KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Luring Locals: New Ways Arizona Hotels Are Getting Your Money

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Burger Theory is part of the Holiday Inn & Suites at 44th Street and McDowell Road.

For years, the Valley’s hotel industry has relied on "staycations" to attract locals — especially during the slower summer months. The idea is for Arizona residents to check into resorts for a weekend or more and enjoy the spa, swimming pool and restaurants. But, the newer trend is to focus on locals year-round.

On a recent weekday, Nicola Sompayrac and her co-workers enjoyed lunch at the Holiday Inn.

“I didn’t know there was even a Holiday Inn,” Sompayrac said.

Technically, she’s eating at Burger Theory, but it’s owned and operated by Holiday Inn. 

“It stands out on its own pretty well,” Sompayrac said.

And, that’s exactly what manager Jessica Sellers says said wanted when they opened last year. 

“The concept for us was really about trying to reach out to the locals that are here instead of treating it more as a hotel amenity, which is typically what you have with full service properties,” she said.

Because the restaurant’s main entrance faces the busy intersection of 44th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix, guests often don’t realize the patio in the back leads to the hotel.  

Sellers admits the restaurant’s in a prime location but said success has really come from embracing the community — by hiring local musicians and serving dozens of craft beers brewed in Arizona.  

“I think a lot of the other properties are actually taking note of what we’re doing and seeing if it would work in their market,” she said.

Six miles away, in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, Bill Nassikas’s team is building a more expensive restaurant in Paradise Valley with a unique roof structure.

“We call it a butterfly roof,” he said. “So the roof actually opens like wings of a butterfly. It lets in light. But you’ve also got a design that I think will be noticed form the street.” 

Nassikas is counting on locals to notice. He expects 80 percent of dining dollars to come from Arizonans.

Scheduled to open next month, Hearth 61 restaurant is part of Mountain Shadows resort. So is the golf course, promoted as the only 18-hole short course in the Valley.  

“It’s a 2.5 hour round versus four to five hours,” Nassikas said. “We’re projecting that about 60 percent will come from the local community, the golf play.”

The new hotel is replacing the original Mountain Shadows Resort that opened nearly 60 years ago. There’s nothing left of that building, except some blocks named after Ralph Haver, a Phoenix architect known for his contemporary designs.  

“They’re very simple,” Nassikas said. “They’re effectively 18-by-18 squares and the middle of the block is open. It’s like a big letter ‘O” in the middle of a square.”  

When guests arrive they’ll see the salvaged blocks in a new wall.

Paying homage to the past is paying off for Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale where the mid-century modern movement is showcased.

"And I think we’ve done that in a way that’s not kitchsy,” said Jesse Thompson, director of sales.

While the hotel did well in 2014 and 2015, he said, last year they broke records.

“We hate to have empty space,” Thompson said. 

They fill spaces by hosting pool parties and rooftop beer gardens, cigar dinners and whiskey tastings.  

“If you walked into a hotel and didn’t see anybody else you’d think where are the people? And why aren’t they staying here? And that’s probably the number one rule: busy hotel,” Thompson said.

Some call it the coffee shop mentality — creating a place where people want to hang out. Important, Thompson said, because food and beverage can generate profit margins between 35 and 42 percent. But, that’s pretty low compared with rooms where, he said profits, usually run between 70 and 80 percent. 

“Room rates are king of the show,” Thompson said. “They run the highest profitability of all the outlets in most hotels if not all hotels.” 

So, even though hotels are wining and dining us more, in the end they always want to get us into beds.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.