Guest Editorial: Scottsdale’s Events Can Teach City About the Need to Evolve, Stay Competitive

By Recker McDowell —

Scottsdale has cultural, arts and special events that set it apart as a tourism destination as well as a place to live and work.

Canal Convergence, the ‘Scottsdazzle’ Christmas lights and music events and the Scottsdale ArtWalk events help make Old Town a destination and the envy of other cities trying to build their own downtowns.

Large scale events such as Barrett-Jackson, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, San Francisco Giants spring training, the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships and equestrian events bring in tourists and locals.

All that helped bring 10.8 million tourists and day-trippers to Scottsdale last year, according to a city study.

Of course, all this did not happen overnight and by happenstance. It has taken years of branding, investment and maturation for Scottsdale to establish its events and identity as an international destination.

Scottsdale leaders (whether they be elected officials, policy makers or in the private sector) should keep this in mind as they chart the city’s course not only on tourism but also when it comes economic development and the community’s overall vision.

Just like businesses and brands, cities cannot sit still in the competitive landscape and with changing consumer tastes and preferences.

Scottsdale has a lot of what tourists, shoppers and employers are looking for when they are decides on where to visit, spend money and locate jobs. They are all looking for experiences whether its on vacation or a shopping trip or for places for their employees to live and hang out.

But Scottsdale cannot rest on its current and past success. Consumers and tourists also want fresh and new. Old Town events have done well to keep up with and so has Scottsdale Fashion Square and the city’s corps of restaurants and retail.

The bond program passed by voters in November will improve Civic Center Plaza after repairs to the Drinkwater Boulevard bridge forced closure of parts of the Old Town space. Bond investments will also help improve parking and make Old Town more pedestrian friendly. WestWorld of Scottsdale — which hosts Barrett-Jackson, youth sports and big equestrian events — is also getting renovations and improvements through the bonds.

Consumers, tourists and employers don’t sit still. They change and evolve. Successful brands keep up with those changes. Less successful brands eventually get left behind. 

Scottsdale leaders just need to make sure the city’s economic development strategies and overall vision also keeps up with the need to evolve and mature.

That requires vision, commitment and knowing the city’s brand and path forward.