Higher gas, travel prices has local hotel changing the way it does business - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Business

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Higher gas, travel prices has local hotel changing the way it does business

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Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 12:00 pm

The hotel business depends on travelers and, with the cost of gas and traveling on the rise, hotels like the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix have to get creative to bring in business.

Bill Price, spa director, remembers the Arizona Grand Resort at its "prime," as he likes to call it.

"The resort was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2008 and made the most money in its history." Price said. "And the next year, it hit."

That same year, 2008, the resort was bought and placed under new ownership. The hotel went from Destination Hotels and Resorts to Grossman Co. Properties. This move took the resort away from a large corporation where they would get residual business and helped bring in the traveling companies.

But now, if companies are traveling, they aren't trying to spend a lot of money and aren't sending many people, Price said.

Susan Dunivant, an esthetician, saw an 85 percent decrease in her income over the summer and was severely lowing prices on her services.

"We were trying different marketing plows," Dunivant said. "We went from $125 facials to $95."

Spa services are a luxury and when people are looking to cut back, that's the first thing they are going to go to, Price said.

This lack of business has made companies take a more proactive and creative role in attracting travelers and locals into the hotel. More advertising online, having a Twitter and Facebook account to announce upcoming specials and deals to followers and packages are all being utilized to maintain business.

Some of these packages include deals like, buy a room for a night and get a $100 resort credit to spend anywhere in the resort.

"This helps get the travelers out to other places in the resort, like the water park and the spa," Price said.

The spa and Price personally have come up with package deals to bring in travelers of big businesses by customizing their spa packages.

They have had clients such as a Pizza Hut, where they made facials out of tomatoes sauce and basil. They used sorbet and sherbet facials for Häagen-Dazs and promoted a "sexy back" wax for men when Justin Timberlake came out with his song "Sexy Back."

"It keeps business here," Price said. "And it makes them want to come back."

This month, business has been booming as people celebrate their spring break and the whole hotel is evidence of that. The hustle and bustle of the lobby, the smell of freshly cooked ravioli and chat of travelers give the hotel a promising look for the season ahead.

Jeff Trzepkowski, who works the front desk at the Athletic Club, has seen business pick up this season.

"Usually it's slow, but after spring break it's gotten pretty busy," Trzepkowski said.

However, that doesn't mean the worst is over. When asked how the summer season was anticipated, Price did not seem overly confident.

"It's all unpredictable. It's like a surfer riding a wave," he said. "You have to strategically position yourself to ride the wave all the way through and if you don't do what you need to do - you're going to wipe out."

• Emily Pomilio is a student at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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