Apart from reveling in the demand for their mountain vistas, inspiring sunsets, and wide-open spaces, popular desert cities are facing a challenge: how to manage explosive growth and the ongoing development of top-tier resorts, convention centers, and infrastructure while preserving the allure of the Old West. Attendees may clamor for high-tech meeting rooms and plasma televisions, but they also expect traditional Western nuances.

The region's resorts are answering the call by giving meeting planners myriad choices encompassing the Old West, the New West, and everything in between.

In Phoenix, the 1,000-room Sheraton Downtown Phoenix and the 175-room W Phoenix Hotel are scheduled to open in 2008 as complements to the new Phoenix Convention Center. The first phase of the $600 million center opened in July 2006 with 156,000 square feet of meeting space. When completed in late 2008, the former Phoenix Civic Plaza will have tripled in size to offer 900,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. The concurrent debut of a 20-mile-long light-rail system will link downtown to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and the nearby city of Tempe, where a 14-story, 183-room Le Meridien hotel will open in late 2008.

Nearby, Scottsdale offers accommodations ranging from chic new boutique hotels to opulent resorts with extensive meeting facilities. Planners interested in adding Sedona to a program in Scottsdale can look to www.scottsdale-sedona.com, which offers information about both communities.

In New Mexico, home to ancient petroglyphs and the iconic Route 66, plans are under way to extend Albuquerque's light-rail system, Rail Runner, to historic Santa Fe by late 2008. Construction of Santa Fe's $50 million civic center expansion will culminate in August 2008 with the debut of 72,000 square feet of facilities, including meeting, exhibit, and special event space. By that time, the city may see increased regional airline service. The certification of the Santa Fe airport was recently upgraded to allow larger commercial aircraft. In the past, the facility could land planes with up to 30 passengers.

One of the area's largest resorts is the 228-room Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, with 50,000 square feet of meeting space, a 12,000-square-foot spa, and an 18-hole golf course.

Ask the CVB

Arizona

Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
(602) 254-6500, 877-CALLPHX
www.visitphoenix.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%

Scottsdale CVB
(480) 421-1004,(800) 782-1117
www.scottsdalecvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 11.92%

Tempe CVB
(480) 894-8158, (800) 283-6734
www.tempecvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%

Metropolitan Tucson CVB
(520) 624-1817, (800) 638-8350
www.visittucson.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.05% to 14.05%

New Mexico

Albuquerque CVB
(505) 842-9918, (800) 733-9918
www.itsatrip.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.87%

Santa Fe CVB
(505) 955-6200, (800) 777-2489
www.santafe.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14.62%

The Southwest/Facilities Update

Arizona

  • Arizona's first W Hotel will open in downtown Scottsdale this fall with 224 guest rooms, a spa, three meeting rooms, and a 3,500-square-foot ballroom.

  • The 453-room Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa marked its 70th anniversary in April by breaking ground on a $35 million renovation. Scheduled for completion in March 2008, the project includes a new 20,000-square-foot ballroom and two new restaurants.

  • The former James Hotel in downtown Scottsdale has undergone a $5 million renovation and debuted in January as Mondrian Scottsdale.

  • The 651-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess completed $1.5 million in improvements to its 42,000-square-foot conference center.

  • The 404-room Scottsdale Plaza Resort has completed the remodeling of 180 suites. The resort offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including 14 conference rooms and an amphitheater.

New Mexico

  • Heritage Hotels & Resorts has debuted the 203-room Hotel Encanto de las Cruces, formerly the Hilton Las Cruces. The hotel offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom.

  • At the Hotel Albuquerque, Q-Bar recently doubled in size and reopened with a new dance lounge and a private VIP lounge that can be booked for private events. Located in historic Old Town, the hotel has 188 guest rooms with high-speed wireless Internet access, 41,000 square feet of meeting space, two restaurants, and a swimming pool.

  • Downtown's historic La Posada de Albuquerque is closed for a $22 million renovation and will reopen in early 2008.

  • The 276-room Wyndham Albuquerque Hotel will begin a $6.5 million renovation in November. After completion in March 2008, the hotel will be rebranded as a Sheraton.

  • Eldorado Hotel & Spa, adjacent to the historic Santa Fe Plaza, is undergoing a renovation of its 219 guest rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space. Other recent enhancements include the renovation of the hotel's restaurant, lobby, and fitness center.

  • As the final touch to a recent guest room renovation, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, a RockResort, has completed renovations to 113 of its 157 guest bathrooms.

For more information on meeting venues in the U.S., click here.