As competition grows the stakes are high in the Paradise Valley luxury resort game

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia General Manager Frank Ashmore has taken the reins at luxury resort community. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia General Manager Frank Ashmore has taken the reins at the luxury resort community. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

In the luxury resort business, if you aren’t evolving — you’re dying.

That mantra of innovation fuels the efforts of local hoteliers in places like Paradise Valley and Scottsdale to create fresh, energetic and one-of-a-kind experiences meant exclusively for each individual patron.

Beyond amenities and services provided, local luxury hoteliers have to mold the surroundings — primarily the structures of the resort campus and the landscape of the site — into a specific vision of indulgence.

But with those visions of champagne flutes and Tar-Tar creations comes a methodical business plan led by oftentimes a small group of people dedicated to quality construction, service and experiences. The nature of the business forces local hoteliers to gamble on new ideas while paying homage to established business practices that have worked in years past.

But the local tourism market itself paints a strong picture of opportunity.

In 2015, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley’s year-over-year growth improved with occupancy up 1.5 percent to 67.7 percent, and the average daily rate was up 8.9 percent to $185.33, according to Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau Community Affairs Manager Stephanie Pressler.

“In 2016, we anticipate occupancy to remain fairly flat with average daily rate experiencing modest increases,” she said in a Jan. 26 written responses to e-mailed questions.

The Town of Paradise Valley, on the border of Scottsdale and Phoenix, is experiencing a resort renaissance of sorts bringing three new operators on board to the already esteemed gallery of resort offerings. They are:

  • A re-envisioned Mountain Shadows Golf Resort;
  • The transformation of Scottsdale Cottonwoods Suites into The Andaz;
  • The Ritz-Carlton resort community.

“News continues to come in that Scottsdale area resorts and hotels are undertaking or wrapping up multimillion dollar projects, and we’re thrilled to see that Scottsdale’s already impressive hospitality offerings will only continue to improve,” Ms. Pressler said. “With more than 70 hotels and resorts in the greater Scottsdale area, visitors will have more options than ever to choose from.”

Ms. Pressler points out new properties are likely to glean the attention of the elusive and affluent millennial traveler.

“Our new properties coming online, Andaz Scottsdale and the hotel at Mountain Shadows, will be unique, boutique hotels that cater to younger travelers,” she said. “We often hear that Millennial travelers look for authenticity, and the Andaz will play into that as it ties Scottsdale’s rich arts history into its theme.”

New kid on the block

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia General Manager Frank Ashmore says the competitive nature of the luxury resort market is what gives him fuel for the day.

“We are not a traditional tower hotel — this is an estate,” he said of the 40-acre grounds that makes up the 293 guest rooms and 43 suites at Montelucia. “It was never meant to be another resort I don’t know of too many other properties that have a residential component. But what really makes this place unique is lifestyle.”

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive, boasts two restaurants, three pools, a full-service fitness center and spa and opened its doors Nov. 14, 2008 in the Town of Paradise Valley.

Mr. Ashmore contends while having full-time residents at Montelucia brings a new level of management it does not diminish the experience of resort guests.

“I don’t think it changes how we manage the property,” he said. “You always keep your residents at the forefront of your mind. They want their experience to match the lifestyle that they love.”

And that lifestyle has some common themes known to those who live them, Mr. Ashmore says.

“Everyone in the market wants to be everything to everyone,” he said. “We are more known for the place where adults can get away. We have a world class salon; we try to elevate the adult experience.”

With great competition comes great opportunity, Mr. Ashmore contends.

“We have all been in the Valley for more then 20 years — Montelucia is going got be here as an Omni resort for the next 50 years,” he said. “We had a record year in 2015: The highest levels of occupancy, average daily rate and revenue since the hotel has been opened.”

The Scottsdale and Paradise Valley luxury resort market has room to grow, Mr. Ashmore says.

“It becomes more competitive but the occupancy is there,” he said of new resort offerings coming online.

“The word on the street is positive. Not only are these hotels coming online, there also is an opportunity for people to have a Paradise Valley address. I don’t think anything keeps me up. We innovate a lot faster with local control than other resorts because we are one in the same. We own and operate this building. More competition doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night but it does keep me on my toes.”

Gary Stougaard, at left, and Andaz Scottsdale General Manager Scott Mason at the resort site now under construction. (Submitted photo)

Gary Stougaard, at left, and Andaz Scottsdale General Manager Scott Mason at the resort site now under construction. (Submitted photo)

From nothing to something

Both the former Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort & Suites and Mountain Shadows Golf Resort are under construction while hoteliers at each project say they are excited for the challenge that comes with 21st Century luxury resort management.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, 6114 N. Scottsdale Road, is expected to debut mid-year 2016 as the new resort offering will be situated on 22 acres at the base of Camelback Mountain while the resort design draws inspiration from mid-century desert art and architecture, proponents there say.

A view of a renovated guest room at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa. (Submitted photo)

A view of a renovated guest room at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa. (Submitted photo)

The resort will feature 201 bungalow-style guestrooms and suites, a 12,000-square-foot spa, 20,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting and event space, a large pool and sundeck, and several distinct dining concepts. The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa is a part of the Hyatt Hotels Corp. portfolio.

“The experience you are going to have here has to be different than anywhere else,” said Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa General Manager Scott Mason Monday, Jan. 18 at the resort site. “You are coming here for your own purpose.”

Mr. Mason says along with 21st Century amenities the charm of the old Cottonwoods property will be maintained but updated.

“The great charm of Cottonwoods,” he said. “Nobody else has these courtyards — we think we have a great opportunity to do weddings. We feel that we have a landscape that you can’t have anywhere else.”

Mr. Mason, an Austin, Texas transplant with roots here in the Valley of Sun, says he is here for the long haul.

“This is an opportunity to put your heart and soul into something that will be long standing,” he said. “Paradise Valley is arguably one of the most exclusive townships in America. These are lifestyle choices — it is a special community.”

Anne Lane, Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa Advertising and Public Relations director, says something special is coming for those patrons looking to enjoy and participate in the local art scene.

“At Andaz Scottsdale, we will provide a platform for artists to share their craft and inspire guests and locals’ own creativity through our Andaz Salon programming,” she said. “Our guests will have the chance to go to Cattle Track, themselves, and observe artists working live in their studios.

“It all goes back to the Andaz ethos of immersing guests in local culture and sparking their curiosity and passions.”

Ms. Lane points out final plans are still being developed between the Andaz and owners at the Cattle Track Art Compound just outside of Paradise Valley town limits.

“Andaz is by definition ‘personal style,’ and is a manifestation of your experiences, in short, how you have been inspired,” she explained of the interest in a collaboration with the Cattle Track studio. “Cattle Track to us is an inspiration, as it embodies important, quality work from local artists, and truly defines the art and culture scene in Scottsdale.”

The new Mountain Shadows resort is at 5555 E. Lincoln Drive and will be a full-service boutique resort featuring 183 guest rooms in a two-building complex, an adjacent building containing 42 luxury suites, and a corner restaurant offering to be run by a renowned local operator, sources familiar with the project say.

From left are Pete Corpstein of Westroc Hospitality; Bill Nassikas of Westroc Hospitality; Scott Lyon CEO of Westroc Hospitality; Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins; Dupree Scovell of Woodbine Development; Kristopher Harman of Woodbine Development; and Mark Philp of Allen and Philp Architecture at the Dec. 2 Mountain Shadows resort groundbreaking in Paradise Valley. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

From left are Pete Corpstein of Westroc Hospitality; Bill Nassikas of Westroc Hospitality; Scott Lyon CEO of Westroc Hospitality; Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins; Dupree Scovell of Woodbine Development; Kristopher Harman of Woodbine Development; and Mark Philp of Allen and Philp Architecture at the Dec. 2 Mountain Shadows resort groundbreaking in Paradise Valley. (File photo)

The Mountain Shadows Golf Course, an 18-hole course, will be rehabilitated as part of the project.

Scottsdale-based Westroc operates Hotel Valley Ho and Sanctuary on Camelback, while the Dallas-based Woodbine Corp. is responsible for multi-use development at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, among a host of other properties.

Scott Lyon, Westroc Hospitality CEO, says he welcomes the new resorts to the area.

“We believe they will help solidify Paradise Valley as the premier resort destination in Arizona and the southwest,” he said in a Jan. 27 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Mountain Shadows has several factors that differentiate it from the other resorts in Paradise Valley. It is the only one that will be integrated with golf, an existing residential base (Mountain Shadows East and West), and a unique condominium project that will function as the high-end wing of the hotel.”

Mr. Lyon says he is looking to attract those looking for a stronger fitness focus on clean living.

“The resort will also have a stronger fitness focus than many of the established resort spas, with a luxury fitness center and an extensive trail system throughout the resort and golf community,” he points out. “There will also be a free-standing restaurant apart from the hotel, which is being designed as a welcoming neighborhood spot with a cool yet relaxed atmosphere. No other resort in the market is positioned as well as Mountain Shadows to take full advantage of the views to both Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain.”

Mr. Lyon says he is anxious to unveil the new resort at the iconic location now under construction.

“Our biggest concern with opening a new venture of this magnitude is the overall economic climate and stability,” he said.

A view of how the new Mountain Shadows resort may look. (Submitted graphic)

A view of how the new Mountain Shadows resort may look. (Submitted graphic)

North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at tthornton@newszap.com

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