Tag Archives: Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association

Chandler's Culinary Festival

A favorite culinary festival returns to Scottsdale

The Valley’s stars of the culinary scene will gather at the hip, urban setting of Scottsdale Quarter, for a high-energy and upscale celebration of food and wine, at the fourth annual AZ Wine & Dine, hosted by the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, Thursday, April 2, from 5:00-8:00 pm.

AZ Wine & Dine is not just a food fest; it’s a FOODIE FEST, as it boasts 19 of the Valley’s top resort and hotel restaurants, plus several Scottsdale Quarter favorites and a stellar selection of wine, provided by Young’s Market Company and craft beer, provided by Hensley Beverage Company. Each restaurant booth features a winery offering at least two different varietals that are beautifully paired with the delectable dishes, providing a perfect opportunity to discover new flavors and new favorites.

Participating restaurants include:

Alto ristorante e bar, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch

Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

Arizona Grand Resort & Spa

The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

deseo, The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

Different Pointe of View, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort

District American Kitchen & Wine Bar, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley – Scottsdale

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

The Phoenician

Prado, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

SOL Cocina

Stonegrill, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa


T. Cook’s, Royal Palms Resort and Spa

Top of the Rock, Marriot Phoenix Tempe at The Buttes

Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The intimate Scottsdale Quarter venue lends itself to a decidedly fashionable and festive party, with the entertainment provided by Shining Star Band and a silent auction offering amazing deals on vacation getaways and gift certificates from Scottsdale Quarter’s eclectically rich mix of specialty shops. Plus it’s a party with a cause, as much of the proceeds benefit the educational efforts of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association.

 “It is important for us to produce a culinary event where local foodies and business executives can be tourists in their own town, enjoying beautiful wines and sweet and savory samplings from our top resorts in a festive atmosphere,” said Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association President & CEO, Debbie Johnson.  “We strive to raise awareness of the quality of life benefits that Arizona’s tourism industry provides its residents and it’s clear that the Valley’s finest chefs, combined with this venue, is a recipe for success.”

Event Details:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Scottsdale Quarter (Scottsdale Road and Greenway) 15037 North Scottsdale Road

*No one under 21 years of age will be admitted

AZ Wine & Dine will be held rain or shine.

Information, Sponsors and Participants: www.AZWineandDine.com

Tiered ticket pricing is being offered again this year:

March 1 — March 31:  $65

April 1 and AT THE DOOR:  $75


AzLTA capitalizes on state’s ability to host big events

Debbie Johnson thought she was just coming for a race at Phoenix International Raceway when she visited Arizona in April of 1986.

“I was living in Wyoming at the time,” recalls the president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA). “We flew back into Denver to drive up to Wyoming and got stuck because it was snowing so hard the roads were closed. I decided right then and there that I was moving and moved to Arizona the following year.”

Now, as leader of the leading public policy advocate for Arizona’s lodging and tourism industry, Johnson hopes to keep other visitors coming back to the Grand Canyon state.

Az Business talked tourism with the woman who played a key role in the state’s ability to land hosting duties for this year’s Super Bowl, the 2016 College Football Championship Game and the 2017 Final Four.

Az Business: Why did the AzLTA decide to get political in 2014?

Debbie Johnson: We have been involved in previous elections, but on a much smaller scale. I think we’ve seen over the past several years the importance of getting involved and, obviously, this was a big election. With the direction of our board, we looked at it and said, “This is a time we need to get involved,” and that’s what we did.

AB: How did AzLTA’s political role look?

DJ: We looked for candidates who were supportive of tourism. We looked at issues. While we didn’t endorse candidates, we did do (political action committee) PAC dollars and we donated $12,000 in PAC funds. We designated tourism champions instead of endorsements and made sure our industry knew who was supportive of tourism. We decided that it was worth the risk you take sometimes when you get involved in elections.

AB: Why was getting political in November more important than in previous elections?

DJ: We have seen some issues come up over the past few years and realized that we had not done as good a job as we could educating elected officials about the value of tourism. That was on us, so we really wanted to take that role and educate those people who are going to be the leaders of our state about the value and importance of tourism so they have a better understanding. I think we also educated our members so they understand that elected officials have hundreds of issues on their desks every year. For us it’s intuitive, but they don’t work in tourism, so it’s our job to make sure they are informed. The quality of life here is great because of the tourism industry, even from a residential standpoint. Letting elected officials know about the dollars the tourism industry brings, the jobs that it brings and the economic impact is important.

AB: How did you balance getting more political without burning any bridges?

DJ: We were careful. We met with virtually every candidate and got their thoughts and opinions on tourism. From our standpoint, we felt like we had done everything we could to educate them and it was worth the time, effort and the responsibility from the PAC funds to make sure we were recommending the right people as tourism champions and PAC dollar recipients.

AB: How did the elections go for the tourism industry?

DJ: All in all, we were pretty happy. There are always some unknowns, but we feel there is strong leadership in the governor’s office. We’ve got some legislators who understand our industry and will be there when we need them to listen. It’s all about building relationships and about us understanding them and them understanding us. Hopefully, when a tourism issue crosses their desks now, they will reach out because they’ve met us and heard of us and that’s something that we didn’t have before.

AB: What do political leaders need to know about how their actions impact your industry?

DJ: They need to realize that tourism impacts all business. We have a $2.9 billion tax revenue impact. That’s a lot of money. So the decisions they make not only affect the tourism industry, but ancillary businesses like home builders, realtors, car sales and other services.

AB: In the next three years, Arizona will host the three biggest events in sports. What is Arizona doing right to keep landing these mega events?

DJ: The organizations that schedule these events look at Phoenix as a great model. Phoenix is only the second city in history to host these three mega events back to back to back. The other city was New Orleans. It goes to show the collaboration we have as a tourism community, but as a business community and with the cities.

AB: What is the winning formula you’re using in pitch meetings?

DJ: One of the sales pitches we used for the Final Four was saying, “Look at all these events that we’ve successfully hosted. We deserve a chance to host a Final Four and we’re going to show you how to do it.” They really took to that. They looked at the things we did right with past events. When they were here for the Final Four site visit, there was not one thing the tourism community, business community, stadium could have done better. We rolled out the red carpet and showed them our hospitality, our leadership, our collaborative efforts and they were really impressed. It’s all the cities coming together to show the benefit of hosting events in Arizona. They want the fans and the athletes to have good experience and we give them a great experience. We have such a diverse offering in terms of activities and amenities and things to do — spring training, golf, Sedona, a trip to the Grand Canyon, we’ve now become a food and wine destination. We’ve proven that they’re going to have fun here.

AB: How do these mega event impact economic development?

DJ: Their first step in getting a business to move here is getting their leadership to visit here. Any time we can talk about Arizona as a place to visit and as a place to do business, that media perception of Arizona as a positive, wonderful place to work and live and visit is tremendous. The economic development groups know that the business leaders need to come here first  to see what we have to offer. If we put on the best face we can, people want to come back not just to visit, but to live and work.

Sky Harbor Airport

Sky Harbor Sets Record for Passengers

March 2014 was the busiest month in the history of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. More than 4 million passengers traveled through Phoenix Sky Harbor in March, 4,029,861 to be exact. That marked a 3.2 percent increase over March of 2013 and the first time the Phoenix airport has seen more than 4 million passengers in a single month.

“Spring Training, students on spring break, Arizona’s great weather and our state’s many attractions brought visitors to Phoenix in record numbers,” said Phoenix Aviation Director Danny Murphy. “Our tourism partners, such as hotels and rental car companies also enjoyed a tremendous spring travel season.”

“Valley hotels and resorts saw a 2.9 percent increase in occupancy in March 2014 compared to the previous March,” said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. “Tourists spend more than $19 billion every year in Arizona. An increase in the number of visitors to our state is good for everyone.”

In the first three months of this year, the Airport saw a 3.3 percent increase in passenger numbers compared to the same time period in 2013. April statistics for Sky Harbor are not yet available.

19648 C-Empty pool

Arizona hoteliers earn national awards

Arizona took center stage and took home two national awards at the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AH&LA) annual Stars of the Industry awards ceremony held this week in Washington, DC.

The “Outstanding Manager of the Year, Large Property” was awarded to Thomas Williams, Director of Guest Services at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Williams has been providing a welcoming experience for guests entering his property for the past 21 years. As the Director of Guest Services, he has put in place many new procedures to improve and enhance the arrival and departure experience, transportation, guest safety and much more. But he also cares about the internal guest and is truly devoted to the resort’s employees. He and his family cater an annual holiday feast and invite employees and even hotel guests who have no family in town.

Winning the Special Events, One-time Only, Medium Property, was the W Scottsdale for their CHILL event. CHILL at the W Scottsdale transforms the WET pool deck from November to January with Scottsdale’s first and only hybrid and eco-friendly outdoor ice skating rink. This event also includes live music performances, DJs, drink specials and special resort packages.

“I’m so proud to represent an industry in our state with so much talent and passion for excellence,” said AzLTA President & CEO, Debbie Johnson. “It’s wonderful that the hard work and dedication of these lodging professionals and properties is being recognized on a national level and I truly commend them for their accomplishments.”

Winners from the Arizona Stars of the Industry Awards luncheon hosted in December by the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association were then submitted to the AH&LA for national judging.

The Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA) is the leading public policy advocate for Arizona’s Lodging and Tourism Industries. Representing almost 40,000 rooms statewide and nearly 500 members, including hotels, resorts, attractions, destination marketing organizations, B&B’s and related Industry partners, AzLTA’s mission is to unify, protect, educate and promote the interests of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Industries.


AzLTA honors 'Stars of the Industry'

The shining stars of the hospitality and tourism industry were celebrated at the annual Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association’s (AzLTA) Stars of the Industry awards luncheon, held last week at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort.

The Stars of the Industry award was created more than 40 years ago by the American Hotel & Lodging Association to recognize outstanding accomplishments in the lodging industry. While the categories have evolved over the years, the concept is still the same: to honor lodging and tourism employees who best symbolize the quality service of the industry.

The 2013 Stars of the Industry Winners

Outstanding Employee of the Year: Jarrod Voeller, Door Captain, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Outstanding Manager of the Year: Michael Cairns, Executive Chef and Director of F&B, Montelucia Resort & Spa

Front of the House Manager of the Year, Small Property: Kim Cole, Director of Public Relations, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

Front of the House Manager of the Year, Large Property: Thomas Williams, Director of Guest Services, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Heart of the House Manager of the Year, Small Property: Robin Younger, Director of Housekeeping, Royal Palms Resort and Spa

Heart of the House Manager of the Year, Large Property: Eddie Zrimsek, Assistant Spa Director, Montelucia Resort & Spa

Food & Beverage Employee of the Year, Small Property: Dusty Cox, Server, The Hotel Congress

Food & Beverage Employee of the Year, Large Property: Peter Genovese, In-room Dining and Pool Server, The Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes

Guest Service Employee of the Year, Small Property: Jason Kennedy, Bellman, The Boulders

Guest Service Employee of the Year, Large Property; Otto Valdez, Guest Services Supervisor, Tempe Mission Palms

Housekeeping Employee of the Year, Small Property: Lucas Alonzo, Houseperson, Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas

Housekeeping Employee of the Year, Large Property: Nilda Staniscia, Uniform Attendant and Seamstress, Montelucia Resort & Spa

Property Achievement awards in five categories were also announced at the event. These awards highlight programs that showcase the involvement of multiple employees and departments which go above and beyond to build a better community internally and externally.

Community Service: Arizona Biltmore

Guest Relations, Lodging: The Boulders, “True Waldorf Committee”

Guest Relations, Tourism: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, “The Navigator Program”

Special Event, One Time: W Scottsdale, “CHILL”

Special Event, Ongoing: The Phoenician, “Discover the Phoenician with Phoe-Phoe and Friends”

Special Event Ongoing, Tourism: Phoenix Chapter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association, “Chinese Auction”

Good Earthkeeping Award: Loews Ventana Canyon Resort


Restaurants serve super-sized economic impact

Think about the celebration that occurred after Arizona was awarded  the 2015 Super Bowl.

Much of that excitement came because of the economic impact the Super Bowl will have on the state. But the restaurant industry in Arizona generates revenue equivalent to hosting two Super Bowls a month.

“Restaurants are critical to Arizona’s visitor industry – and vice versa,” said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. “Arizona attracts more than 37 million visitors annually and dining is the No. 1 activity for those visitors. So the success of the two industries are definitely intertwined.”

Arizona’s restaurant industry, which included 8,885 eating and drinking places of business in 2011, is expected to rake in $10.5 billion in sales this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. Arizona’s restaurants also employ 262,200 people, roughly 10 percent of the state’s workforce. That number is projected to grow 15.9 percent by 2023 to 303,800 – translating into 41,600 new jobs in the industry.

“While the Recession claimed 500 Arizona restaurants, the industry that was born out of the recession was stronger and more resilient,” said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. “From 2007 on, Arizona’s industry sales have grown from $7.9 billion to $10.1 billion (in 2012) with extremely modest growth in the hungrier years of 2008-2010.”

Chucri said Arizona’s rate of restaurant sales growth, while once the top in the nation at 6.2 percent, is starting to fight its way back, growing at a little more than 3 percent each year, boosting this industry’s sales by an estimated $400 million annually.

“I think the restaurant community has stabilized and I sense an increasing confidence in the community,” said Steven Micheletti, CEO of Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill, which has five locations in Arizona and plans to add two more in the next year. “New restaurants are being built and being opened in interesting parts of the city. There is ongoing collaboration between great entrepreneurs happening, creating some great restaurant experiences. Operators are building restaurants in all types of buildings, creating really fun dining environments.”
A lot of the growth in Arizona’s restaurant industry is coming from entrepreneurs and chefs who are giving consumers different and unique dining experiences.
“Some of the strengths in Arizona’s restaurant industry include population growth, strong tourism, unmatched lifestyle and weather, and access to good produce,” said Russell Owens, president and COO of Fox Restaurant Concepts. “With all of these factors working together, there is more appeal for great chefs to come to Arizona to offer innovative new restaurants and fresh ideas. I think we are seeing more creativity today than over the last 20 years and this will positively shape the industry in Arizona for years to come.”

That influx of great chefs and innovative ideas has become an economic engine for the tourism industry.

“Scottsdale has seen a growth in chef-driven, independent restaurants, which are fueling our culinary scene,” said Rachel Pearson, vice president of community and government affairs for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Not only do our resorts boast award-winning chefs and restaurants, but now you can drive to every corner of Scottsdale and find unique culinary experiences from well-known chefs.”

Not only are many of the new restaurants that are popping up utilizing fresh ideas and concepts, they are also beginning to increasingly rely on local produce and products to help serve their customers.

“Arizona visitors are really looking for a unique and distinct dining experience that they can’t get back home,” Johnson said. “So trends that we’re seeing in both hotel/resort restaurants as well as off-site restaurants include utilizing local ingredients and offering menu items and experiences that provide a taste of the local community.”

Micheletti has seen an increasing shift to supporting local farmers and growers, but the “Local First” trend doesn’t stop there.
“There’s also a growing influence of local crafted beers and wines,” he said. “Guests really are reading menus and asking questions about ingredients and sourcing. It’s not just about calories anymore.”

In addition to Arizona-grown ingredients, Chucri said one of the most transcendent trends he sees in the industry is the desire for healthy foods.

“The tendency towards more healthful items for the entire family illustrates that consumers are looking to restaurants for more than an indulgent special occasion meal,” he said. “Restaurants are becoming a part of consumers’ daily lives, an extension of their family. Whether it be a compliment dish for Easter dinner, a post-Little League party, or a got-home-too-late-to-cook family dinner, restaurants have infused themselves into the fabric of families everyday lives … a trend that is certain to stick around.”


Tourism groups’ merger gives industry more strength and unity

Call it strength in numbers, or strength in unity.

“With the challenges that the tourism industry has faced over the past several years, our industry has had to come together to better vocalize the importance of tourism to Arizona’s economy,” says Debbie Johnson, a longtime advocate of Arizona tourism. “In doing so, it became evidently clear that the Arizona Tourism Alliance and the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association had virtually the same missions and goals and could have a stronger, more cohesive voice if united; so the conversations of mergers began amongst the two organization’s leadership.”

Those conversations led to the two groups combining forces early in 2012 to form the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA), with Johnson leading the charge as the group’s president and CEO. The new organization has a combined membership of almost 500 and has helped broaden the reach and scope of the tourism industry’s branding and message.

“Arizona must continue to think globally as well as act locally,” says Doug Yonko, executive vice president of communications for Hensley Beverage Co. and chairman of AzLTA’s board. “We are a premiere destination. However, competition for tourism dollars is fierce so we must stand together by working closely with the private and public sector and our legislature to ensure continued growth and increased market share of the tourism dollar.”

AzLTA’s leaders say the new supergroup will give the tourism industry the ability to speak from one unified voice, particularly on the legislative front, which will strengthen the industry.

“AzLTA unites hoteliers with key segments of the tourism industry — including Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, many state convention bureaus, private business and the Arizona Office of Tourism,” Yonko says. “The economic impact of the tourism industry affects most businesses at some level and — very importantly — our state tax revenue stream. The tourism and hospitality industry represents the second leading driver of our state’s economy, subsequently it is crucial that the business community and our legislature continue to recognize and support this pillar of our economy.”

Along those lines, the goal of the AzLTA is to work with and educate state legislators, offering training to those in the industry through workshops and seminars, and uniting those industries that are impacted by tourism. Its specific mission, Johnson says, is “to unify, protect, educate and promote the interests of the Arizona lodging and tourism industry.

“This mission is a combination of the missions of the former two groups, which were similar in structure and tone prior to the merger, but now have greater value after the merger,” she says. “AzLTA, and the Super PAC that the organization recently created, is now recognized as one of the leading industry voices in the state.”

AzLTA PAC is the state’s 25th Super Political Action Committee (PAC), which is expected to send a message to lawmakers about the strength and impact of tourism across the state. A Super PAC requires a minimum of 500 people to donate a minimum of $10 each. The funds can then be used to show support for candidates who understand the value of tourism to Arizona.

“AzLTA will have a seat at the table where policy is shaped that could directly or indirectly impact our ability to attract visitors and businesses to our state,” Johnson says. “It will ultimately raise the awareness that Arizona tourism is the catalyst to economic development,  job creation and tax revenue generation that positively impacts every Arizona resident.”