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Mega events help Phoenix create future prosperity

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Phoenix is on a roll with tourism. The Valley is hosting the next Super Bowl and Pro Bowl and will also be home to the 2016 College Football Championship Game. Az Business asked Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, about the impact these big-ticket events will have on the tourism industry and what Arizona is doing right to land these economic engines.


WHAT IS THE SHORT-TERM IMPACT OF HOSTING HIGH-PROFILE SPORTING EVENTS?
The Super Bowl is a proven generator of international exposure, local economic impact and “heads in beds.” In terms of economic impact, it’s been well chronicled that the W.P. Carey School of Business estimated the impact of the 2008 Super Bowl at $500 million. If you dig a little deeper into that study, you get an idea where a lot of that money comes from. More than 90,000 out-of-state visitors traveled to the Phoenix area for the game, and they directly spent $218 million on hotels, food, shopping and transportation. The average length of stay was 3.9 nights, and each visitor spent $617 per day. Nearly all of these visitors arrive at Sky Harbor, generating tremendous revenues for the city’s airport and car-rental facilities. In terms of hotel performance, Smith Travel Research data shows that during the four days leading up to the 2008 Super Bowl, there was a 22 percent increase in hotel occupancy, a $32 million increase in hotel room revenue, and a 157 percent increase in revenue per available room over the same four days the prior year.

WHAT IS THE LONG-TERM IMPACT OF HOSTING THESE HIGH-PROFILE EVENTS?
The Super Bowl is the biggest media spectacle in the U.S. Millions of television and web viewers will be focused on the Valley that week. More than 5,000 media members will be headquartered downtown, including major television networks that set up remote studios from which to anchor their news, sports and entertainment broadcasts. Having all those eyes trained on our destination—for not just one night, but an entire week, when most of the country is in the depths of winter—is a marketing opportunity without parallel. The cost of TV spots during the Super Bowl broadcast is a good indicator of the value of exposure Greater Phoenix will realize.

WHAT DOES VISIT PHOENIX DO TO CAPITALIZE ON THESE HIGH-PROFILE EVENTS?
Hosting Super Bowl events downtown garners Phoenix tremendous positive exposure as a place to hold a convention or event. Many activities leading up to the game will occupy our downtown convention footprint. The message it allows us to communicate to our customers is that if our new downtown has what it takes to host the country’s biggest sports spectacles, it can accommodate and entertain your meeting and convention attendees.

IS THERE ANYTHING STATE OFFICIALS OR LAWMAKERS CAN DO TO HELP LAND EVEN MORE HIGH-PROFILE EVENTS?
Sufficient funding for the state and local visitors industry is essential to keeping our destination relevant in a highly competitive marketplace. Our CVBs and the Arizona Office of Tourism are woefully underfunded compared with our competitors. That funding is necessary to define, maintain and increase exposure for our brand. It’s also crucial to capturing a greater share of group business at the convention center. Sunshine is no longer the only key attribute these events evaluate.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE GREATES BENEFIT OF THE MAKEOVER TO SKY HARBOR’S DINING OPTIONS?
Having restaurants like Barrio Café and Matt’s and LGO at Sky Harbor communicates to incoming travelers that our city cherishes local businesses and independent chefs featuring local sourced ingredients. The choice of local eateries gives visitors a glimpse of how the culinary scene in Phoenix has dramatically changed for the better. When the dining options at your airport are getting national media attention — as Sky Harbor’s new restaurants have — that bodes well for the greater culinary reputation of your destination.

HOW HAS THE RENAISSANCE OF DOWNTOWN PHOENIX IMPACTED THE VALLEY’S TOURISM INDUSTRY?
Major cities are defined by their downtowns. And our renaissance has given us a story to tell. It has transformed from an albatross to an attribute. Downtown is the star of Visit Phoenix’s latest meeting-magazine advertising and its rise was cited by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee as a big reason our bid for the 2015 Super Bowl was successful. But in terms of measurable impact, you have to consider that since the Phoenix Convention Center was expanded in late 2008, the sales teams at Visit Phoenix and the convention center have hosted and booked more than 2 million delegates into its campus. That’s greater than the population of Philadelphia.

HOW HAS SKY TRAIN IMPACTED PHOENIX’S TOURISM INDUSTRY?
Sky Train is part of a bigger story of convenience and value. Thanks to the major presence of the new American Airlines and Southwest, Sky Harbor is already one of the most affordable airports to fly into among the nation’s 10 busiest airports. And thanks to the combo of the Sky Train and light rail, we can now tell visitors — including meeting planners and prospective convention attendees — that they can travel from the airport to downtown in 15 minutes, for $2, without burning a drop of gasoline. Of course, when Sky Train is extended to Terminal 3 and the rental car center, the Sky Harbor experience will become even more convenient.

WHAT ARE TOURISM OFFICIALS DOING RIGHT TO LAND SO MANY HIGH-PROFILE EVENTS?
In the realm of mega events, success begets success. The Super Bowl is the ultimate symbol of a destination’s ability to host big events and the area CVBs have leveraged Arizona’s successful 2008 bid into a succession of other hosting opportunities. The 2008 Super Bowl helped the Valley land the NBA All-Star Game and NRA Convention in 2009; the success of those events helped us land the MLB All-Star game and WWE WrestleMania in 2011; and the success of those events, in turn, helped us land another Super Bowl and the 2016 College Football Championship Game. When Major League Baseball experienced record attendance at its Home Run Derby, in the middle of July, they wrote that downtown Phoenix was the easiest and tightest package they had experienced due to the proximity of Chase Field to hotels, the convention center and dining. The Valley doesn’t win every time it bids for a big sporting event, but the success of the events we do host gives assurance to meeting professionals that our city can handle most anything.

HOW WILL DOWNTOWN PHOENIX’S ROLE IN THE 2015 SUPER BOWL DIFFER FROM ITS ROLE WHEN ARIZONA HOSTED THE SUPER BOWL IN 2008?
When we last hosted the Super Bowl, in 2008, downtown was still largely a construction zone. Light rail wasn’t finished and neither was the downtown Sheraton or the Convention Center expansion or CityScape. Next year’s game will give us a chance to showcase the new downtown — all the hotels, restaurants and event venues in the city’s urban core. A dozen city blocks in downtown Phoenix will be transformed into “Super Bowl Central,” a hub for worldwide media and fan-friendly entertainment. The Phoenix Convention Center will house both the NFL Experience — billed as the world’s largest interactive football theme park — and the NFL Media Center. And CityScape will be the site of NFL House, the hospitality headquarters for business partners and Super Bowl VIPs. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expects 1 million fans to visit Super Bowl Central in the days leading up to the big game.

Steve Moore Phx CVB
Steve Moore
President & CEO of The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitor Bureau
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Michael Gossie

About Michael Gossie

Michael Gossie is an award-winning journalist who has earned more than 50 awards for writing, editing and design. He studied economics at Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y., and put his entrepreneurial spirit to work in 2007, using a 200-year-old family recipe to launch an Italian sauce company. He is a competitive marathon runner, Ironman triathlete and is most proud of being the founding president of the Steuben Arc Foundation in Upstate New York, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities, including his sister.