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.
Personalized spa experiences
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.
Personalizing experiences also extends to products.
L’Auberge de Sedona launched its new spa concept L’Apothecary last year. The resort lets guests create custom body care treatments from botanicals and herbs found from the surrounding area.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all industry,” spokeswoman Alison Lundberg said.
Places like L’Auberge and The Boulders cultivate natural herbs and ingredients to use in handcrafted spa treatments.
At L’Auberge, they pull ingredients, like rosemary leaf, from the Oak Creek that runs through the property.
“It’s a different way for guests to connect with the creek and quite literally, take it home with them,” Lundberg said.
L’Apothecary partnered with Lotus Wei, a flower alchemy business specializing in infusing flower essences into beauty products, to sell products like mists, scrubs and oils created with plants found in the Oak Creek.
When it comes to dining, hotels and resorts have made way for organics in their menus.
Organic food sales in the U.S. increased to more than $27 billion in 2012 from $11 billion in 2004, according to a 2013 study by The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. And hospitality leaders have taken note.
Chef Rochelle Daniel of L’Auberge centers many dishes around ingredients foraged from Oak Creek, including a vinaigrette that uses oak leaves found on the property.
People want a taste of where they’re visiting, and places like Sedona can literally give them that healthy flavor, Lundberg said.
At The Boulders, a 5,600-square-foot organic garden provides ingredients for garden-to-table dinners.
Arizona agriculture thrives, even in the summer, which makes the state a destination for the hyper-local options guests want from their getaway, Bridges said.
Enchantment Resort in Sedona completed a $25 million renovation in 2012. One highlight is the virtual check-in and arrival experience.
Resort attendants now greet guests curbside with electronic tablets for instant check-in.
This electronic way of making hotel services more efficient is a strong trend, Collins said.
There has been a tremendous boost in mobile technologies like mobile payment systems and mobile check-in solutions, Collins said.
The No. 1 hotel amenity is no longer a comfortable bed or free breakfast. It’s free, in-room Wi-Fi services, according to TripAdvisor’s Truth in Travel survey.
Collins said this demand in Wi-Fi is huge, as more resorts and hotels start providing robust Wi-Fi services that can support the bandwidth across large properties.
Hyatt announced in December that as a part of the company’s efforts to improve guest experience, it would begin offering free Wi-Fi access in all lobbies and guest rooms worldwide this month.