Guest Editorial: Daytrippers, Locals Essential for Tourism as Economy Emerges from COVID-19

By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale ranks as one of the top cities in the country for ‘staycations’.

WalletHub ranked U.S. cities for their recreational amenities (parking, hiking) as well as factors such as homes with pools. Scottsdale ranked 7th best nationally on the list. Plano, Texas near Dallas was first.

Local vacations and attracting tourists from California, other Western states and even Texas who might drive to travel destinations are going to be essential as the economy slowly emerges from COVID-19.

COVID-19 will continue to depress air travel and some tourists will be reticent to venture out too far. Some might avoid hotel rooms for a while just as there is a segment that will not be going to restaurants, sporting events or even coffee shops.

Those dynamics magnify the need to maximize business with consumers who are willing to get out and spend, who are willing to travel or eat out. That makes day trips, stay near home tourism and quick drives for long weekends even more important.

Locked down Californians are looking and going to be looking for getaways with restrictions on Palm Springs, San Diego, and Disneyland. Crowded Las Vegas casinos and buffets will take some time to start attracting visitors.

All that creates opportunities for drivable destinations with outdoor amenities and economic re-openings that encourage those who are wanting to get out.  Arizona’s Colorado River communities have been attracting stir crazy Californians. The Grand Canyon, Sedona and Scottsdale can also be attractive and drivable trips for those from Los Angeles or San Diego or Las Vegas.

Experience Scottsdale and other Arizona tourism promoters know this and are targeting nearby markets with ads and marketing.

This needs to continue and aggressively.

COVID-19 has the tourism industry (resorts, hotels, bars, and restaurants) in survival mode. They have shed scores jobs and many could close permanently.

There needs to be immediate and aggressive investments in saving these businesses and jobs above and beyond the federal efforts. Tourism is crucial for tax revenue generation in Arizona and localities such as Scottsdale.

Attracting locals for ‘staycations’ at resorts or just a day trip as well as Californians and others for weekends will be critical for short-term survival. There will not be many international travelers this summer to the Grand Canyon or Scottsdale. We will have to rely on visitors from Tucson, Chandler, Riverside and L.A. to help carry for what could be an extended short-term.

There is also the potential to forge long-term loyalty with visitors. If they are impressed with their visit during the most stressful time, they might opt to return when life and the economy are not so strained. Those in locked down states such as California, Illinois, or Michigan might consider moving to states that have opened responsibly. The result could mean more workers, jobs and businesses moving once there is some visibility from the COVID-19 storm.

Of course, this all depends on the re-openings happening responsibly and there are not new upswings in COVID cases erode confidence and spark new shutdown orders.

That is one of the great unknowns we are facing along with all the economic stresses.

While state and regional tourism promoters can focus on ‘drive’ markets and staycations, local governments can find way to help restaurants, bars and other businesses reopen responsibly. Ideas such allowing restaurants to use parking lots for socially distant seating are a start.

Drive-in events, socially distant concerts and other ideas are being tried around the country. Our local businesses and governments should embrace them and see what might work and what does not.

Faster permits and embracing innovating and creative ideas that help the economy while balancing public health should be at forefront.

COVID-19 has hit Scottsdale and its tourism and event industries hard. But the city has assets and appeal for local visitors and drive markets such as California.

Let’s seize that opportunity in a responsible way.