Those of us who live and work in Scottsdale every day know the many pleasures that are associated with the beauty of our surrounding environment: the Sonoran Desert, the McDowell Mountains, and architecture, art, and cultural offerings that are the envy of other cities.
For our visitors from around the country, and particularly from around the world, these pleasures are a revelation. Far from being empty, as the word desert suggests to some, Scottsdale is filled with wonders.
As the CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, it is an honor to preserve one of those wonders: Taliesin West.
In July 2019, I represented our community and our country at the World Heritage meeting, where Taliesin West and seven other Frank Lloyd Wright structures around the U.S. were inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The list is a group of 1,157 properties around the globe that represent a mix of the best of human culture and natural spaces, collected with the intention of preserving our natural and cultural heritage and promoting understanding across cultures and time through tourism and visitation.
The United States has 24 of these sites; two of them are in Arizona, and one (Taliesin West) is in Scottsdale.
Many Americans don’t know the World Heritage List, but for international visitors and global travelers, inclusion on that list is the “gold standard” for things to see and experience. We see this at Taliesin West every year, when we typically welcome about 15,000 visitors (within a total of more than 100,000) from outside the U.S. who come to see not only the stunning structures on our property, but also to learn from the place where the man that changed global architecture did his most creative work, during the most productive years of his long and storied career.
International travelers are frequently cultural travelers, who outspend leisure and business travelers by staying longer, shopping more, and partaking of the best restaurants, hotels, and resorts in the communities they visit. That’s one of the reasons I am pleased to be on the board of directors of Experience Scottsdale — so that we can grow the cultural tourism sector in and for our community through rich experiences that visitors and local residents can enjoy together.
At earlier points in my own professional life, I traveled hundreds of thousands of miles every year working in and leading global businesses, and as a tourist visiting all seven continents. My first-hand experience with friends, colleagues, and other travelers revealed the world’s fascination with the desert southwest of the United States.
By bringing these visitors to Scottsdale, we enjoy the opportunity not only to share the beauty of the desert and Wright’s work with them, but also the opportunity to learn from them how our work is relevant to their lives, their work, and their culture.
Recently, Taliesin West’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site led to another rare honor. We collaborated with the city of Scottsdale and Experience Scottsdale to secure membership with the Organization of World Heritage Cities. The foundation will partner with Experience Scottsdale to leverage this membership to further position our fair city as a premier arts and culture destination for both international and domestic visitors. This is an honor that only a few cities in North America enjoy, and a reason for international travelers to prefer to come see us over other places they might choose to visit.
We sometimes forget that the pleasures we enjoy in Scottsdale are, in fact, supported by tourism. Because of Experience Scottsdale’s promotions both here and abroad, visitors around the world come see us. And because of those visitors, thousands of jobs are created and supported; millions of tax dollars support our roads and protective services; our parks and preserves are maintained meticulously; and much, much more.
We all enjoy fine culture, great restaurants, diverse shopping experiences, and other benefits as a result of people traveling to our corner of the desert. Scottsdale’s beauty and offerings are a revelation for our visitors — and they’re a revelation because of our visitors. Through the efforts of the foundation, the city of Scottsdale, and Experience Scottsdale, we hope to keep visitors coming now and into the future.