Arizona is one of only two states that does not adjust to Daylight Savings Time.…More than 12 million people visit Phoenix each year.…The original name of Phoenix was Smith's Station.…Spanish, Mexican, Union, Confederate, and U.S. flags have all flown over Tucson.
Metro Phoenix/Scottsdale has 174 golf courses.…The Arizona state bird is the Cactus Wren.…Tucson averages 350 sunny days per year.…The oldest family-operated Mexican restaurant in the U.S. is in Tucson.
Tucson means “spring at the foot of the black mountain.”…The southernmost ski resort in the U.S. is Mount Lemmon, 45 minutes north of Tucson.…A Civil War battle was fought at Picacho Peak, located between Phoenix and Tucson.
When it comes to planning, Phoenix/Scottsdale and Tucson offer a growing constellation of resorts, spas, golf courses, fine dining, and outdoor recreation. With its downtown revitalization, burgeoning population, and two of the Grand Canyon State's largest resorts now under construction, Phoenix continues to rise from its proverbial ashes. An extensive new freeway system means that every meeting site in the metropolitan area is now within easy reach of the continually expanding Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Downtown, the Phoenix Civic Plaza is offering a variety of discounts, upgrades and rental fee waivers for meetings and events held in 2003 and 2004. Nearby Scottsdale embraces a dual identity: as “The West's Most Western Town” and as a sophisticated destination with shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Tucson, the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the U.S., offers historic Southwestern charm, world-class resorts, and dramatic mountain scenery. In 2001, Zagat Survey named Tucson the number one overall city for quality accommodations and traveler satisfaction.
I WAS THERE
“Don't be deterred by the summer heat in Arizona,” says Kathy Shields, meetings supervisor for Hillenbrand Industries, an Indiana-based health care equipment company. “It's a great time to take advantage of low summer rates at the best resorts. Our attendees are in meetings most of the day and can still enjoy swimming or a round of golf in the dry heat.”
As a planner who takes many regional and national meetings to both Phoenix/Scottsdale and Tucson, she notes that the Phoenix area offers convenient air service and a large number of resorts, while Tucson has a spectacular mountain scenery and some outstanding meeting properties. In either city, says Shields, “the people are very nice, and the resorts have excellent service.”
For a recent product training meeting for 25 western region employees, Shields selected the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. “At the Plaza we enjoyed wonderful food and service, a nine-hole golf scramble at nearby McCormick Ranch golf club, and dinner and a concert at one of the clubs in downtown Scottsdale. It was one of our best meetings.”
For Eileen Womer, managing director for the Los Angeles office of Meeting Management Solutions, the search for a property with outstanding ambience, great weather, resort amenities, and convenient access to off-site restaurants and the airport led her to the Royal Palms Resort in Scottsdale.
“The group was 70 well-traveled doctors from Virologic, a biotech company and reference laboratory located in South San Francisco, who wanted something unique. The residential feel of Royal Palms is wonderful for smaller groups, and the resort's architecture, historical value, and decor make it a real jewel,” she says.
While the resort's swimming pool, tennis courts, and nearby golf courses were well used by the group, spa treatments were what the doctors craved most, says Womer. To supplement its on-site facilities, Royal Palms partnered with several of the city's renowned spas to provide attendees with the ultimate spa-sampler experience.
Womer advises planners considering Phoenix/Scottsdale not to be concerned about the distance between some of finer resorts and the airport.
“With the wonderful new freeways available in Phoenix and Scottsdale, every resort is now easily accessible. The destination offers something for everyone…except the ocean.”
MY FAVORITE EVENT
Susan Hale of PRA Destination Management in Phoenix thinks that Fort McDowell on the Yavapai Reservation, which is just east of Phoenix, offers an outstanding introduction to the Arizona experience. “La Puesta del Sol is a wonderful special-event venue on a hilltop offering 360-degree views. People expect Arizona to be dry and don't realize the beauty of it until they are in a setting like this,” says Hale.
To stage a casual mixer, Hale enjoys setting the scene with a sunset cocktail hour with margaritas and long-necked beers, a country-and-western band, the clanging of the dinner bell, and cowboy games. For a more ambitious event, Hale sometimes sets up an elegant Cattle Baron's Ball, at which costumed guests, fine cuisine, and twinkling chandeliers combine for an elegant Western experience.
Jackie Ludwig with Convention and Group Services in Tucson agrees that the state's natural wonders impress groups the most. Her favorite venue is 40 acres of pristine desert in the nearby Tortolita Mountains, accessible via 20 minutes of off-road driving. Jeeps make the ascent while guests enjoy an all-natural desert experience that may even include a sighting of the property's roaming mustangs. “The plateau has an elevation of 3,400 feet and is surrounded by mountains and saguaros. The play of shadow, light, and color in every direction is phenomenal. It's the Arizona of their dreams,” says Ludwig.
Although the plateau's views of the setting sun make it ideal for dinner under the stars, Ludwig says a chuckwagon breakfast at sunrise is equally memorable.“It begins with a morning blessing by an American Indian flutist and storyteller, followed by a narrative talk about local wildlife.
After breakfast, guests take a Jeep tour of the property. Watching the desert come alive in the early morning is unforgettable.”
Nowhere is the current boom in spas and wellness centers more evident than in Arizona, where dry, clear air, and mild temperatures encourage the renewal of body, mind, and spirit. A sampling of what's new:
Tucson's Westin La Paloma unveiled a new Elizabeth Arden Spa in January, one of only 10 freestanding Red Door Spas in the world. The 9,300-square-foot spa offers 18 treatment rooms, including two out-of-doors, and a full array of Arden products.
In May, the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa announced the grand opening of The Spa: An Oasis of Wellness and Relaxation after a $1.2 million renovation of the 13,000-square-foot facility.
The Boulders Resort in Scottsdale opened a 33,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa in September that includes a couple's suite and the 700-square-foot “Ultimate Spa Suite,” featuring private access, steam showers, patio, data port, and television. The facility also has a meditative maze, 25 treatment areas, and a fitness center.
The Centre for Well-Being at The Phoenician has introduced a “Planning a Spa Event” packet that helps meeting executives incorporate spa activities into the program agenda. Planners also meet with spa sales managers to create group events that are educational and stress relieving.
In October, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess will open a $14 million, 33,000-square-foot spa on three levels, encompassing 26 treatment rooms, a fitness facility, a salon, and a rooftop swimming pool.
STOP THE BUS
It's no secret that Arizona, with its vast array of championship and award-winning courses, is a golfer's paradise. What meeting executives may not know, however, is that some resorts are pushing the envelope with innovative programs that are changing the way the game is played.
The Phoenician offers Golf Power, a combination golf and spa program aimed at helping players improve their game. The two-part program includes the Automated Sports Training and Research digital golf analysis to evaluate a player's form, and a training session with an exercise therapist to target postural imbalances affecting stance and swing.
The Boulders Resort helps women break through the “grass” ceiling by offering Women To The Fore, a program designed to help new female golfers learn the game and advanced golfers to improve.
Golf balls aren't the only things flying around Scottsdale these days — now golfers are also lifting off, thanks to Heli-Golf Adventures, a service offered by Resort Suites. The service provides a chartered chopper to pick up guests at Scottsdale Airport and deliver foursomes to tees in Sedona, Gold Canyon, or Tucson. The adventure includes breakfast, green fees, a camera, and breathtaking views of Arizona scenery.
WHERE TO GO
“Don't be deterred by the summer heat in Arizona. It's a great time to take advantage of low summer rates.”
— Kathy Shields, Meetings Supervisor, Hillenbrand Industries
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
With its blue skies, dry air, and desert vistas, Phoenix/Scottsdale offers a spectacular setting for outdoor recreation. For a first-hand experience with the region's flora and fauna, take a trail ride or desert Jeep tour accompanied by guides who provide colorful commentary about the land, its people, and their legends. The terrain is also ideal for hiking and biking.
PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE — New
Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in northeast Phoenix will be Arizona's largest resort hotel when it opens in November 2002 with 950 guest rooms, 200,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, 10 restaurants, a 28,000-square-foot spa, an eight-court tennis pavilion, and two 18-hole golf courses.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts has broken ground on the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. The 500-room resort and golf course is slated for a late 2002 opening and will be just south of Phoenix.
Construction of the $180 million, 750-room Westin Kierland Resort has begun in northeast Phoenix. The resort is expected to open in early 2003. It will feature 60,000 square feet of indoor function space and a spa, and it will be encircled by the 27-hole Kierland Golf Club.
The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park west of Phoenix has refurbished its meeting rooms. The pool patio area has also been redecorated.
The 493 renovated guest rooms at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale have been upgraded and now have two-line telephones with data ports. The resort's new 12,000-square-foot Arizona Ballroom was completed in January and offers three registration desks and high-speed Internet access.
Scottsdale's Chaparral Suites Resort is renovating its East and West ballrooms. Completion is scheduled for this fall.
In September, the Pointe South Mountain Resort, now managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts, completed an $8 million renovation of its 640 guest suites, including new carpeting, beds, furniture, and soft goods.
The Phoenician Resort is renovating guest rooms. New soft goods, carpeting, and furnishings were installed this summer.
Changes at the Regal McCormick Ranch Resort in Scottsdale include a new owner, Millennium Hotels & Resorts; a new name, Millennium McCormick Ranch Resort; and extensive interior and exterior renovation completed this summer.
In downtown Phoenix, the 712-room Hyatt Regency has completed a $7.8 million renovation of all guest rooms and corridors.
The Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa has opened the Arizona Wing, offering 120 guest rooms, two meeting rooms, and an Olympic-size swimming pool.
TUCSON — New
A new Ritz-Carlton property is scheduled to open in 2003.
Two projected new properties are the Hyatt Dove Mountain and Marriott at Starr Pass, with completion dates to be announced.
A 25,000-square-foot conference center addition completed in March 2000 at the Sheraton El Conquistador includes an 11,400-square-foot ballroom, three 500-square-foot conference rooms, and indoor and outdoor pre-function areas, bringing total meeting space to 55,000 square feet. In July a portion of the resort's 428 guest rooms received an extensive refurbishment. The remaining rooms will be refurbished in November. The resort's 43 suites were refurbished in 2000, and the second part of a two-phase, $2.1 million renovation of two golf courses was completed.
The 487-room Westin La Paloma offers 248,475-square-foot deluxe category guest rooms after a $6 million refurbishment and enhancement program was completed this summer.
Westward Look Resort remains open while undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation program, including the remodeling of all 244 guest rooms, the addition of a second ballroom and outdoor pavilion, and the expansion of the spa. Completion is scheduled for late this year.
A $4.2 million redesign has updated Loews Ventana Canyon Resort's 398 guest rooms and suites; the grand ballroom and breakout rooms were also refurbished. Four new “All Adventure” packages incorporate outdoor activities and resort amenities into the meeting agenda.
CENTERSOF THE ACTION
PHOENIX CIVIC PLAZA:
Located 10 minutes from the airport in the heart of downtown, the 300,000-square-foot Phoenix Civic Plaza has 249,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 45 meeting rooms, and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom. The adjacent Symphony Hall seats 2,587, and outdoor events are held on nearly 100,000 square feet of terraces. (800) 282-4842; www.ci.phoenix.az.us/CIVPLAZA/plazaidx.html
TUCSON CONVENTION CENTER:
The center's 205,000 square feet of meeting space encompasses an arena, exhibition hall, ballroom, and galleria. Outdoor events are held in a courtyard connecting to the center's theater and music hall. (520) 791-4101; (800) 638-8350; http://www.ci.tucson.az.us/tcc
CONTACT THE CVB
Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
(602) 254-6500, (877) 225-5749
• Fax: (602) 253-4415
Total Hotel Tax: 11.07%
Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau
(480) 945-8481, (800) 805-0471
• Fax: (480) 947-4523
Total Hotel Tax: 10.67%
Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau
(520) 624-1817, (800) 638-8350
• Fax: (520) 884-7804
Total Hotel Tax: 9.5% city; 7.5% in Pima County, where most resorts are located.