by Kevin Phelps, City Manager, City of Glendale
It’s summer, which means time to travel for many people.
Travel has been on our minds quite a bit here in Glendale as we work on ways to better attract people either planning business conventions or just wanting to visit a beautiful state with abundant sunshine.
We’ve excitedly witnessed another step in our goal toward realigning our economic development strategies when the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) relocated from downtown to new offices in the Westgate Entertainment District. This was an important first step to help grow our hospitality industry.
Last year, I directed our CVB team to place a greater focus on increasing the number of people staying overnight in Glendale. Typically, CVB focuses on three “lines of business” – conventions, tourism and visitors. The first two, conventions and tourism, are unique from the visitor market because they require overnight stays in our area.
Previously, the CVB’s focus was heavy on the visitor market. From my observation, the balance of activity was overly focused on promoting events that attracted visitors to Glendale for only one day, which diluted the effort spent on the convention and tourism markets.
As a result, I asked the Council to approve a five-year contract with the Glendale Chamber of Commerce to establish a downtown merchant manager. The chamber appointed Katy Engels to the new position. Katy will work with merchants to develop a marketing plan, giving downtown merchants increased input regarding which events they’d like to promote.
Katy’s focus on downtown will allow the CVB team to work more closely with our hotels and venues that are critical components for creating a robust convention and tourism market. Over 80 percent of our hotel rooms are in the Westgate area, and there are more under construction and being planned. Having CVB staff in the middle of a critical business hub allows our team to better serve our hotel properties, increasing the number of “room nights” in Glendale.
The larger Westgate area is also home to our largest venue spaces, including the Renaissance Convention Center, University of Phoenix Stadium and the Gila River Arena. Additionally, the Tohono O’odham Nation has announced plans to build a major resort in Westgate as part of its large-facility expansion.
Facts show that the positive impact of overnight stays to our business community is significant. The more our hotels rooms are filled, the more local restaurants and our retailers benefit. A study conducted by the Arizona Office of Tourism shows Glendale’s “overnight stay” business pumped nearly $312 million last year into our local economy. The study also shows that in 2016, the tourism industry in Arizona supported over 180,000 industry jobs when 43 million people visited our state and spent $21 billion.
I’m confident that the strategy to focus on both our downtown, through the efforts of Katy and our hospitality trade, with the CVB’s new home will result in more jobs, revenue and economic development. Glendale’s future as a travel destination is bright!