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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news August 27, 2015

8/3/2014 6:00:00 AM
Tourism recession has ended
Events like the Phippen Museum Western Art Show and music festivals draw visitors to Prescott every summer. (The Daily Courier)
Events like the Phippen Museum Western Art Show and music festivals draw visitors to Prescott every summer. (The Daily Courier)
Stuart Grant, a teacher from Phoenix, enjoys a book on the porch of the Hotel Vendome on Thursday. Grant decided to come to Prescott for a quick getaway before the school year starts in Phoenix. Grant described Prescott as cool, old-fashioned and quaint, with a touch of the Old West. (The Daily Courier)
Stuart Grant, a teacher from Phoenix, enjoys a book on the porch of the Hotel Vendome on Thursday. Grant decided to come to Prescott for a quick getaway before the school year starts in Phoenix. Grant described Prescott as cool, old-fashioned and quaint, with a touch of the Old West. (The Daily Courier)

Tom Scanlon
The Daily Courier

They're back ...

Visitors have returned to Prescott, and the tourism recession is decidedly over.

The most direct way to measure this is the 3 percent transient lodging tax - commonly known as the "bed tax" - that the City of Prescott receives from hotel/motel visitors.

Over the last four years, the Prescott bed tax is up 39 percent. After bottoming out at $444,000 in the 2009-10 fiscal year (July 1 through June 31), the bed tax figure for the fiscal year that just ended was $614,000.

"We're pretty much where we were before the recession," said Don Prince, director of Prescott's Office of Tourism.

For the fiscal year that just ended, the transient lodging tax was up 10 percent over the $566,770 collected by the city the previous year.

Margo Christensen, vice president of marketing of two of the biggest Prescott hotels, is seeing similar growth rate.

"Between Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites, our RevPar (revenue per available room) for this year is up double digits over last year and reservation volume is running very strong into the fall," Christensen said.  

"Our year's going pretty good, no complaints," said John Dickey of the Apache Lodge. "We're staying pretty busy."

He said the 26-room motel on East Gurley Street is sold out on many summer weekends.

The news of visitors again pounding a trail to Prescott is welcome to those in the tourism industry - but what about local residents?

"I came here to retire and live a quiet life - I don't want more visitors!"

Don Prince is told that or something similar, all the time.

"That's something you hear all around rural Arizona," Prince said. The retirees "probably came here as a tourist, then once they're here, it's Katie-bar-the-door. But it doesn't work that way.

"We're heavily dependent on visitors to pay for services we need, like police and fire."

So do visitor dollars help keep Prescott taxes down?

"Absolutely," Prince said.

If that's the case, then the news is good not only for hotel owners, restaurants and shops that benefit directly from visitor spending, but also for local residents.

The city takes in revenue not just directly - from the lodging tax - but more so indirectly, from sales tax on purchases made by visitors.

According to a 2009 survey, visitors on average spent more than $726 per day: lodging ($217), restaurant and grocery ($140), transportation including gas ($100), shopping or arts and crafts purchases ($139), recreation‐tour‐entrance fees or permits ($56), and "other" expenses ($74).

At the city sales tax of 2 percent, that $726 spending would generate $14.52 for the City of Prescott. (Not including the lodging tax, which would be $21.78.)

While $14.52 may not sound like much itself, if 1,000 of Prescott's 1,400 or so rooms were filled on a given day, that would generate $14,520 on the hypothetical day.

Prince and others give a great deal of credit to the Yavapai County Courthouse plaza festivals for helping draw free-spending visitors to town. (There are no festivals this weekend. The next is the Mountain Artists Guild Summer Arts & Crafts Fair, Aug. 9 and 10.)

According to Prince's statistics for the Prescott-Prescott Valley area, during the June 20 and 21 bluegrass festival, there was a 94 percent hotel occupancy rate on the Friday night and even higher 97 percent occupancy rate Saturday. The following weekend there was no festival, and the occupancy rate dropped to 72 percent Friday, June 27, and 84.3 percent Saturday, June 28.

The Sesquicentennial celebration apparently was not a big draw for out-of-towners, with only a 68 percent hotel occupancy Friday, May 30, and 80 percent Saturday, May 31. But the following weekend's "Territorial Days" was strong, with 83 percent occupancy Friday and 93 percent Saturday.

During the recent Williamson Valley Fire District Arts & Crafts Show, hotels here were 87 percent booked Friday, July 18, and 95 percent filled Saturday, July 19.

Prince notes that those figures are for the entire area.

"The closer you get to Courthouse Plaza the higher the occupancy numbers are," Prince said. "Our number one tourism draw here in Prescott is Courthouse Plaza. Over 80 percent of our visitors spend some time at Courthouse Plaza during their visit."

He said clicks tell the story, as the events calendar draws by far the most traffic at

"Potential visitors want to know what is going on and want to be entertained, which plays into their decision to visit us vs. a competing destination," Prince said.

Hotelier Christensen, who has 107 rooms at her two Prescott lodging, agrees wholeheartedly.

"There is no question that events and festivals bring visitors here and we have rightfully earned a good reputation for often having something fun and lively to do with the whole family," Christensen said. "I also think visitors who are here for another reason then stumble upon an event, get an unexpected surprise and leave town with good memories wanting to return again."

And, as Prescott's Director of Economic Initiatives Jeff Burt sees it, happy visitors pump up the city's economic engine.

"There is ample evidence that visitors have a significant impact on the Prescott economy," Burt said. One way to see this is simply to look at the city sales tax figures, which are much higher in the summer visiting season than in the winter months.

And Burt noted there are two types of visitors.

"First, those who come to Prescott for events, vacations and weekend getaways. Second, Prescott is a destination for vendors/suppliers to local business and many Northern Arizona residents seeking unique shopping opportunities such as Costco and Trader Joe's.

"This visitor combination makes a powerful contribution to the Prescott economy."

So, if local officials and merchants were to wear synchronized T-shirts, they would probably say "Prescott Hearts Tourists."

Follow Tom Scanlon on Twitter @tomscanlonpress.

Related Stories:
• Editorial: Job gains info misses the mark
• Editorial: Merchants, fairs can both prosper
• Arizona Office of Tourism touts Prescott's attractions
• Prescott merchant complains of unfair competition

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 04, 2014
Article comment by: Doctor Bob

I suppose we should thank our president,after all some of us blamed him for starting the recession.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Umm Who

And, as Jeff Burt, Prescott's city manager,
Thought that was Craig McConnell.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: @ to worried

Couldn't tell if you were being facetious since you included Walmart, but Home Depot, Target, Applebee's, McDonalds, etc...technically don't count as City retail sales. Those stores are on the Yavapai Reservation, and our sovereign island neighbors don't want to be bothered with collecting a sales tax for the city.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Charles Alexander

Missing Something ?
I was under the impression that the rodeo was the single largest economic engine event in the Prescott area although the City of Prescott and Don Prince have effectively nothing to do with it. Funny it gets no mention even though it draws more than 30,000 attendees - do the math with your spending figures and hotel occupancy numbers ????

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: There's More To This Story

The deeper part of the story is that while hotel bed tax is up 40% and hotel room revenue/RevPar is up in the double digits, the salaries and wages paid to hotel employees remains stagnant, dating back to 2004 levels. I work in the hotel industry in Prescott and a Front Desk Clerk or House Keeper that was making $8 or $9 per hour back in 2004 is still making $8 or $9 per hour in 2014. Full-time that's around $18k a year in gross pay or $15k net. Try living on $15k a year. FOr the most part these jobs come with no benefits, no insurance, no sick time, and no vacations.

So the moral of the story is that this increase in room sales doesn't trickle down to the hundreds of hotel employees, which would then trickle down into the local economy. The handful of hotel owners are the ones making millions in room sales but they are keeping the profits for themselves and the hundreds of employees are still in the same stagnant pay scale they were 10 years ago. Some hoteliers own more than one hotel in Prescott so there are only a handful of hotel owners in Prescott but there are hundreds of hotel employees who haven't seen any benefit from the increase in room revenues.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Revenue Watcher

Isn't the bed tax only 1% on top of the other city sales taxes? i.e. 1% of that goes to streets and open space.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: To: worried

As much as it obviously hurts you to admit it, downtown shops are NOT all of Prescott's retail. Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Applebee's, McDonalds--they all count too.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: worried resident

It is good news, finally! However, it is undoubtedly one sided. More than half of money spent per, is on lodging, food, transportation. If you want to be honest about the health of Prescotts economy, take a poll on dollar's spent in ALL of Downtown retail shops. Then write your article about the REAL health of Prescotts economy.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Here to stay

I'm one of those who was attracted to Prescott and it's hometown feel a long time ago. But I'm not one of those that said, "Close the gates, I'm here now." Yes, there are things that I don't care for, but there's more that I DO care for. What I don't care for has been the griping by the owner of a small store on Cortez about the plaza events. So I went into his store to see why people don't go into it during those events. Too glitzy and too high priced. The people on the plaza are here to stroll around, people-watch, and take home a handmade treasure, not something manufactured that belongs in Scottsdale. I'm just sayin'! And you're darned right those events draw people to Prescott, which, like the article says, has ended our recession. Keep on keepin' on and don't let the b------s get you down!

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Nathan Nibbledbuck

Little is said of the millions SPENT to get the tourists here - and in spite of what they like to say - it benefits a relative few...

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