Since 2010, Scott White has served as President and CEO at the Greater Palm Springs CV. Scott previously served as the Executive Director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau where he oversaw the promotion of San Antonio’s $11 billion visitor industry. Scott also served as the Executive Vice President of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he made a successful bid for Super Bowl XLII in 2008. Having hosted the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix, Scott White was instrumental in bringing the series to San Antonio in 2008 with the largest inaugural race in RnR history. With more than 20 years of hospitality and destination marketing experience, Scott serves on several industry boards including the U.S. Travel Association, Destination Marketing Association International Board and most recently, the California Travel Association Board. Scott is a Certified Hospitality Sales Professional and is active in numerous industry organizations including: Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE).
Scott, where are you from originally and what brought you to Palm Springs?
Scott White: I am originally from Monterey, California and always had a desire to come back to California. I was on the pre-opening sales team at the Renaissance Esmeralda and lived in the Coachella Valley from 1988 to 1996. When the opportunity to return presented itself, I did not hesitate. I feel very fortunate to be representing the entire valley in a profession that I love. Our destination is a wonderful place to live, work and play!
You enjoyed great success in the San Antonio and Greater Phoenix markets, what lessons from those destinations do you feel are applicable to Greater Palm Springs?
SW: I learned a lot in both destinations. For our destination, collaboration among the nine cities will be critical for long-term success. We have to move from a mindset that each city is competing with each other and focus on opportunities for greater collaboration. We are not only competing regionally, but nationally and globally for market share. As it becomes much easier to travel around the country and around the world, consumers and corporations will continue to have more options to visit and conduct business. Our brand must be relevant and evolving to meet the needs of the next generation. It is much more than a branding campaign; it is a long-term strategic plan that all nine cities can agree on. Product development and our airport are essential to future growth and success. The CVB must take a lead role in the process. As a regional organization we must go beyond the traditional role of a sales and marketing organization. I am a huge advocate of research and learning more about our customers and potential customers.
There are many tremendous developments happening in both the City of Palm Springs and Greater Palm Springs as a whole. You must be pleased with all that’s occurred since you moved here in 2010. What are you most excited about and why?
SW: I am not only excited about the physical products such as Downtown Palm Springs, The Ritz-Carlton, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden expansion, Goldenvoice investment, Clinton Foundation partnership with the Humana Challenge, IMG partnership with the Kraft Nabisco, and Modernism Week, but also the commitment to growing our arts and culture including Fashion Week, La Quinta Arts Festival and much, much more. It is the conversations that are taking place among the leaders of our valley that excite me. They want to improve our destination and create new opportunities for the next generation. The CV Link, formerly known as Parkway 1e11, will connect all nine Coachella Valley cities and the land of four federally recognized tribes with a safe, continuous pathway for pedestrians, bicyclists and neighborhood electric vehicles. A project like this is very exciting. It shows that our community is vibrant, active and concerned about the future.
What changes would you still like to see occur?
SW: I would like to see our air access grow. We lose about two-thirds of our seat capacity in the summer,and it does not fully return until December and January. We are working with the airport to make that a priority. We can create demand with events and develop new product, but if people can’t get here, we will lose out to our competition.
The CVB does valuable research into branding, specifically as regards consumer perceptions of a global brand such as Palm Springs. What are some of the more interesting beliefs—correct or incorrect—you’ve uncovered about our destination?
SW: We conducted research in 11 cities and focus groups in Southern California. There is a large gap between someone that has visited the valley versus someone that has not visited. The person that has not visited describes our destination as boring, nothing to do, old, retirement community, hot year around, very expensive and a destination for the elite. The new Tourism Marketing District will generate over $3 million and that revenue will be used for a national marketing campaign to help us overcome those perceptions. It will support existing air routes and hopefully attract new routes from key hub cities making it easier for consumers to choose our destination for their vacation, meeting or future residence. The consumer identifies the entire valley as “Palm Springs.” They are not aware our destination is comprised of nine different cities. Our goal is to get the consumer to put “Greater Palm Springs” on their bucket list, and then educate them on the destination, our events, our personality, our beauty and uniqueness as a true oasis!
How does the CVB then either capitalize upon or correct those beliefs or impressions?
SW: We are working on our strategy right now for 2014. We are gathering more data and want to ensure we maximize every dollar we spend. Our plan will be released in the fall. Collaboration with key brands will be an essential component of our strategy.
What are the CVB’s long term goals around branding, research and marketing this premier resort destination?
SW: I would like to develop a long-term strategic plan for the destination that all nine cities participate in and hopefully adopt. We did this in San Antonio, and it created a critical road map for that destination as it relates to both tourism and economic development. What do we want Greater Palm Springs to look like in the next 10-20 years and how do we work together to protect, preserve and grow the brand that best represents the entire destination?
What’s the message you’d most like the world to understand about Greater Palm Springs?
SW: That we are a vibrant, active, inclusive and welcoming destination that is growing and full of opportunity. That we are a very unique destination that cannot be found anywhere else but here! Many people do not realize that we are a natural oasis—we have integrated that message into our marketing efforts. Many people have thought we are only a wealthy community,and we can afford to bring in as much water as we need. When they realize we have one of the largest aquifers, and that we are very concerned about conservation, it opens their minds and creates that opportunity to be considered.
When you’re not dedicating your time to marketing Greater Palm Springs to the world, how do you spend your free time? What would a typical weekend look like for you?
SW: I love to play golf, explore our different cities, attend our wonderful events. I am a foodie at heart and always love to discover new restaurants. I love to relax by the pool, hike our many trails and spend time with my family. We have two rescue labs, Spencer and Bella—they are our kids.
Scott White, what is the thing you love most about Greater Palm Springs?
SW: I love the sense of place, our ambiance, the relaxed resort lifestyle. It always feels like you are living on an island, without being stuck on an island. Our mountains are magical creating beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Growing up on the coast, you yearn for sunshine and I love the sun. It gives you such a positive attitude about the day and the future.
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