Category Archives: Arizona hotels

Arizona Hotel Association's new legislation proposal gets icy reception

If you think that big government has stuck their nose into your business, wait till you see what the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association is proposing.

Arizona hotel operators want families to take an end-of-summer vacation – and, hopefully, fill their empty rooms.

Kristen Jarnigan, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said her industry is weighing legislation that would require all public schools to start their academic year at the same time. More to the point, the law would forbid schools from starting back up before Labor Day.

“It extends the holiday season,” she said. “You get in that Labor Day weekend where everyone does that one last hurrah getaway that pumps millions of dollars of tax revenues into the budget in tourism tax dollars.”

More to the point for her industry, it also would fill empty rooms and the cash registers of resorts, hotels and motels.

Lucy Messing, president of the Tucson Education Association, said Arizona schools used to start after Labor Day. “But we’re about education,” she said. “We certainly should not be run by the hotel lobby.”

District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said a calendar option that would start classes after Labor Day was considered, but was not as popular among parents as the calendar with an earlier start date and a one-week break in October.

Even Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, said the idea makes no sense.

Jarnigan, however, said there are lots of good reasons to consider adjusting the school year.

She said there is evidence that August, when most schools start up now, is at least marginally hotter than June. She cited figures showing the average high in August at 102.4 degrees, versus just 102 degrees for June.

One complicating factor is some schools – like Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts and a number of charter schools – run on a year-round calendar, based at least in part on the educational theory that students lose too much ground when they’ve got too much time between classes.

“They would also need to be included in the discussion,” Jarnigan said, before the Legislature mandates a universal start date.

Terry Locke, spokesman for the Chandler district, said the calendar proposed by the hotel association would be very unpopular in Chandler, where the current modified year-round calendar has a 93 percent approval rating from parents.

Horne said having a uniform, state-mandated start date would overrule such local control. What it also would do, Horne said, is provoke anger.

“You learn from bitter experience not to mess with the calendar committee,” said Horne, who served on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board for 24 years.

“One year we changed it,” Horne recalled of his board. “And we got so much hostility for that, that we learned never to change that again.”

Look for "deals" in Arizona as SB 1070 continues to hurt tourism

The boycott over SB 1070 is costing Arizona hotels and resorts out-of-state visitors, most agreed Tuesday at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, but participants also said that getting many details about cancellations is a problem.

Organizations that cancel meetings or choose not to book future meetings because of the controversy over the new state immigration law don’t want their names used, members of a panel on the problem said.

“People want to know who canceled. They want to put a name to these,” said Brian Johnson, managing director of Loews Ventana Canyon, the resort where the annual tourism conference is being held this week.

But the panelists said disclosing names is not something that can be done in the corporate resort and hotel world. The implication: Resorts’ and hotels’ parent companies might lose their business at properties in other states.

Johnson said it’s “scary” to see what’s happening to tourism statewide. Leads on new businesses are starting to dry up, he said, even as the overall economy starts to recover.

“As we look into the rest of the year, and into 2011, (tourism) seems to be slowing,” said Johnson, who also is a past president of the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association.

“That’s the scary part now. Now no one is talking to us. Avoidance. It’s easier to go to another state. My fear right now is what’s going to be facing us in 2011.”

A consensus at the conference agreed that tourism industry members and elected officials must push a positive message to reverse the downward trend in tourism – and to alleviate concern that the impact might worsen as the overall economy improves.

“Arizona is the same wonderful place it was six months ago,” said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association. “We’re telling people to communicate the facts – that Arizona is a safe and welcoming destination.”

The other part of the message has been that the boycott is hurting the estimated 200,000 Arizona workers and their families who depend on tourism for a living. But that’s the message the association and other tourism groups have been pushing since the boycott began.

Some conference participants placed their hopes in the $250,000 in state funds allocated to start an official national campaign to counter negative publicity.

One of the plans presented would have industry association officials and resort and hotel management people making media appearances throughout the country to push Arizona tourism.

And with nationally distributed accounts of beheadings along the border and kidnapping epidemics in Phoenix, conference members said there is a lot to counteract.

Debbie Johnson said that every time Arizona illegal immigration receives any national media attention, things get worse.

As an example, the CEO cited a story she said she heard from a tourism industry source:

Visitors planning to come to a Sedona resort, Johnson recounted, called to ask if it was safe to drive up Interstate 17 from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in light of recent violence.

2010 Travelers Choice Awards

The 2010 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards are in and the winners are:

Best Destination in the U.S. – San Francisco, California
Best Destination in the World – Monte-Carlo, Monaco

In this overall category (Top 25), California ran away with the most marbles, taking the three top spots with Lake Tahoe and San Diego coming in second and third respectively. Washington, DC managed to claim fourth place.

In specialty classes, the following US destinations all won their categories:

Best for Beach & Sun – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Best for Culture & Sightseeing – Washington, D.C.
Best for Families – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Best for Food & Wine – Napa, California
Best for Nightlife – New Orleans, Louisiana
Best for Outdoor & Adventure – Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Best for Relaxation & Spa – Sedona, Arizona
Best for Romance – Napa, California

AH&LA AZ meeting still on despite call for boycott

Despite calls by some for a travel and tourism boycott in response to Arizona’s new immigration law, the hotel industry’s biggest lobby, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), has said it will not move or cancel its June summer summit meeting, scheduled for June 15-16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We do not plan to move our summer meeting from Arizona,” AH&LA CEO Joe McInerney told USA Today, the paper reported yesterday. “It would send the wrong message to the industry.”

According to McInerney, AH&LA does not support a travel industry boycott of Arizona and—despite the large number of foreign-born workers in the hospitality industry—plans to stay out of the Arizona immigration debate.

“We do not support in any way a boycott of one of Arizona’s biggest industries because these ill-advised actions hurt the state’s 1,100 lodging properties and their 52,000 employees and their families,” he said in a separate statement, according to USA Today. “Attempting to score political points on a serious issue like immigration reform by hurting the livelihood of thousands of our employees is not a constructive way to solve one of the nation’s most vexing issues. We encourage visitors to travel to Arizona to support the state’s hospitality industry, and leave state politics to its residents.”