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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

Shoeleather Journalism
in the Digital Age

Experience Scottsdale delivers annual address coupled with economic snapshot

Photo of Old Town Scottsdale where Experience Scottsdale serves as branding entity, among other things
Coupled with a magnificent climate, a growing population rate unparalleled around the country and an emerging high-tech sector, Experience Scottsdale officials say “The West’s Most Western Town” is a modern destination growing in stature. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Experience Scottsdale continues embrace of digital tourism marketing efforts
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

On the other side of a global pandemic and amid the birth of the digital age, the American tourism industry will never be the same, Experience Scottsdale experts say.

But as the robust recovery of the American tourism industry continues, experts contend Scottsdale is well positioned to weather the dismal financial forecast emerging from the minds of local economists.

Coupled with a magnificent climate, a growing population rate unparalleled around the country and an emerging high-tech sector, Experience Scottsdale officials say “The West’s Most Western Town” is a modern destination growing in stature.

“We certainly faced some serious challenges, but according to my team the biggest change of all was the simplest one: that was getting back to normal,” said Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco at the entity’s annual meeting held Thursday, Oct. 20, at The Fieldhouse at Scottsdale Stadium. “The thrilling part we experienced was seeing the result of our digital outreach efforts starting to show up in our data.”

Experience Scottsdale serves as a hybrid convention and visitor’s bureau for the city of Scottsdale, which is paid for through bed tax remits and for this current fiscal year that budget from the city of Scottsdale is $11,446,664.

“We saw a 180% increase in travel advisories,” Ms. Sacco said of returns on myriad promotional efforts including transit stations adverts in New York City. “We were able to garner 19 million advertising impressions from that campaign alone.”

Ms. Sacco explained to the about 500 in attendance yesterday at The Fieldhouse, 7408 E. Osborn Road, Experience Scottsdale continues to lean toward innovative digital approaches adding to the allure of Scottsdale for travelers domestic and abroad.

“Reaching those secondary and up-and-coming markets was not just a task for our marketing team, this was embraced by our entire organization,” she said of lessons learned amid and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “Once the international travel restrictions began we knew we would face robust challenges, but thanks to our focus on digital promotion we now have a year-round presence in those markets. We conducted a similar program for our Canadian visitors.”

Experience Scottsdale seeks to further capture the burgeoning golf tourism dollar, Ms. Sacco says.

“We are also leaning into video. Golf saw a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic and we saw a great opportunity with ‘Breaking Par,’ a new series focused on Scottsdale that will be viewed in 80 million households across 21 states,” she said of the budding partnership with the television series. “We are all in for golf at Experience Scottsdale.”

A major milestone on digital efforts at Experience Scottsdale, Ms. Sacco explained was a video produced there garner more than 1 million views.

“We know that groups are eager to come here they are eager to build out their programs,” Ms. Sacco said about the other side of the global pandemic. “Destination marketing organizations have evolved into destination marketing management services.”

In September, the American economy added 263,000 jobs, which is a major factor of why the economy is stable. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate went down to 3.5% in September. (File Photos/

A ballad of recession & recovery

Adam Sacks, president at Tourism Economics, was the keynote speaker at the Experience Scottsdale annual meeting and provided insights to what the first quarter of the new year could look like.

Spoiler alert: a shallow recession.

“What an odyssey you all have been through the last two years,” he said at the onset of his presentation, which also lead into a few guitar renditions of iconic rock songs transformed into economic satire.

“You have experienced the most colossal failure and also the fastest recovery our industry has ever seen — the situation is indeed tenuous.”

For Mr. Sacks, who leads an lauded economic research firm, he says he anticipates the American economy to slip into a shallow recession during the first few months of 2023.

“This recession — in our view — will go down as a very shallow recession,” he said pointing out economists view the 1991 American economic downturn as a solid “analog” for what is pending today. “We do expect a recession in the first half of 2023.”

Mr. Sacks explains the latest consumer news grabbing headlines is as inflation grows American households are taking on more credit card debt to shoulder the stark decrease in the buying power of the dollar domestically.

“Interest rates have reached into the range of 7%,” he said. “Those interest rates have priced out about 20% of Americans from the housing market. The rise in inflation translates to more households taking on credit card debt. We are not at levels that exceed 2017.”

In September, the American economy added 263,000 jobs, which Mr. Sacks contends is a major factor of why the overall economy is stable. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate went down to 3.5% in September.

“We expect the third and fourth quarter to show economic growth,” he said. “By the time we get to early 2023 the economy growth trajectory is going to change. We expect two consecutive quarters of negative growth.”

Two housing markets but one region

As inflation grows and the Federal Reserve’s intention clears, the Phoenix metropolitan housing market — both the traditional marketplace along with the rare air of luxury properties — will shift with the needs of clientele.

For Frank Aazami of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, the luxury enclaves of the Phoenix metropolitan area are no longer the typical second-home markets they once were.

Frank Aazami

“We are 100% a more diverse economy than we once were here in Arizona,” he told the Arizona Digital Free Press of how the macroeconomics of the region have shaped the Phoenix metropolitan area as destination living rather than destination tourism. “We’re no longer the second-home market, due to jobs, and as manufactures and corporations have begun to follow the type of employees they were looking to hire.”

Founded in 1976, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty provides independent brokerages like the Private Client Group of which Mr. Aazami leads, marketing and referral partnership for luxury listings. And as the marketplace evolves, Mr. Aazami says he is seeing new trends emerging in the luxury space of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley real estate.

“We’re noticing a greater number of seller’s offering creative terms to achieve higher selling prices,” he said of luxury property listings. “Terms like accepting ‘BitCoin/Cryptocurrency,’ offering ‘Seller Carry’ terms, allowing a buyer, for example, to assume their loan along with property or asset trades are all things we are seeing today.”

Mr. Aazami says luxury real estate sales can become complex financial interactions.

“A seasoned agent can navigate through these complex transactions,” he reminds while pointing out basic economic factors are still in the favor of property owners. “The housing shortage obviously can cushion this fall as supply-and-demand metrics are still in our favor,” he said. “However, the cost for the ability to borrow escalates, we would have to reassess this conversation.”

In the Town of Paradise Valley is Realtor Greg Hague, principal and founder at, who says for many part of the prospective Phoenix metropolitan housing market shifts in economic data points are having staunch impacts.

Greg Hague

“Interest rate increases from under 3% to almost 7% have had a significant negative impact on the Arizona housing market,” he told Free Press Paradise Valley. “Buyer demand declined noticeably as increasing rates increased monthly payments, decreasing buyer purchasing power, making homes less affordable.”

But don’t be mistaken, Mr. Hague believes the market is in economic balance as the future is not as bleak as some may opine.

“The long-term outlook for the Arizona housing market is bright. Our state is a magnet for relocation, which means we enjoy the economic benefit of tens of thousands of out-of-state buyers relocating permanently or shopping for a second home,” he said. “Think of the Arizona housing market like a slingshot pointed up or down.”

Mr. Hague suggests while the Arizona economy is more diversified than in year’s past, the single-family housing market is acutely sensitive to changes in the financial ecosystem.

“While our economy is diversified, and many sectors will be minimally impacted by a mild recession, our housing market tends to react more quickly and at more pronounced levels to positive and negative input. In other words, our home values tend to go up faster in good times and decline faster in challenging times,” he said. “But overall, the positive has historically outweighed the negative, meaning Arizona home values, on average, tend to go up faster than in most other states.”

The good news? Mr. Hague says many of today’s homeowners have realized a great amount of appreciation over the past few calendar years.

“This down cycle is more manageable because most homeowners have significant equity due to rapid price appreciation with low monthly payments as a result of historically low interest rates over the last 18 months,” he said. “Therefore, Arizona’s homeowners have staying power, which means most should not be forced to sell unless the going gets a lot rougher and lasts a very long time.”

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