In a way, Santa Fe, N.M., is an odd destination. There it is, nestled at 7,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a beacon of stylish living and exquisite taste, surrounded by hundreds of square miles of inhospitable desert. But, visitors are fiercely loyal. Consider: Santa Fe is the only destination to make Conde Nast Traveler's Top 10 list on the basis of write-in votes.

The biggest news on the area's hotel scene is the impending arrival in 2001 of the 350-room Hyatt Regency Tamaya in Santa Ana Pueblo, Native American pueblo land 40 minutes from Albuquerque. Intended to draw corporate customers, the new property will have 30,000 square feet of meeting space. Among its amenities will be a spa, health club, and 18-hole golf course.

Also in the news--it may be decided before the end of this month--is a possible increase in the Lodger's Tax (local parlance for bed tax) to five percent from four percent, to help defray the cost of building a 70,000-square-foot convention/conference center.

Hotel News * La Posada de Santa Fe, one of the city's major hotels, has closed for renovations. The 119-room property is expected to reopen this summer. The renovation includes a new 4,000-square-foot conference center, with a 2,100-square-foot ballroom and two small boardrooms. The hotel also will have a new, three-level parking garage, improved gardens, and other major improvements.

* Hyatt Hotels plans to build the 350-room Hyatt Regency Tamaya in Santa Ana Pueblo, 40 minutes south of Santa Fe. It will include a 10,000-square-foot health club and spa, an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool and snack bar, a camp-like program for children, and two full-service restaurants. More than 30,000 square feet of meeting space will be available. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, with completion scheduled for early 2001. A casino owned by the Pueblo is located nearby.

* The Hilton of Santa Fe has installed new soft goods in all guest rooms and new carpeting in rooms and hallways. The 157-room property has 5,400 square feet of meeting space, including a 3,390-square-foot ballroom.

* The Eldorado Hotel--close to the Sweeney Convention Center--has completed renovations and room upgrades, with new furniture and paint for its 165 guest rooms. New outdoor function space is scheduled to be completed by mid-year. The property has 2,000 square feet of meeting space; the largest meeting room is 1,600 square feet.

* The Inn on the Alameda is renovating bathrooms and adding new soft goods in all traditional rooms, and upgrading all courtyard casitas with new air-conditioning units. By 2000, the property will also have a new stucco exterior. There are 69 guest rooms, including 10 suites, and 1,148 square feet of meeting space.

* The Hotel Loretto will complete upgrading its bathrooms this year. The 140-room property has 12,000 square feet of meeting space divided among six rooms, of which the largest is 2,800 square feet.

* The Inn of the Governors is putting new carpet in all 100 guest rooms. The hotel has 1,287 square feet of meeting space in two rooms.

* The Inn of the Anasazi will upgrade bathrooms in its 59 guest rooms this year. It has 1,000 square feet of meeting space in three rooms.

* The Sunrise Springs Retreat and Conference Center completed expansion of its 2,400-square-foot Atrium meeting room, the property's largest space, in May 1998 and more upgrades are scheduled through mid-2001. The 32-room property has 4,900 square feet of meeting space in four rooms.

* The 213-room Doubletree Hotel Santa Fe has more than 6,500 square feet of meeting space in four rooms. The 4,180-square-foot ballroom divides into four equal sized breakout rooms.

* The Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe, just outside of town, has 88 rooms in 11 lodges, and approximately 6,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 1,482-square-foot Thunderbird Room, which is divisible into two. In addition, the 1,634-square-foot main dining room can seat up to 175 people theater-style.

* The Glorieta Conference Center, 18 miles northeast of Santa Fe, offers 440 guest rooms and 60 conference rooms. There is 35,600 square feet of meeting space, including an auditorium that seats up to 2,800 people. Accommodations range in size, style, and price.

Convention and Exhibition Center * The Sweeney Convention Center downtown has 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,000-square-foot main floor that seats 1,200 theater-style and accommodate 55 8- by 10-foot exhibit booths. There are four 1,620-square-foot meeting rooms that can each be divided in two, plus two main-floor meeting rooms, with 1,334 and 1,160 square feet of space, respectively.

CVB Contact City of Santa Fe CVB: (800) 984-9984, (505) 984-6760 Fax: (505) 984-6679 www.santafe.org

When Houston-based Tracy Birkelbach, meeting planning administrator at Honeywell Inc. Industrial Automation and Control, told her group of senior executives they were going to Santa Fe, she received a surprise. "We had 40 company directors and vice presidents. They travel all over the world. Yet 38 of them had never been to Santa Fe before," she says. "They said they'd always meant to, but just never visited."

Her two-day meeting, of Honeywell's new North American Solutions Business Team, took place in late February at the Inn of the Governors. A local destination management company, Passport New Mexico Inc., handled transportation to and from Albuquerque airport. "These attendees flew in from all over the world; the DMC was able to coordinate when to be there so everyone was met" without making too many 128-mile round-trips.

Passport New Mexico also organized an evening teambuilding event--a scavenger hunt in the mountains outside town.

Asked what she'd do differently next time, Birkelbach says "I'd extend so people would have more time to do things. Everybody wanted time to go shopping."

As for the hotel and DMC, Birkelbach says "They did an awesome job.