Tempe’s bid to brand itself as a sports, cultural and diversity-welcome destination has proved to be hugely successful, filling hotel rooms at a premium price, the city’s top tourism leader said Thursday.
Stephanie Nowack, president of the Tempe Convention & Visitors Bureau, gave her account of the local tourism industry and its future outlook at the bureau’s annual meeting Thursday. Tempe’s hospitality industry leaders met at the Hobb’s Family Stadium Club at Sun Devil Stadium.
Nearly 80 percent of the city’s hotel rooms were full of guests for the first four months of the year, Nowack said.
And those hotel guests spent a hefty tab for their stay — nearly 16 percent more than those who visited Tempe in early 2005 paid, she said.
Focused efforts to exploit Tempe’s special attributes, especially those centered around Arizona State University, have been key to the hotels’ stellar performance, she said.
The city works at wooing amateur sporting events, Nowack said.
Some, such as the PF Chang’s Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon and the Ironman Triathlon, have turned into signature attractions filling lots of hotel rooms.
The tourism bureau also has been touting its arts and cultural perks, many centered around ASU’s lineup of attractions at Gammage Auditorium. The expected 2007 completion of the Tempe Performing Arts Center, “will be a fabulous new venue” to promote to the culture-loving crowd, she said.
And the bureau’s courtship of gay and lesbian organizations has attracted a whole new market of big-spending travelers to Tempe.
The Buttes Marriott Resort, which hosted a large gay and lesbian group wooed by the bureau, saw a boost in business from exposure to that market, said Steve Eberhart, Buttes general manager. A recent tour of Tempe by gay travel writers also generated “lots of good press” likely to result in even more bookings, he said.
A new niche — destination shopping — also is emerging, Nowack said. Swedish-based furniture giant IKEA has become a big tourist attraction, especially for visitors from Mexico, Nowack said.
“And clearly this is a valuable market,” she said.
And Tempe is not keeping all the increased tourist business to itself. To boost tourism throughout the East Valley, the city teamed up with Mesa, Apache Junction and Chandler to schmooze AAA travel agents.
Nowack said according to Tempe hoteliers, business from AAA was up 60 percent in the last 12 months, thanks to that promotion.
For the future, Nowack sees stepping up promotion efforts in the areas that have already proved profitable.
“We’ve identified specific niches, and we are concentrating our efforts on those,” she said. “We have momentum.”