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In 1986 Scottsdale had Fewer than 4,000 Hotel Rooms, in 2006
 the Number of Hotel Rooms is Approaching 13,500

By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 16, 2006 - In 1986, Scottsdale had fewer than 4,000 hotel rooms, most of them in venerable resorts attracting a longtime, loyal and affluent customer looking for golf and relaxation.

The average daily rate for a room was $75.

Today, Scottsdale -- its tourism scope expanded to include the surrounding Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills, parts of Phoenix and two American Indian communities that want their hotels to be marketed as in Scottsdale -- has more than tripled the number of hotel rooms, going for double the price.

And that's good news for people who live here, said David Roderique, Scottsdale's economic development director.

"Tourism is one of the most important industries in Scottsdale and one of its biggest sources of revenue," Roderique said.

The city estimates that tourism accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of Scottsdale's tax revenue -- that's not only bed taxes and a surcharge on hotel bills but also sales taxes on all the dining, shopping and other visitor spending.

Local shopping center giant Westcor estimates about 30 percent of its Scottsdale business is from tourists, said Kate Cavaliere, Westcor's senior manager for tourism.

"At Scottsdale Borgata, about 50 percent of our traffic is from tourists," Cavaliere said.

The city also estimates tourism supplies 15 percent to 20 percent of the jobs.

But the makeup of Scottsdale tourism is changing.

The destination is known worldwide for its luxury accommodations and lush fairways, as it has been for decades. But in recent years, Scottsdale also has established its reputation as a place for families, for the outdoor adventure lover, and even for the hip, urban traveler more likely in past decades to have opted for a vacation in San Francisco or New York than staid Scottsdale.

The city's night life 20 years ago might have best been described as a fancy chocolate on a plush bed pillow. Today, there is a flourishing club scene.

The get-away-from-it-all resorts are still popular with the traditional Scottsdale visitor, said Rachel Sacco, president of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. But keeping that image amidst the city's growing urban reality is a challenge, she said.

In 1986, Scottsdale had 108,000 residents. Today, the population is closer to 220,000.

The city's commitment to preserving desert land is, and will continue to be, key to preserving the luxury look, Sacco said.

Plenty of open-space devoted to golf courses also helps. The Phoenician, one of the first of the new, ultraluxury properties built during the last two decades, still evokes the feeling of being miles from anywhere despite its in-the-middle-of-it-all location. The Four Seasons Resort at Troon really is miles from anywhere.

But a plethora of new hotels without the traditional resort amenities such as golf courses and gourmet restaurants have sprouted in the last 10 years, making the city more affordable for families.

And since the start of the millennium, several hip, urban hotels have staked out space in Scottsdale.

The trend started with the James Hotel, which is now pegged to be remodeled into Los Angeles' ultra-cool Mondrian brand.

The James' success led to a redo of the once-again hip, art deco-style Valley Ho, as well as the purchase and planned makeover of the traditionalstyle downtown resort Caleo by chic San Francisco brand Kimpton.

The ultimate emblem of hipness -- a W -- is under construction.

The trendy hotels have attracted the young urbanites, and they have woken up downtown Scottsdale's once dead-after-8 p.m. streets with clubs and restaurants.

The variety has been a boon for business.

"We are still a major golf destination," said Tom Silverman, general manager of the Chaparral Suites Resort. "But overall, the guests who come to Scottsdale now are younger. The people who came here 20 years ago stayed longer, but they spent less. The younger group brought the night life, and they spend more."

Sacco said the variety also keeps the hotels, which 20 years ago often closed for the summer because nobody wanted to stay during 100-degree days, busy year round.

Scottsdale tourism/visitors bureau facts

                    1985/1986      2005/2006

Bed tax rate   2 percent   3 percent
Bed tax collections   $1.1 million $8.6 million
Hotel rooms   3,813  13,500*
Average Daily Rate   $75   $149
Visitors bureau staff size   3    45
Visitors bureau annual budget    $600,000   $10 million

NOTE: Includes hotels in surrounding communities marketed as Scottsdale hotels.

TRIBUNE

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

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