According to Tamara Crews, director of meeting services for the Bank Securities Association in San Rafael, Calif., "Golf is now a requirement in selecting a meeting site. That's why we come to Arizona so often." In April 1997, the association held its annual meeting at Tucson's Westin La Paloma Resort. "We've been to several excellent properties in Scottsdale over the past few years. This was our first time in Tucson and everyone loved it," enthuses Crews.

Arizona's great weather and scenic beauty are often enough to convince meeting executives to select the Grand Canyon State as a meeting site. Then there are the luxury properties concentrated in the two major metropolitan areas, Tucson and Phoenix/Scottsdale's Valley of the Sun. Most of these resorts offer full-service spas and expansive pool and recreation facilities--including championship golf courses. Desert golf courses lined with soaring saguaros and abutting boulder-strewn foothills are a special challenge. Phoenix's Valley of the Sun has more than 180 courses with three more under construction.

New to Phoenix's revitalized downtown is the Arizona Science Center and Phoenix Art Museum, plus new restaurants, theaters, and entertainment venues. And two new hotels have been announced, bringing the total number of rooms in the downtown area to 2,700 by 2001.

Scottsdale is looking forward to the fall completion of Scottsdale Fashion Square's expansion, making the mall one of the largest regional shopping destinations in the Southwest, with 50 new shops. Scottsdale's downtown Waterfront Project will also add new shops, restaurants, and recreation and entertainment venues. In addition, the $3 million Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art will open in 1999.

In November, Mesa and Tempe voters will decide the fate of the largest development project in the state. The Rio Salado Crossing, a $2.3 billion sports stadium and convention center complex, needs voter consent. It would consist of a convention hall, a 1,250-room hotel, and a multipurpose stadium providing a million square feet of exhibition and meeting space.

Tucson is known for its Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and pioneer cultural roots. There is enough to see and do in the city known as Old Pueblo to keep attendees entertained for a week. One not-to-be-missed attraction: the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. Tucson is also a great jumping-off point for visits to the southern part of the state.

Convention & Exhibition Centers * The Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center has undergone a $32 million refurbishment. The center has 375,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space that includes five exhibit halls on one level with a total of 221,000 square feet; a 28,000-square-foot ballroom with a 5,000-square-foot stage; up to 43 meeting rooms with individual lighting and sound systems; and Symphony Hall, a 2,577-seat theater.

* The Tucson Convention Center offers 205,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and exhibit halls. The complex, which includes an adjacent 2,277-seat music hall and a 511-seat theater, has cable connections for video and audio transmission, teleconferencing, and broadcast links.

Hotel News The Phoenix Area * Resort Suites of Scottsdale has begun a $12 million expansion and complete renovation of existing suites.

* Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch is set to open its renovated spa, boardrooms, and two new meeting rooms with a total of 2,000 square feet of meeting and prefunction space.

* Carefree Conference Resort, formerly the Carefree Inn, is undergoing a $10 million upgrade and expansion. Sixty-six new guest rooms will bring the resort's total room count to 249.

* Also in Carefree, The Boulders is spending $12 million to enhance its 197 casitas.

* In downtown Phoenix, a 400-room Doubletree hotel at the Arizona Center is scheduled for completion in 2000.

* The Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa will add 120 guest rooms, boosting its inventory to 740 rooms and villas. The addition will also include meeting rooms and an Olympic-sized pool. There is 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

* The Doubletree Paradise Valley resort in Scottsdale has completed an $8.5 million improvement and expansion program. The resort's 32,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space was renovated, and all 387 guest rooms and suites were refurbished.

* Embassy Suites Resort-Scottsdale is undergoing a renovation of the Breakfast Clubhouse and three executive boardrooms, plus seven elevators. A new business center opened in September.

* Marriott's Camelback Inn Resort, Golf Club and Spa is nearing completion on its $35 million, four-year renovation.

* The SunBurst Resort in Scottsdale was awarded the 1997 American Society of Interior Designers' Design Excellence Award for renovation of its lobby, restaurant, and conference and banquet facilities. The 210-room resort has 14,300 square feet of meeting space.

* Gardiner's Resort on Camelback offers 96 accommodations and meeting facilities for up to 200 people, as well as 21 tennis courts and three pools.

Tax and Money Matters Tax on hotel rooms is 10.6 percent in Phoenix, 10.7 percent in Scottsdale, 9.8 percent in Mesa, 10 percent in Tempe, and, depending on the location, between 7.5 percent and 9.5 percent in the Tucson area. The sales tax in Arizona ranges between 7 and 7.5 percent.*

Meeting Planner Comments Carol Ann Lane, secretary/treasurer of the Lake Carriers Association based in Cleveland, Ohio, has arranged two meetings in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. In 1995 the association met at the Pointe Hilton at Tapatio Cliffs and, in 1997, at Marriott's Camelback Inn. Lane credits the staff of the resort who "really made this meeting happen." She was happy to use the Pointe Hilton's facilities for meetings and social events. Among the most popular special activities: cultural lectures on Arizona's Native American history and a naturalist's presentation about the state's unique flora and fauna.

Joann Wright, assistant director of the National Association of Chemical Recyclers, planned a general meeting at the Doubletree La Posada in Scottsdale in January 1997. Although formal meeting sessions didn't begin until Monday, most attendees arrived early to take advantage of reduced airfares for a Saturday night stay. The association moves its meeting sites around the country, and Arizona's warm weather was particularly appealing for a January conference, says Wright.

"What I look for in a meeting site is a five-star resort with full-service amenities, including golf. And of course, wonderful weather," says Harriet Losin, administrator for the Triological Society's Western Section. In the past several years she has planned meetings at the Scottsdale Princess Resort, The Boulders in Carefree, Scottsdale's Marriott Camelback Inn, and last January, at the Westin La Posada resort in Tucson. Losin says her group of nearly 200 attendees enjoyed tours of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Biosphere 2.

For More Information Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau Peggy Whitman, convention sales mgr. (800) 535-8898 Fax: (602) 235-4415 www.arizonaguide.com/phoenix

Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau Kathy McCarthy, convention sales mgr. (800) 877-1117 Fax: (602) 947-4523 www.arizonaguide.com/scottsdale

Tempe Convention & Visitors Bureau M.J. Carmody, director, sales and mktg. (800) 283-6734 Fax: (602) 968-8004 www.arizonaguide.com/tempe

Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau Susan Skinner, director of sales (800) 638-8350 Fax: (520) 884-7804 www.arizonaguide.com/visittucson