In a new spirit of cooperation that helped push the state funding of Phoenix Civic Plaza through the Legislature, Scottsdale and Phoenix mayors told local hoteliers that they need to continue to work together to shore up the Valley’s ailing tourism industry.

Mesa’s top officials were a no-show for the Valley Hotel and Resort Association’s annual get-together with city officials, held Wednesday at the Royal Palms Hotel and Casitas in east Phoenix.

In the six years that the hoteliers have been asking for an annual audience with the top elected officials, Mesa has never participated, said Debbie Johnson, executive director for the hotel group.

Tempe Vice Mayor Barb Carter told the hoteliers her city is not scrimping on future projects aimed at spurring tourism and economic growth despite the down economy. Carter talked about plans for a 100-acre "marketplace " at the intersection of Loop 101 and Loop 202 that will include shops, restaurants, theaters and entertainment venues, extending the Town Lake and Mill Avenue experience.

And she mentioned the Rock and Roll Marathon that will slice through Phoenix and Scottsdale and end its run at the Tempe lake front in January.

Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza told the hoteliers that regardless of their home base they were instrumental in persuading legislators that the expansion of Phoenix Civic Plaza is essential for the future of tourism throughout the state. He also cited joint support that helped land the planned Phoenix-based biosciences center Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the cooperation among the three state universities.

"This is an amazing series of events for our community," Rimsza said. "If we want to achieve big things we have to do it together. There are many who tried to divide us. Dividing us is a bad public policy."

Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross agreed that cities have to keep moving forward and to keep cooperating.

"This is not the time to pull back, be conservative, stop growing," Manross said. "If there ever was a time to be aggressive, to be creative, to work together, it’s now. Regionally is the only way we’ll be successful. It’s absolutely mandatory for our future."

The hoteliers are fresh from several major legislative victories — the financing for Phoenix Civic Plaza, the reinstatement of voter-approved tourism promotion funds, the reinstatement of Arizona Office of Tourism’s $9 million budget and keeping the state agency separate from a proposed merger with the Commerce Department.

East Valley hoteliers agreed they formed a mighty force working together.

But with the tourism drought, they are still fighting for the dwindling tourist pot — mostly with aggressive marketing and deeply discounted room rates.

"The pie has gotten a little bigger, but so has the supply (of rooms)," said

Tom Kreitler, general manager of the Holiday Inn Phoenix-Tempe ASU. "I was up in fall and winter, but now I am just trying to hang on to what I gained."

Kreitler said 2,200 new hotel rooms added since last summer have made the competition fierce. Bargain summer rates at luxury resorts, such as the JW Marriott’s $99 deal are luring his customers away.

"How can I compete with that?" he said.

Meanwhile, the JW Marriott, which opened in December in northeast Phoenix, is filling up nearly 70 percent of its 950 rooms, said Doug Gennardo, sales and marketing director.

Many of those summer bookings are because of the cheap rates luring Valley residents, he said.

The Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas also has been filling up with summer guests, said general manager Shawn Robinson.

Robinson admitted he is gaining market share by snagging visitors who might otherwise have stayed at other Valley hotels.

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