Site-Seeing in Sight

by Rachel Sacco

“HeartHug” by Izobrulo Polylight at Canal Convergence 2019, courtesy Scottsdale Arts

Scottsdale’s entire tourism industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, with many hotels and resorts either closing their doors or operating at single-digit occupancy levels. Because Experience Scottsdale’s primary funding comes from transient lodging taxes, our organization reflects the health of the tourism industry — in good times and in bad.

Like many tourism businesses throughout Scottsdale, our organization has seen budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs. For the safety of our staff, our operations have temporarily gone remote. As a destination marketing organization during a time when there is no appetite for travel, our tone has shifted. Our message to potential visitors has been to stay home, stay safe and know that Scottsdale will be waiting with a welcome as warm as our sunshine when the time is right. We hope to keep that inspiration alive, so that people, though stuck at home, can still dream about future travels to Scottsdale. Experience Scottsdale has worked closely with government, business and hospitality partners to protect our community’s economic future, support those in the industry directly impacted, and ensure Scottsdale remains top of mind when the public is ready to travel again.

Troon North Golf Club, by Myles McGuinness courtesy Experience Scottsdale

This crisis began during the local tourism industry’s peak season, meaning our businesses have missed out on critical revenue, and our community has lost important visitor-paid tax revenue. Many hospitality businesses have shut their doors or transitioned to entirely new business models, such as restaurants shifting to take-out only. Restaurants, golf courses and hotels were deemed essential, so some continue to operate, though with far less capacity — to encourage safe, physical distancing. Due to federal guidelines advising against gatherings of 10 or more, many events and meetings planned for March and April have been cancelled or postponed as well.

When hotels or restaurants close, the impact isn’t felt only by their business and employees. There is a multiplier effect. Their closure impacts local farmers, linen services, beverage companies and beyond. When meetings and events are cancelled, all companies involved in the planning and coordination of that event — security, rental companies, ticket collectors, florists and more — also are affected.

Tourism is a truly resilient industry, and analysts predict the industry will rebound once we overcome this crisis. However, travel will look different at the outset. Though there is pent-up demand for travel, travelers will likely stick to road trips initially, choosing destinations with wide, open spaces that allow for continued physical distancing. When the time is right, Experience Scottsdale will be ready to target potential visitors in drive markets, and we’ll share the beauty and adventure that awaits them in Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert.

Rachel Sacco is President and CEO of Experience Scottsdale

This is one part of the June 2020 cover story on industry impact of COVID-19. To see the full story, click here.

Return to the June Cover Story “The Rebuilding of an Economy” »

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