With its blue skies, Technicolor sunsets, indigenous charm, and great values at some of the most highly rated meeting facilities in the world, the sunny Southwest shows no signs of losing its appeal for meetings and incentives.

Phoenix's urban core has seen a major transformation recently. An expanded $600 million convention center was architecturally inspired by the Grand Canyon and is adorned by $3.2 million worth of public art. The state's largest hotel is located one block from the convention center. And now, a light-rail transportation system links meeting attendees to a wealth of dining and entertainment options and to a shuttle station at Sky Harbor International Airport.

Downtown Scottsdale is undergoing more than $3.3 billion of development. Two of the most prominent projects — the $250 million Scottsdale Waterfront and the $41 million SouthBridge — offer boutiques, restaurants, galleries, an amphitheater, and recreation paths along the Arizona Canal. Plans for downtown include the $30 million Museum of the West, opening in early 2013.

In Santa Fe, a new 72,000-square-foot “green” convention center is generating as much excitement as the city's 400th anniversary celebration.

And Las Vegas offers a winning hand of top-tier resorts that will be joined by another 30,000 guest rooms over the next four years.

Desert Meetings/Facilities Update

Arizona

  • Five years in the making, the newly expanded Phoenix Convention Center offers nearly 900,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space encompassing 97 meeting rooms, three ballrooms, and a food court.

  • On the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort & Spa will open in early 2010 with 497 rooms, 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 13,000-square-foot spa, gaming, and multiple entertainment venues.

  • The 732-room Westin Kierland Resort & Spa recently unveiled two new outdoor function spaces, adding a combined 8,000 square feet to the Scottsdale resort's existing 175,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.

  • The Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley is set to open in 2010 on 105 acres at the base of Phoenix's iconic Camelback Mountain, adding 225 more rooms to the Valley of the Sun.

  • In Scottsdale, the historic 453-room Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa, completed a $50 million renovation in September 2008. New features include 20,000 square feet of meeting space with production-quality lighting and sound.

  • The 128-room Omni Tucson National Resort in northwest Tucson has completed a $30 million renovation. The resort offers 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.

  • Twenty miles northwest of Tucson, The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain will offer 250 guest rooms, a 17,000-square-foot spa, three restaurants, five meeting rooms, and three ballrooms when completed in early 2010. The first 27 holes of two Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses and a 45,000-square-foot club complex opened earlier this year. Nine more golf holes will open in 2010.

New Mexico

  • Albuquerque's Andaluz Hotel, formerly the La Posada de Albuquerque Hotel, will reopen in fall 2009 following a $30 million renovation. The Silver LEED-certified property will offer 107 guest rooms and 6,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Nevada

  • The $1.4 billion Encore at Wynn Las Vegas made its debut in December 2008 with 2,034 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space, a casino, spa, pool, and five restaurants.

  • Caesars Palace topped off a new 23-story tower as part of a $1 billion expansion. The Las Vegas resort's sixth tower adds 665 hotel rooms to the property and is located next to a new 263,000-square-foot meeting and convention center and three new pools.

  • The $2.9 billion Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort will open this fall with 3,800 guest rooms, a 60,000-square-foot spa, and a 3,200-seat theater.

  • The Palazzo opened in 2008 with 3,000 all-suite guest rooms, dining, shopping, and entertainment near the Sands Expo and Convention Center. It brings total meeting space for the Las Vegas complex to more than 2.25 million square feet.

  • MGM Mirage's City Center in Las Vegas, a $9.2 billion “urban metropolis” encompassing 18 million square feet of hotels, residences, and amenities, is opening three hotels in 2009. Following the 2008 debut of the 3,000-room Palazzo are the 400-room Mandarin Oriental; Vdara, a 57-story condominium hotel; and the 4,000-room ARIA Resort & Casino. The project's Harmon Hotel & Spa will open with 400 guest rooms in 2010.

  • Off the Vegas Strip, M Resort opened in 2009 with 390 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 100,000-square-foot pool complex.

  • After a multimillion-dollar, multiphase renovation, the former Aladdin Resort and Casino is now Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, offering 2,518 movie-themed guest rooms and suites, eight restaurants, five night clubs, two performance venues, a spa, and 75,000 square feet of meeting space.

Trip Tips

  • A $1.4 billion light-rail system debuted in downtown Phoenix in December 2008. The 20-mile line has stops at Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum, Chase Field, and US Airways Center, as well as a shuttle station that serves Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The one-way fare is $1.25 and an all-day pass is $2.50.

  • Meeting planners can easily organize their next function by utilizing the Scottsdale CVB's redesigned Web site, www.ExperienceScottsdale.com. View the Scottsdale CVB's 600-plus members' services and offerings, meeting space dimensions, and proximity to the airport. Planners can submit an online RFP and have access to discount group rates, and downloadable photography,