Phoenix/Scottsdale and Tucson offer a growing constellation of resorts, spas, golf courses, fine dining, and outdoor recreation for meeting planners. 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: “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
Arizona's appeal as a meeting destination has not gone unnoticed by the association industry. “Our highest attendance has consistently been in the Phoenix metropolitan area,” says Roger Vickery, president of The Promotional Allowance Association in Oakland, Calif. “Our members enjoy the warm, sunny climate and have found Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe to be cities that offer a good time as well as an effective learning environment.”
Omnipresent air conditioning offsets warm temperatures, notes Vickery, even in sunny June when his association held a meeting at the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix. A welcome reception at Rustler's Roost, one of the resort's theme restaurants, and an awards banquet in one of the two ballrooms were well received by attendees, says Vickery.
“Our meeting planners found the quality of service at the resort to be top-notch and were impressed with the staff's can-do attitude.”
Vickery advises association meeting planners to be aware of the heavy demand for resort facilities in Arizona, especially during the spring social season favored by locals. “I recommend booking early to get the space you want. It's a great destination and a lot of people already know that.”
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 sets 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. Alternatively, 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. While Jeeps make the ascent, guests enjoy the desert experience that may 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 chuck wagon 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:
The Boulders Resort in Scottsdale opened a 33,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa in September that includes a couples' 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.
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.
WHERE TO GO
“Our highest attendance has consistently been in the Phoenix metropolitan area.”
— Roger Vickery, The Promotional Allowance Assn., Oakland, Calif.
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 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 high-speed Internet access.
In downtown Phoenix, the 712-room Hyatt Regency has completed an $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.
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
CENTERS OF 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; www.ci.tucson.az.us/tcc