Arizona hotels and resorts have embraced several new trends as they try to attract and keep visitors and compete for tourism dollars.
One Scottsdale resort encourages its spa guests to make their own custom-blended body lotions. A Lake Havasu City resort recently added a family package to attract multi-generational travelers. And attendants armed with tablets now allow guests at a Sedona resort to check in curbside.
For some, the moves have helped speed recovery. In fact, several hospitality representatives said they’re seeing growth again after the lull from the Great Recession.
“People are living again,” said Penny Allphin, a spokeswoman from Hassayampa Inn in Prescott.
Galen Collins, a professor at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University, said two other big reasons might lead to bumps in travel: low gas prices and a rebound in the economy.
Tourism supports 163,500 jobs in the state and generates $19.8 billion in direct spending, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.
However, growth is still slow. “Leisure and hospitality” gained 9,300 jobs in 2014, according to Arizona Department of Administration statistics. But food services made up the bulk of those jobs and only 100 came from the accommodations sector.
To keep the industry strong, resort and hotel leaders have tried to find ways to set themselves apart. Industry representatives identified several new trends in Arizona for 2015:
In keeping with national trends, some hotels have experienced higher volumes of multigenerational travel, and experts expect to see more.
The Boulders in north Scottsdale last year saw a 30-percent increase in bookings for villas ¬– private residential homes with one to five bedrooms – that are popular for multigenerational families.
“We’re seeing more Baby Boomers booking vacations that include grandparents and kids,” spokeswoman Debora Bridges said.
At The Phoenician in Scottsdale, spokeswoman Denise Seomin said parents or grandparents often come to Arizona for business meetings or conferences, and they return with extended family members for vacation.
To appeal to these families, the resort last year added a splash pad and expanded its adults and children’s programming.
London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City, known for its activities like jet skiing, canoeing and boat tours, began offering more family-oriented packages in July.
The resort’s package includes amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs and kitchenettes, along with a free pizza and an in-suite movie voucher.
“Guests today are looking for more than golf and spa,” said Mike Surguine, a spokesman for Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.
Amusement had the largest percentage of growth in sales year over year compared to other hospitality sectors such as retail and lodging, according to a September 2014 Arizona Office of Tourism report.
Hotels and resorts have tried to marry amusement with lodging by offering guided hiking and boating tours on site, or by partnering with outside groups for activities such as hot-air balloon or horseback rides.
While spa treatments took off in mid-to-late ‘90s, Surguine said spas must constantly evolve.
Surguine said he’s seeing a trend in restorative wellness. Individuals stay at the spa for up to a week to rejuvenate, meditate and reflect after going through a major lifestyle change, such as divorce or coping with empty nest syndrome.
Another trend? Big groups coming in for weekend getaways to “spa their brains out,” Surguine said.
To accommodate larger groups, the Sanctuary plans to convert one of its single-family casitas into a treatment room. Visitors could rent the spa, which will service about eight to 12 people, for a “homier” spa experience. The project is set for completion by year’s end.