Tag Archives: AzLTA

arizona

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.

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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.

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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

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HSMAI helps hospitality industry fuel sales

Like most industries, hospitality took a hit during the economic downturn, but the Arizona travel industry started to recover in 2010 and pumped $18.3 billion in direct travel spending into Arizona’s economy in 2011.

Helping fuel that economic engine is the Arizona chapter of the he Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

“HSMAI’s mission is to provide hotel professionals and their partners with the tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue,” says Joanne Winter, executive director of HSMAI Arizona. “HSMAI is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners, and to be the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth.”

HSMAI is not new to Arizona’s tourism scene. The Greater Phoenix Chapter was incorporated as a chapter in 1968 and merged with the Southern Arizona Chapter in 2005 to become the Arizona Chapter. The united force has worked well as the 250-member Arizona Chapter has grown to become the second-largest chapter in the U.S. and was honored in 2011 as International Chapter of the Year.

“Our chapter offers members a variety of benefits, including monthly education programs targeted specifically to the sales and marketing and revenue management professional, a variety of networking and fundraising events, leadership development training and community service volunteer opportunities,” Winter says. “The bottom line: We want HSMAI to provide our member companies with added and measurable value.”

That measurable value is exactly what HSMAI leaders say differentiates the nonprofit organization — whose core members are hotel sales and marketing professionals and their partners: CVBs, attractions, restaurants and suppliers to the industry — from other tourism-boosting organizations.

“We serve our members through a comprehensive online Knowledge Center and face-to-face and online educational programs and events,” says Bob Gilbert, CEO of HSMAI Americas. “Our HSMAI University produces between 30 and 40 webinars annually and administers four certification programs for industry professionals. We are the only nonprofit association dedicated to this educational mission with a hotel target audience.”

Like every other industry that is constantly evolving and growing, HSMAI has kept its finger on the pulse of the business to adapt and change with the economy and with the times.

“There is a lot of pressure to deliver increased member value for all not-for-profit associations,” says Fran Brasseux, executive vice president of HSMAI Americas. “HSMAI got out in front of that changing environment  nearly two years ago and  held numerous stakeholder focus groups to review our member value proposition, and our industry relevance. We listened, we asked questions, and we acted. We reset our mission statement and redesigned our logo.  We wanted  to ensure it represented  not just who we are, but what we do.”

From those meetings came HSMAI’s mission statement: HSMAI is committed to helping hotels and their partners fuel sales, inspire marketing and optimize revenue.

“In line with the new mission, we laser focused our member e-newletter to increase its frequency and  focus its content on three key areas – sales, marketing and revenue management,” Brasseux  says, “and late last year we also completed a complete makeover and redesign of our hsmai.org website and the HSMAI Foundation Knowledge Center. The work is not done – it is on-going, and the member feedback is excellent, with membership growth, higher program participation and new partners.”

Gilbert says the Arizona Chapter has been producing educational programs for its members for more than 40 years.

“We believe that chapters can produce programs that leverage the interdependence of all those in a market that depend on the inbound corporate, leisure and group traveler,” he says. “Chapters can focus on very specific needs and emerging trends which will help the industry be better equipped to gain more market share and revenue. The hospitality business has been experiencing significant shifts in how hotel business in sourced and how consumers select destinations and hotels for all types of travel. HSMAI is committed to helping sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals stay abreast of the emerging changes and best practices that will enable their success.”

As HMSAI strengthens the knowledge base and performance of its members, the Arizona Chapter is also realizing that there is strength in number, joining forces with other industry groups to build on the state’s success in tourism.

“As a member of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association (ALTA) and the Arizona Event Industry Alliance (EIA), HSMAI has the opportunity to work with other state-wide meeting, tourism and hospitality industry associations in giving the industry more strength and unity,” Winter says. “Working together, we all make a difference and have a bigger voice.”

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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.”