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What Travel Agents Need to Know About Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona is well established as a haven of luxury travel. The golf courses, spas and high-end dining at the destination’s opulent resorts continue to attract well-heeled travelers.

In fact, according to Experience Scottsdale data, these visitors have an average daily, on-property spend (including the room night) of $716, an average length of stay of just over two nights and a median household income of $218,000. They also represent significant repeat business for Scottsdale; 75 percent of luxury visitors travel to the destination more than once a year.

Part of the reason for that could be the fact that the city is constantly evolving, with new and renovated properties keeping Scottsdale’s travel offerings fresh and innovative. Here, Experience Scottsdale’s Vice President of Tourism, Deane Boynton Grupp, tells TravelPulse readers how the destination retains its reputation for luxury.

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TravelPulse (TP): Scottsdale has long been known as a luxury travel destination. What continues to drive the city’s reputation for luxury and how is that reputation evolving?

Deane Boynton Grupp (DG): Scottsdale is constantly evolving as a luxury travel destination as we continuously strive to increase our appeal to current and future travelers in order to remain relevant, attractive and competitive to potential visitors. As far back as the 1950s and 60s, when we began to be known as a resort community, the rich and the famous traveled from all over the nation to visit Scottsdale to rejuvenate.

From that point in time to the present day, our destination has continued to steadily grow its hotel portfolio to include well-known brands as well as one-of-a-kind boutique properties, accommodating a variety of visitor preferences. Over the decades, Scottsdale has also evolved into a vibrant arts community with a plethora of galleries in Old Town, Scottsdale ArtistsSchool and wonderful museums, including the most recent addition, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

When it comes to golf, Scottsdale has the market cornered with its renowned golf offerings across more than 50 area courses. In the 1980s and 90s, when the golf scene really started to take off, Scottsdale cultivated golf courses that have developed to be some of the most intriguing fields of play in the industry today.

Around the same time of this increased development, our city leaders had the foresight to preserve some of our beautiful desert landscape called the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, to effectively crown our city with more than 30,000 acres of pristine desert for our visitors and residents alike to enjoy.

At the turn of the millennium, spas became a hot trend for travel. Cf course, Scottsdale answered the call and introduced some of the top destination spas you will find anywhere. Today we have over 50 resort and day spas for our visitors to choose from and more resort spas per capita than any other city in the U.S.

TP: Could you talk about some of Scottsdale’s recently opened and upcoming new hotels as well as renovated properties?

DG: Set to splash into Scottsdale in October is Great Wolf Lodge by Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., North America’s largest family of indoor water park resorts. The 350-room family hotel will be located within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Talking Stick Entertainment District and will include an 85,000-square-foot indoor water park.

Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley, a 200-room, 20-acre new-build opening in 2020. will have it all—exemplary service, spectacular views of Camelback Mountain, modern and sleek interiors and a location just minutes from Old Town Scottsdale. It also will boast North America’s longest pool, at more than 400 feet, along with a 14,000-square-foot spa.

This February brought the opening of Castle Hot Springs, a Westroc Hospitality property and Arizona’s only member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The resort joins the Westroc portfolio of Scottsdale properties Mountain Shadows, Hotel Valley Ho and Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.

PHOTO: Mountain Shadows in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo via Experience Scottsdale)

As a tranquil adult retreat, Castle Hot Springs proudly embraces a “Digital Detox” philosophy and offers 12 Spring Bungalows, 525 square feet each, and 19 Sky View Cabins, 378 square feet each. Amenities include private terraces with telescopes for stargazing and piping directly from the nearby natural hot springs into oversized tubs.

In December 2018, Andaz Scottsdale Resort Bungalows debuted 16 new, luxurious one-bedroom Cattle Track Suites, each spanning 750 square feet with two private terraces. The mid-century modern-inspired property, which opened in December 2016 with 201 accommodations, now features 185 guestrooms and suites situated bungalow-style—reminiscent of an artists’ colony—across 23 acres.

#####IMG000000001#####PHOTO: Andaz Scottsdale Resort Bungalows interior. (Photo via Experience Scottsdale)

As part of the continued enhancement efforts to The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, A Destination Hotel—which started with an $11-million renovation in September 2015 that transformed the property—the resort recently completed an entire architectural, décor and soft goods renovation to three Presidential Suites in fall of 2018. The sophisticated 1,375-foot accommodations received a large-scale design refresh totaling $150,000, to convert the spaces into an open concept with a modern Spanish design inspiration.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North completed a $13-million renovation in September 2018, unveiling contemporary new casitas, suites and public spaces, along with enhancements to the spa. The resort also debuted its new Spanish steakhouse concept at well-known dining outlet, Talavera, where Chef Samantha Sanz was a 2019 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award.

The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale—a 250-acre desert jewel at the base of Camelback Mountain—opened its new Phoenician Spa in April 2018 as part of its third phase of major enhancements, which concluded in the fall with the re-opening of the golf course.

The new Phoenician Spa boasts a three-story, 24-treatment-room-facility with a rooftop pool, V.I.P. Suite, Drybar salon and full-service nail salon, plus a fitness center and movement studio for spa-goers. Also new to the property is The Phoenician Athletic Club, a 4,600-plus square-foot fitness center with a Game Room, seven tennis courts, two pickleball courts and a half-court basketball area, available to all resort guests.

#####IMG000000001#####PHOTO: Phoenician Spa at The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale. (Photo via Experience Scottsdale)

Sanctuary Spa at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort Spa completed a top-to-bottom refurbishment and expansion in April 2018, introducing a fresh new look throughout and a brand new feature, the Women’s Quiet Room.

Formerly the Carefree Resort Conference Center, CIVANA began welcoming guests in March 2018 and is the inaugural property in the portfolio of CIVANA, a hospitality and real estate company grounded in sustainable wellness.

The resort is centered around four pillars: Healthy Cuisine, Movement, Healing Arts/Spa and Discovery Enrichment Arts, and is the first sustainable wellness resort to open in Scottsdale. CIVANA aims to make wellness accessible to a wide audience through its variety of dining outlets, fitness classes and spa offerings which meet guests wherever they are in their respective wellness journeys.

In December 2018, CIVANA celebrated the opening of The Spa at CIVANA, a solar-powered, 22,000-square-foot sustainable wellness facility designed to take guests back to the origin of SPA—Salus Per Aquam (Health through Water)—by offering a choice of hydrotherapy immersions that include a tepidarium, hot/cold walking pool, cold plunge shower and saunarium.

TP: Scottsdale is famous for its golf courses and spas. Beyond those experiences, what other aspects of the city should travel agents highlight to their clients?

DG: Scottsdale’s gorgeous desert landscape continues to surprise most first-time visitors. Our city is home to one of the lushest and vibrant desert settings in the world; a place to relax and rejuvenate. Whether you are seeking an unforgettable outdoor adventure like a hot air balloon experience or a Hummer tour through the rugged terrain, a serene horseback ride, or a kayak trip on one of our nearby rivers or lakes, our desert has so many opportunities for exploration for visitors of all ages.

Also, since shopping is the number one visitor activity worldwide, it is important to note that Scottsdale continues to reinvent itself in the retail arena as well. A perfect example of this is the recent opening of Scottsdale Fashion Square‘s new luxury wing with 50 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Cartier, St. Laurent, Breitling, Kate Spade and Michael Kors.

We are also excited to introduce our customers to Scottsdale’s burgeoning culinary scene. We have an abundance of independent restaurant options and many farm-to-table concepts, like FnB in Old Town Scottsdale, where Chef Charleen Badman’s locally sourced, elevated vegetable creations landed her the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2019, after five consecutive JBF nominations.

Perhaps one of our best-kept secrets is the blossoming Arizona wine industry and the opportunity to taste the fruits of our local winemakers’ labor at the six tasting rooms conveniently located in Old Town Scottsdale.

TP: How does Experience Scottsdale work with the retail travel agent community?

DG: Experience Scottsdale’s Tourism Department is dedicated to serving the travel agent community; we have a team of sales managers who are assigned to both international and domestic feeder markets. Our efforts include one-on-one appointments with travel advisors in their offices, participation in a variety of trade shows focused on reaching the luxury travel segment and most importantly, destination educational seminars designed to equip travel professionals with the tools to effectively sell Scottsdale to their customers.

One of our latest initiatives involves outreach to independent travel advisors who work remotely and may not have access to the same resources as agents located in brick and mortar agencies. Ultimately, if you curate travel for your clients, our team would like to help you provide your customers with an unforgettable travel experience to Scottsdale, Arizona! For assistance please contact us at