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Sacco: With new partnership, Scottsdale aims to become accessible tourism destination


As the name implies, at Experience Scottsdale, we want everyone, from all corners and walks of life, to discover the wonders of our Sonoran Desert city. We hope visitors, no matter their background or abilities, not only feel welcome but also have the best possible experience in our community.

That’s why Experience Scottsdale recently partnered with Wheel the World, an online booking platform where seniors and people with disabilities can discover travel accommodations and experiences that meet their individual accessibility needs.

Through our partnership, Scottsdale-area hospitality businesses will receive assessments from Wheel the World’s team of experts that consider all types of disabilities, such as mobility-related, sensory, and cognitive. While the participating businesses will learn areas for improvement, they also will become part of Wheel the World’s online platform. The website allows travelers to discover the most suitable resorts, restaurants and attractions for their needs.

By positioning Scottsdale as an accessible and inclusive destination, we’ll tap into a global market with $13 trillion in disposable income. The World Health Organization reports 16% of the world’s global population has some form of disability, and according to the report, “The Global Economics of Disability 2020,” this market spends $120 billion on travel experiences.

Experience Scottsdale’s geographic location data reveals nearly a quarter of visitors to Scottsdale are over the age of 65. Many travelers to Scottsdale are return visitors — approximately 67%, according to our research from Datafy. We want to ensure that as those visitors age, they understand Scottsdale’s hospitality businesses can cater to their evolving needs.

Once participating businesses have received their assessments, Experience Scottsdale also will launch a new “Accessible Tourism” section on our website and officially become “Destination Verified” with a dedicated Scottsdale landing page on Wheel the World’s website. We’ll also partner with local photographers to capture new photography for our website and social channels so that visitors of all abilities can visualize themselves in Scottsdale.

This is part of a larger journey Experience Scottsdale has been on since 2020, when we formed an internal committee and began working with a local diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultant. Studies show that DEI efforts can lead to increases in profitability, innovation, employee engagement and more.

Our journey began with small, intentional steps — offering education to our staff, adding an accessibility tool to our website, and diversifying the photography for our marketing campaigns, among others. Stewarding diversity and inclusion in the industry is a key strategy in the five-year Scottsdale Tourism & Events Strategic Plan, and last fiscal year, Experience Scottsdale began offering free DEI training to our 400-plus member businesses. The purpose of our workshops is to share best practices that help local businesses expand their customer base, provide the best service possible to their guests, and support a diverse workforce that allows the tourism industry to put its best foot forward.

Much of the national tourism industry has taken such steps as well. Experience Scottsdale has participated in industry-wide efforts with Destinations International, which represents over 700 destination marketing organizations, and with our Wheel the World partnership, we join destinations like Tucson, Mesa, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Portland, Lexington and more.

Scottsdale is a place for all, as the city of Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s motto goes. At Experience Scottsdale, we hope that because of the efforts of the city, our organization and the industry as a whole, that motto rings true for our nearly 11 million annual visitors.

Rachel Sacco is the president and CEO of Experience Scottsdale, which serves as the city’s destination marketing organization, promoting the Scottsdale area as a luxury destination for meetings, events and leisure travel. Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.