul, even in the toughest of times like now. But it does need a more energetic, enlightened economic approach to deal with this crisis, and to stimulate and encourage investment.

The City Council and mayoral campaigns of 2020 were just upended. The voices of “no” will be horribly out of step when the steps needed now, from every city official and candidate, will be how to help the city while under economic siege.

In an ultimate act of patriotism Barack Obama and John McCain largely came together during the onset of the Great Recession to work with President Bush to support what needed to be done to save the economy.

Let’s hope the situation today is not so dire but every Scottsdale political leader should and will now need to act likewise. Without patriots for progress, Scottsdale’s better days may remain too distant on its beautiful horizon.

Jason Rose is the president of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations based in Scottsdale.

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