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Arizona’s hospitality industry embraces global market

Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Sedona, but to promote these natural wonders to international travelers is no walk in the park.

To showcase Arizona around the globe, it takes detailed research, strategic planning, effective branding and marketing, a global network of industry professionals — and the power to erase any lingering negativity associated with the state.

Despite several years of bad publicity surrounding controversial immigration policies and other proposed legislation that darkened the state’s reputation, Arizona is experiencing an increase in tourism.

“We definitely try and share with everyone we come into contact with that we are a more progressive community than the state is known as being,” says Joanne Hudson, public relations specialist for the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Certain markets, especially the Mexico visitor, have been negatively affected the last few years from the state laws and policies that have come out,” Hudson says. “We share that we are a very welcoming and open community and try to get them here to experience it. Once they get here, they really do sense and feel that. They realize it isn’t what they see and hear in the news.”

Rachel Pearson, vice president of community and government affairs at the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “We are traveling around the world connecting with customers and clients, trying to reinforce who we are as a destination, who we are as a state and ensuring that people understand that we are a very welcoming destination. We offer some unique, rich experiences that you can’t have anywhere else.”

Beyond the state’s scenic beauty, Arizona’s diversity, especially the Native American and Hispanic cultural influences, appeals to international travelers, explains Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The rich multi-cultural experiences and gorgeous scenery, combined with outdoor activities, vibrant cities, fine dining and shopping, attracts millions of visitors and brings in billions of dollars.

Industry leaders are looking toward the future with optimism as they strategize how to attract even more world travelers.

“Arizona Office of Tourism has been active in the international market for years starting with Mexico and Canada, and overseas with partners in the United Kingdom, Germany and France,” Henry says, “and just three years ago we launched into emerging markets of China and Brazil.”

MEXICAN INFLUENCE

Currently, Mexico tops the charts for international travel into Arizona. At the height of the controversy surrounding Arizona’s immigration policies, the influx of Mexican travelers decreased. But statistics from 2013 show a rebound with a total number of Mexican visitors to Arizona at more than 3.6 million. Other countries that rank high on the list are Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and France with 1.1 million visitors collectively. Total international travelers in 2013 reached roughly 5.3 million.

The Arizona tourism industry has been proactive in reaching out south of the border and developing programs to promote and facilitate travel in Arizona.

Jessica Stephens, director of public relations at Visit Tucson, says travelers from Mexico bring in close to $1 billion a year in southern Arizona alone. Visit Tucson has two visitors centers in Mexico that help with hotel reservations and other concierge services. They also help expedite border crossings with a program developed with customs and border patrol that allows pre-approved travelers to obtain a fast pass. This makes traveling to Arizona a 12-minute trip instead of waiting in a car for hours.

Other Arizona cities and convention and visitors bureaus have pooled resources to fund trade offices in Mexico. Today, Henry says, the discussions no longer reflect the challenges of the past, but instead focus on the future. “It’s all about how we can be better partners and how can we develop that area that has such great potential.”

FOCUS ON CHINA

Arizona is now setting sights on China, the number one traveling country in the world. Henry explains that there is so much potential for growth in the emerging markets of China and Brazil, which is also topping the international travel charts. She pointed to a partnership with Brand USA, the marketing arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce designed to develop travel interest in the United States, as essential to increasing global awareness.

“We think Arizona has such appeal,” Henry says. “International journalists are amazed at what they see when they are here, and they bring the stories back to their countries.”

Barry Nakano, director of business development with PacRim Marketing Group and a board member of the Hospitality, Sales and Marketing Association International Arizona Chapter, knows the Asian markets. He recognizes the potential of the China market and points out that other Asian markets also impact our economy. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism statistics, Japan and the Republic of Korea brought in more visitors than China in 2013.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest today in the China market and understandably so. Their 1.3 billion population presents enormous potential and the recent decision by the U.S. government to extend Visa validity for visitors from China should accelerate the growth of that market. We shouldn’t overlook however, that Japan is still the second largest overseas feeder market to the U.S., and South Korea and Taiwan markets continue to grow. Japanese, in particular, have been traveling overseas a long time so tend to be more independent and willing to explore new destinations.”

INDUSTRY PREPARES

Nakano offers practical advice for those in the hospitality industry as they prepare for the influx of international travelers.

“The most efficient and cost effective way to reach Asian travelers is online and providing information in the language of the traveler is important,” he says, adding that websites should be an essential part of any marketing toolkit. “When creating an international language website, make sure the content is developed by professionals, not by translation software that has difficulty conveying intangibles we promote in travel like experience and atmosphere.

“For hotels, it’s also important the online booking engine is in the target language to make it easy for travelers to complete reservations, which is the ultimate goal.”

One thing to note when targeting travelers from China is their spoken language is Mandarin and their written language is called Simplified Chinese so any written information should be in that form.

He continued to offer tips for hotels. “To attract Asian travelers, it’s important to show cultural sensitivity and make them feel welcome. Including small touches in guest rooms like slippers and Chinese tea, along with coffee, will be appreciated and can go a long way. Offering other amenities like Asian-language TV channels, newspapers, area maps and dining menus will make guests feel comfortable after they arrive and can also be used as selling points to show you care.

Henry is already seeing changes at the Office of Tourism and in the state. “We’re finding that Arizona is becoming more globally aware. On our staff we have staff members who speak Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese for the folks coming in from Brazil. We are in a global environment now. The whole world has changed and everybody is beginning to think globally.”

Michelle Oden-Huebner, CMP, president of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Arizona Chapter, says the hospitality industry has always been one that supports diversity and inclusion.

As Arizona increases its global visibility, it needs to continue to show that the state is inclusive and promotes diversity in the workplace and marketplace, Oden-Huebner says.

“Tourism is one of the largest export industries in the State of Arizona, providing funding for education and vital services in local communities,” she says.  “This makes Arizona more attractive for new businesses to relocate to the area, thus creating more job opportunities.  The more business we bring into our state, the more money we have to support the greater community improving and increasing services for residents in Arizona.”

Flagstaff_NAU_Skydome

Flagstaff CVB Launches New Marketing Campaign

Visitors planning a trip to Flagstaff this summer will see a brand new look when they research the destination online. The Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a new marketing campaign that drives potential visitors to the redesigned flagstaffarizona.org website, which went live on Tuesday, June 18.

“We are excited to provide visitors with a newly designed website that is easy to navigate and use to find up-to-date information about Flagstaff and the surrounding region,” said Heather Ainardi, marketing and public relations manager at the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau. “With the new campaign and website being launched at the same time we are able to provide a consistent message to consumers and travel professionals seeking information.”

Based on research and focus group recommendations the Flagstaff CVB designed the new campaign and website to capture the “Flagstaff vibe,” explain the seasonality of the destination and feature a wide variety of activities found in the area. Highlights of the new campaign include an updated logo with a stamp effect, a distinct color palette to represent each season of the year and photo rich advertisements featuring engaging headlines.

The new advertisement headlines and message is flexible for all markets and will be adjusted based on placement. For example in the Phoenix metropolitan market the new Flagstaff ads will read, “If you were an egg, you’d fear no sidewalk” or “Out of this world, but not out of the way.” In southern California consumers might see a broader reaching message of, “If you were a dog, you’d wag your tail off.” For certain international markets where Route 66 is a popular attraction, the ad will read, “If you were a kid again, you’d need your mother road.”

Since the website is the primary call to action in the campaign’s advertisements the website received a fresh look and increased functionality so it can serve as the premier resource on visiting Flagstaff. The redesigned website is more interactive and features increased content including a destination blog, frequently changing homepage highlights and four unique pages that explain the visitor experience in each of the four seasons.

“Flagstaffarizona.org has been designed to not only provide current travel information, but also be a future planning resource. Links to collateral requests and e-newsletter sign ups are prevalent throughout the site,” said Ainardi. “In addition to general travel information for visitors, the site also provides details for travel professionals, meeting planners, media and filming companies.”

The new campaign debuted with advertisement placements in Flagstaff’s target markets of Arizona, Southern California and Las Vegas; and uses a variety of mediums including traditional print, online, outdoor and television commercials. On Wednesday, June 5, the campaign literally rolled out around Phoenix in the form of light rail train and city bus wraps.

For more information on Flagstaff, visit www.flagstaffarizona.org or call 800-842-7293. Located in the historic train depot at One E. Route 66, the Flagstaff Visitor Center is open Mon – Sat 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Flagstaff, Scottsdale CVB - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Flagstaff And Scottsdale CVB See Solid Returns On Investment

Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Scottsdale CVB see dividends from marketing dollars spent

The old saying, “You have to spend money to make money” is especially true in the case of Arizona tourism. Two cases in point are the Flagstaff and Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs). They can quantifiably demonstrate that investing in tourism creates a return.

“We’ve always done a good job of marketing Scottsdale,” said Rachel Sacco, president and CEO of the Scottsdale CVB. “We know it’s the right message because visitors are responding.”

The Scottsdale CVB’s 2010-11 annual budget is $9.7 million and generates $31 in economic impact for every $1 invested in the organization. The Flagstaff CVB has a budget of $1.5 million and helps spur an economic impact of $501 million for the region.

Much of the funding for tourism marketing comes from visitors themselves.

In March 2010, Scottsdale voters passed a 2 percent increase in the city’s bed tax, bringing it to 5 percent. This, combined with an increase in occupancy, led to a 79 percent jump in bed-tax collections from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Half of the new monies support capital projects and special events; the other half supports marketing efforts.

In Flagstaff, the CVB is a division of the city and is fully funded by a portion of the 2 percent “BBB” tax, which stands for “bed, board and booze,” or hotels, restaurants and bars. It generates roughly $5.2 million, and the CVB gets 30 percent of that. The city council allocated an additional $250,000 in marketing dollars to the CVB from March to June 2009 from the city’s Economic Incentive Fund. Flagstaff CVB director Heather Ainardi said that investment helped Flagstaff see a slight bump in April and May of 2009 and prevent big tourism losses in the long run.

“When the rest of the state had double digit declines (in tourism indicators),” Ainardi said, “we were only having minor 2 to 3 percent drops.”

Average daily rates from hotel bookings and revenues per available room were up in 2011 in both Flagstaff and Scottsdale. Occupancy also was up in Scottsdale. And independent studies showed 91 percent of all people who received a Scottsdale visitors guide either made a booking or visited Scottsdale within the next year. Sacco attributes the high number to target marketing.

First, they pinpoint areas that have always had a high interest in Scottsdale: chilly places such as Canada, Minnesota, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and parts of the East Coast.
Second, they invest in knowing their customers: What do they read? Which activities do they like?

“We won’t send someone who’s interested in art a message about sports” and vice-versa, Sacco said. “We know what messages resonate with them.”

As one result of this targeting, sports bookings have increased 160 percent, she added. Groups and meetings contribute $64.8 million in economic impact.

The Scottsdale CVB should see their budget increase further this coming year to $10.5 million, which hopefully will mean even more of an uptick in tourists.

“The less ability we have to communicate to visitors why they should come here, the less revenue that is brought in,” Sacco said.

For more information about the Flagstaff CVB or the Scottsdale CVB, visit the following links:

flagstaffarizona.org
scottsdalecvb.com

Arizona Business Magazine January/February 2012

Tourism Industry - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Arizona Tourism Industry Has A Billion-Dollar Impact On Economy

Economic engine: Arizona tourism industry packs an economic punch of $17.7 billion yearly

Tourism is one of the largest industries in Arizona, but it isn’t just about hotels and golf courses.

Its direct economic impact of $17.7 billion has helped keep the state afloat during some of its darkest economic days, and the ripple effect is even greater. Those dollars spill over to a host of businesses, from the farmers who supply produce to the hotel restaurants to the car dealers who sell vehicles to the banquet servers. They also help keep our police officers and firefighters on the streets, thanks to tax revenues.

“That trickle-down money does affect everyone who is a citizen of Arizona, to some degree,” said Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

And the money keeps coming, thanks to nearly 37 million overnight visitors annually.

“It’s so important to recognize the tourism industry is always here,” Henry said. “Even in recessionary times, people are still traveling.”

Tourism spending was up 7.9 percent in Arizona from 2009 to 2010 and has increased 25 percent since 2000. Overall, it’s still down 7 percent from its heyday of 2007, but most other indicators are moving in the right direction: Tax revenues, occupancy rates and demand are all up from 2009.

“It’s not that we don’t feel the effects of the recession,” Henry said, “but we’re still in the game.”

While the state has lost 11 percent of its tourism jobs since its high of about 173,400 in 2007, the industry still brings in $48 million a day. Tourism is the number one export industry in Arizona.

One way that benefits every resident directly is when the tax bills come. Taxes from tourism generate $1.3 billion in local and state revenue, which pays for everything from public safety to parks to libraries.

“When you look at the taxes generated, (tourism) saves every Arizona resident $1,000,” Henry said. Her agency, which was created in 1975, is responsible for marketing the state as a whole with multiple programs: advertising, public relations, community outreach, trade and media, and digital and social media, to all domestic and international visitors.
“(Travelers) have a lot of choices, so it’s important your destination stays in top of mind,” Henry said.

Part of the money for tourism outreach comes from tribal gaming. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, tribal gaming revenues contributed $5.5 million to the state’s Tourism Fund. That comes from the $79 million total they deposited to the state, with another 12 percent of their annual revenue of almost $1.7 billion going to cities, towns and counties.

In addition, said Melody Hudson, public relations manager for Gila River Gaming Enterprises, “We have a deep and wide reach as far as our philanthropic activities, too.”

Tourism weaves through the fabric of our economy in ways that aren’t always obvious. Jesse Thompson, director of sales and marketing for the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, gave a list of local businesses that the hotel supports. Zuzu, its on-site restaurant, gets a good deal of its ingredients from local purveyors such as Red Bird Farms, McClendon Farms, Duncan Farms, Crave Artisan Ice Cream and Hickman Family Farms. Audio-visual contractors, limo and taxi drivers, independent conference planners, beverage distributors, decorators, and even the company that launders their linens – sheets, towels, tablecloths, spa robes – would all be affected if business dropped.

However, Thompson is proud that revenues at the 230-room Hotel Valley Ho increased 21 percent in 2011 over 2010, and he expects an 8 percent bump from 2011 to 2012. None of the 240 to 250 employees has been laid off in six years, despite the downturn. He attributes the increase in going after more group bookings.

Another way tourism boosts Arizona’s entire economy is by making the state not only an appealing place to visit, but to live. People might come to see auto shows, sporting events or festivals and decide to make a permanent move.

“People who visit Arizona often fall in love with Arizona and plot ways they can come to work here or bring their businesses,” said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It’s a gateway opportunity to sell the state of Arizona.”

Because the business community recognizes the importance of both visitors and tourists who become permanent residents, they work to bring major events such as the Super Bowl to the state. Hamer calls it a “showcase for our state.” In addition, the Super Bowl generated $500 million in economic impact in 2008. He expects the number to be at least that much when the Super Bowl returns to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in 2015.

The business community also supports sports tourism in general, including spring training baseball, college football bowl games, the baseball All-Star game in July 2011, the NBA All-Star game in 2009, and amateur events such as marathons, triathlons, bicycle tours and student sports meets. And it pushed for the 2008 expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, now one of the top 20 such venues in the nation.

“Our convention business is an important part of our tourism economic engine,” Hamer said.

Unlike other industries such as manufacturing and technology, Hamer said, much of the tourism industry can’t be automated or outsourced. And thanks to the state’s natural and man-made attractions, it appears to be an industry that’s sustainable.

“Arizona as a whole relied so much on construction,” said Heather Ainardi, director of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, “and in the next 10 years, tourism is going to be one of the drivers of Arizona’s economy.”

Arizona tourism industry: Economic impact of major winter Valley events

College football bowl games
(Fiesta Bowl, BCS national title game and Insight Bowl)

Economic impact: $354.6 million in 2010-11
2010-11 attendance: nearly 200,000 at all three games

P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Economic impact: $59 million
2011 attendance: about 30,000 runners

Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show

Economic impact: $52-58 million
2011 attendance: about 250,000

Cactus League baseball

Economic impact: $360 million
2011 attendance: More than 1.47 million

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Economic impact: $180 million (estimated from 2008, when attendance was 538,356)
2011 attendance: 365,062 (event impacted due to weather)

Arizona Business Magazine January/February 2012