WHAT'S NEW

Arizona continues to be a destination of choice among meeting executives — and the hospitality community is aiming to keep it that way, with renewed efforts to cater to the meeting industry and the addition of new venues.

Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, says the city is accommodating more short-term bookings, even as short as 30 days, for corporate meetings. With 51,000 hotel rooms in the Valley of the Sun, the destination certainly has the available inventory.

Phoenix will add 2,200 rooms to that total by year's end, when the JW Marriott Desert Ridge adds 950 rooms; the Westin Kierland, 750 rooms; and the Sheraton Wildhorse Resort & Spa, 500. Moore says the extra rooms allow bookings now for 2003, and he is particularly proud of the fact that most of Phoenix's current bookings are new business.

In Tucson, Rick Vaughn, vice president, sales and marketing for the Metro Tucson CVB, reports slower bookings. He says that while there are no recent hotel additions or attractions in the area, renovations are planned at the Sheraton El Cruz, and the ballroom at the Westward Look Resort is getting a makeover. He also says that in an effort to attract business, the area is making value-added offers to corporations and groups. This could boost hotel occupancy, which is down 7 percent over last year, as well as corporate meetings, which are down 14 percent.

In communities such as Tempe and Flagstaff, overbuilding has slowed construction of new properties. Some of the biggest news is that after a major renovation by Westrock Hospitality, John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch reopened as Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. The property, which dates from the 1950s and is a longtime favorite of celebrities, is being repositioned as a boutique resort with a stronger emphasis on meetings. Set on 53 acres on the north slope of Camelback Mountain, Sanctuary offers 106 luxury casitas. Meeting space includes a 3,500-square-foot ballroom.

And the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch has renovated several suites, adding multiple high-speed Internet access lines to each suite.

I WAS THERE

Ron Marchetti, national business development manager for Castle Building Centers Group Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario, realized he had picked a winner in Phoenix and the Hilton Squaw Peak Resort for his corporate meeting earlier this year when many of the 366 attendees arrived early and stayed late.

“You won't find one of them who will say anything negative about Phoenix or the hotel,” Marchetti says. “Everything went without a hitch. We had a get-acquainted evening to a Southwestern theme, took 144 [people] golfing to Eagle Mountain, and then had a barbecue. We also had lunch in the Botanic Gardens at the Heard Museum. Our people were in awe of everything.”

MY FAVORITE EVENT

Corporate executives who meet in Phoenix may find that the only problem they have is deciding what to do first and where they had the most fun. But for the 183 attendees of RCB Dain Rauscher Investment Services Inc., who stayed at The Four Seasons in May, the most-liked item was the food.

Sydney Zech, CMP, senior meeting planner for the Minneapolis-based company, said the Dinner in the Desert stood out in the minds of most attendees.

“The Four Seasons catered it and did a wonderful job,” she says. “We held it in the desert foothills, [at a ranch] about 10 minutes from the property.”

Upon arrival, Zech and her group were met by five horse-drawn hay wagons and a singing cowboy. After a sunset ride, they were treated to a cowboy band, after which attendees could gaze at the stars through telescopes.

“We had barbecued chicken, steaks cooked to order, and baby back ribs,” says Zech. The group also enjoyed golf at Troon North, flat-water floating trips, and a trip to Sedona.

“It's a magical property,” she says.

WHERE TO GO

Flagstaff
Phoenix
Scottsdale
Tucson

“You won't find one [of the attendees] who will say anything negative about Phoenix.”
Ron Marchetti, national business development manager, Castle Building Centers Group Ltd.



MUSEUM MEETINGS

The world-renowned Heard Museum, two miles from downtown Phoenix, focuses on the art and culture of American Indians and the Southwest region. Its artifacts and historical arts trace American Indian heritage back 1,500 years. The museum can host more than 2,000 people for a meeting. It has catering facilities, a theater, reception areas, and breakout rooms. Call (602) 252-8848 for more information.

GOING Up

PHOENIX — New

  • The Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, located on a 5,700-acre master planned community, is set to open in November. The resort will have 950 rooms and state-of-the-art amenities, including 10 restaurants, a 28,000-square-foot spa, a tennis pavilion, and two Nick Faldo — design 18-hole golf courses. The resort will have 200,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

  • The $180 million, 750-room Westin Kierland resort is on schedule for an early 2003 opening. On 33 acres surrounded by a golf course, the resort will feature 60 suites, a full-service spa, and a fitness center.

  • The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, a 500-room property, is scheduled to open late this year.

  • Opened in January, the 39-story, 998-room Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood offers a 209,000-square-foot convention center and features a 50,000-square-foot unobstructed Great Hall and four ballrooms.



CENTERS OF THE ACTION

PHOENIX Civic Plaza convention center is on schedule for late 2003 or early 2004 completion of a $300 million renovation that will double its meeting space, which is now 375,000 square feet. (602) 254-6500; www.phoenix.gov/CIVICPLAZA/plazaidx.html

TUCSON Convention Center has 124,000 square feet of floor space and features the Galleria, which is a connector to all areas; the exhibition hall, the grand ballroom, and the arena. A music hall seats 2,100, and the Leo Rich Theater seats 500. (520) 792-4101; www.visittucson.org

CONTACT THE CVB

Greater Phoenix CVB
(602) 254-6500 • Fax: (602) 253-4415
www.phoenixcvb.com

Metro Tucson CVB
(800) 638-8350; (520) 624-1817
• Fax: (520) 884-7804
www.visittucson.org

Scottsdale CVB
(480) 945-8481 • Fax: (480) 947-4523
www.scottsdalecvb.com

Sedona Chamber of Commerce
(800) 288-7336; (928) 204-1123
• Fax: (928) 204-1064
www.sedonachamber.com