The Southwest continues to bloom with new developments aimed squarely at the meetings and conventions market. Leading the pack, not surprisingly, is Las Vegas. The city redefined itself as much more than a gaming destination with the opening last year of such one-of-a-kind properties as the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, the Venetian, and Paris-Las Vegas. Few cities can absorb 15,000 new hotel rooms in one year and end up with higher occupancy levels than the year before, but such is the appeal of this desert city. Las Vegas is also expanding its convention center by 1.3 million square feet, for a total of 3 million square feet. And a $200 million international terminal is being considered to accommodate the increase in international travelers at McCarran International Airport.
In Phoenix, a long-awaited downtown convention headquarters hotel is finally under way, with an opening scheduled for next year. Tucson, Ariz., is planning to open a 575-room Marriott hotel, and many area resorts are under expansion or renovation.
Metro Phoenix hotel news * The $167 million Marriott at Collier Place will open downtown in 2001 with 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
* Chaparral Suites Scottsdale has added the 23,000-square-foot Chaparral Conference Center, and later this year it will complete further renovations, including a new grand entry point into the property.
* The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North opened December 1999 with 210 casita-style guest rooms and 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
* The Tempe Mission Palms in Tempe completed an $11 million renovation in 1999. It is the first full-service hotel and conference center in Arizona to be certified by the International Association of Conference Centers.
important info Greater Phoenix CVB * (602) 254-6500, (800) 535-8898
* Fax: (602) 253-4415
Phoenix Civic Plaza * (602)262-6225, (800) 282-4842
* This single-story downtown center with 221,000 square feet of exhibit space in five halls, 43 meeting rooms, and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom features a 2,577-seat symphony hall, and 73,000 square feet of outdoor event space.
Scottsdale CVB * (602) 945-8481, (800) 877-1117
* Fax: (602) 947-4523
* Total Hotel Tax: 10.35% in Phoenix; 10.52% in Scottsdale
Tucson hotel news * A 575-room Marriott resort is being planned for a site at the Starr Pass resort complex, with a target opening date of 2002.
* By March 2000, the 440-room Sheraton El Conquistador Resort and Country Club will add 25,000 square feet of function space, nearly doubling the existing space. The first phase of a $2.1 million golf course improvement project was completed in October at the resort with the opening of the Conquistador Course. Its sister golf course, Sunrise, will be refurbished this summer.
* Under new management, Tucson's historic Lazy K Bar Ranch, with 23 guest rooms, is nearly a year into a five-year renovation and expansion project. Already open is a new special events venue with 6,000 square feet of function space.
* The Hotel Park Tucson has been renamed the Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites and has completed a renovation of all 217 guest rooms and all meeting space.
* The 487-room Westin La Paloma has upgraded its Arizona Ballroom, country club, lobby, bistro, and lounge. The hotel has added a water slide and two pools.
important info Metropolitan Tucson CVB * (520) 624-1817, (800) 638-8350
* Fax: (520) 884-7804
Tucson Convention Center * (520) 791-4101
* The center has a total of 200,000 square feet, including a 90,000-square-foot hall, a 20,500-square-foot divisible grand ballroom, a 9,700-seat arena, a 2,277-seat music hall, a 518-seat theater, and 10 meeting rooms--the largest accommodating 250.
Total Hotel Tax: 9.5%, plus $1 per room night
Palm Springs Area hotel news * The 550-room Marriott Rancho Las Palmas has received a $32 million face-lift, adding a 20,000-square-foot health spa and a new 10,000-square-foot ballroom.
important info Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB * (760) 770-9000; Fax: (760) 770-9001
Palm Springs Convention Center * (760)325-6611.
* The center has 66,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 12 meeting rooms.
Total Hotel Tax: 9.25% to 11%, depending on the resort area
hotel news * The 2,600-room Aladdin Resort & Casino on the Strip is on schedule to open in late spring.
* Mirage Resorts plans a new mega- resort at the site of the Boardwalk Hotel Casino on the Strip, which it owns. It is expected to be completed in 2003.
* The Mirage Hotel and Casino is undergoing a $100 million expansion of its function space. The meeting room complex will be finished in June, and the exhibit hall in spring 2001.
* The 424-room Four Seasons Las Vegas (a nongaming hotel) opened last year. It is located on floors 35 through 39 of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Tower.
* The $1.2 billion Venetian Casino opened last year. It is the world's largest resort hotel and convention complex under one roof. Meeting facilities include the newly expanded Sands Expo Center, with 1.7 million square feet of function space.
* The 1,700-room Mandalay Bay hotel/casino opened last spring. It has a 12,000-seat arena and 100,000 square feet of convention space.
* The new Bellagio resort, featuring 125,000 square feet of meeting space on the Strip, is already expanding its popular art gallery, which will double in size.
* The 33-story Paris Casino Resort opened in fall 1999.
* Caesars World Inc.'s sale to Park Place Entertainment, a spin-off of Hilton Corp., has been approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission. The $3 billion transaction is the largest in Nevada history. Park Place now runs Caesars Palace, Bally's, Las Vegas Hilton, the Flamingo Hilton, and Paris-Las Vegas.
* The 496-room Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort opened in December, the first of six hotels proposed for the Lake Las Vegas mega-resort community on the outskirts of Las Vegas in Henderson.
* The newly opened 253-room Regent Grand Palms and the 287-room Regent Grand Spa are the centerpieces of a luxurious golf and spa retreat called the Resort at Summerlin in the Las Vegas Valley.
important info Las Vegas Conv.& Visitor Authority * (702) 892-0711; Fax: (702) 892-2824
The Las Vegas Convention Center * (702) 892-0711
* The facility will expand its exhibition and meeting space by 1.3 million square feet with the enlargement of the South Hall, expected to be complete by 2001. The center will then have a total square footage of 3 million square feet.
Total Hotel Tax: 18% downtown; 15% on the Strip
* Old Tucson Studios is an active film location and a Wild West theme park, complete with shoot-outs, song and dance shows, country-and-western bands, and western characters roaming the streets. Groups can arrange banquets, picnics, and special entertainment in indoor and outdoor sites. (520) 883-0100
* The Stardance is an outdoor venue for theme parties andevents for groups of up to 500 people. Located in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, the venue is available for day or evening use. There is a ropes course and an 11,000-square-foot pavilion. (520) 744-4990
* Old Town Artisans in downtown Tucson is a restored adobe marketplace that can be used for group events of up to 175 people. The area features shops and galleries, and a southwestern restaurant, La Cocina. (520) 622-0351.
When the National Health Council decided to move its annual Voluntary Health Leadership Conference from the East Coast, the organization chose Scottsdale. "We liked its central location, which helped boost attendance," says Donna O'Leary, meeting planner, with the NHC, based in Washington, D.C.
The meeting is very learning-intensive, says O'Leary, and the self-contained Gardiners Resort on Camelback (now the Ranch on Camelback Mountain) helped keep the group focused. The only recreational event that NHC offered as part of its program was a morning hot-air balloon ride prior to the opening session. Attendees were free to schedule their own recreation beyond that. O'Leary says, "We liked the quiet of the resort, which suited our educational needs."