By Amanda Sue Briggs
Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors
Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.
“Scottsdale would not be Scottsdale without the surrounding Valley.” That was the overwhelming theme of Beyond Scottsdale City Limits Day, held at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. However, as became apparent throughout the panels and discussions, some aspects of the City of Scottsdale have historically been more accepting of that fact than others.
The Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, led by Rachel Sacco since 1987, is an agency that helps promote the Scottsdale area as a premier tourist destination. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the first time the CVB suggested that multiple hotels partner with the CVB to promote Scottsdale – the destination – rather than the Scottsdale hotels, it wasn’t immediately a popular idea. But, as Ms. Sacco pointed out, “they have to come to Scottsdale first before they can book a night in a Scottsdale hotel.” That was over 20 years ago. Since then, hoteliers and resorts in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley have gladly voted to tax themselves in order to fund the CVB and its mission to promote the Scottsdale area as a premier tourist destination.
Collaboration is how the Scottsdale CVB found success when differentiating the Scottsdale area from its competitors, such as Palm Springs and even Phoenix/Tempe. “There is nothing more competitive than convincing people to come to your destination,” explained Ms. Sacco. It’s all about the brand of the destination – and the Scottsdale brand is one of the best in the world. Scottsdale only became that premier brand by its collaboration first with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa and Fort McDowell Indian Communities, then Paradise Valley in 1987, followed by Fountain Hills in 2000.
The tourism industry knows that Scottsdale would not be what it is today without the surrounding communities. And other cities often admit that they owe Scottsdale for some of their success. Gilbert, for example, which has passed Scottsdale in population, says that their town became “cool” because it’s “next to Scottsdale.” John Lewis, Mayor of Gilbert, said Scottsdale helps “open the door” to other Valley communities, which is a great thing for our entire region, because each community offers something unique and different.
But Scottsdale has not historically reciprocated that sense of community with our neighbors. Representatives from other neighboring communities spoke of Scottsdale’s “snobbish-ness”. They cited multiple cases, such as Scottsdale’s decision to look down its nose at the idea of connecting to nearby communities via mass transit, the fact that Scottsdale was the only city to decline the Phoenix Planning and Zoning Commission’s invite to work together, and Scottsdale’s inability to be “flexible when it comes to ideas about the future”.
Scott Smith, Interim CEO of Valley Metro, made the best case for why Scottsdale should change, be more cooperative with the region, and be more forward-thinking. One of the things keeping Scottsdale from doing things like light rail and other changes is the argument that Scottsdale has a brand to protect. The Scottsdale brand and its importance is undeniable: as Rachel Sacco from the CVB said, “it’s all about the brand”. But is keeping Scottsdale where it is – and being rigid and unaccepting of change – all for the sake of protecting its brand really the right answer?
Mr. Smith gave the example of Kodak, a company that vehemently protected its outdated brand in the midst of a changing industry. We all know what happened in Kodak’s case. Other companies chose instead to adapt their brands to stay relevant. Amazon, for example, began by only selling books, but adapted its business model to include a variety of products and consumer goods to meet the needs of its current customers as well as cultivate new ones. The result is a successful brand that is loved by fiercely loyal fans.
The Scottsdale brand is undeniably a successful and powerful image. Whether or not the brand will continue to adapt and stay relevant, well, I guess we’ll find out…