WHAT'S NEW

Southwestern cities are sparkling under the desert sun as they enjoy an economic boom that shows no sign of losing its luster. Celebrities and meeting attendees alike enjoy the charms of venerable Palm Springs. Las Vegas and Phoenix/Scottsdale are two of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., Tucson leads Arizona in job growth, and the vibrant scenery of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos continues to attract visitors in record numbers. The desert's riches offer meeting planners a treasure chest of world-class hotels, resorts, exciting entertainment, and superb recreation.

The best way to see what $3 billion in building permits in three years looks like is to take a ride on Palm Springs' oldest attraction, the Aerial Tramway. Recently reopened after a $12 million renovation, the roomy new cars offer spectacular views of the burgeoning Coachella Valley.

“Let the good times roll” means more than a lucky toss of the dice in Las Vegas, the city that loves to celebrate its excess. Las Vegas has seen a 130 percent growth in meeting attendance during the last decade.

In Arizona, downtown Phoenix continues to develop as an exciting urban destination. The city gave the green light for a light rail rapid transit system to be completed by 2006.

Albuquerque's downtown revitalization project is gaining momentum with nearly $300 million worth of projects slated for completion by 2010.

I WAS THERE

Nancy Fahy, regional sales administrator for Aventis Pharmaceuticals, was delighted when the company's western region sales reps chose sunny Scottsdale for their annual sales meeting. Not only is Fahy based there, making the planning logistics easier, she also admires the city's considerable resources, from resorts to destination management companies.

“The Scottsdale CVB is always very helpful with site searches and, because the entire community is geared toward tourism and conferences, everyone goes the extra mile.”

The Carefree Conference Resort in the neighboring town of Carefree solved the meeting's biggest challenge — an intricate schedule of rotating breakout sessions for two groups — with its 12 small meeting rooms on a lower level.

Carefree's old-fashioned Opera House and adjoining outdoor venue area offered the perfect setting for a western-style dinner featuring a singing cowboy and games.

Phoenix is within an hour's drive of three Native American reservations. Scottsdale has more art galleries per capita than any city in the U.S. The nation's southernmost ski area is Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, 45 minutes north of Tucson.

CENTERS OF THE ACTION

PHOENIX CIVIC PLAZA — has 249,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 45 meeting rooms, and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom. (800) 282-4842

SWEENEY CONVENTION CENTER, SANTA FE — the 22,000-square-foot center has five meeting rooms. The 10,000-square-foot main floor accommodates 80 booths or 1,200 theater-style. (505) 955-6200

TUCSON CONVENTION CENTER — has 205,000 square feet of meeting space encompassing an arena, exhibition hall, ballroom, and galleria. (520) 791-4101

CONTACT THE CVB

Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
(602) 254-6500, (877) 225-5749
•Fax: (602) 253-4415; www.phoenixcvb.com
Total room tax: 11.07%, Phoenix; 10.67%, Scottsdale

Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau
(480) 945-8481, (800) 805-0471
•Fax: (480) 947-4523; www.scottsdalecvb.com

Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
(505) 955-6200, (800) 984-9984
•Fax: (505) 955-6222; www.santafe.org

Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau
(520) 624-1817, (800) 638-8350
•Fax: (520) 884-7804; www.visittucson.org