From the majestic beauty of the desert to the luxurious championship golf courses dotting the landscape to the rejuvenating resorts aplenty, Arizona is teeming with meeting and event venues that are sure to please.
Just ask Laura Rudzinski, executive director and meeting planner at the National Institute of Pension Administrators (NIPA). Each year, NIPA holds its annual business owner meeting at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa for approximately 110 attendees.
“Sanctuary’s impeccable service is always a standout for planners as well as attendees,” Rudzinski says. “The service begins when you arrive at the resort and are greeted by the ‘oh-so-friendly’ bellhops. By the time you walk to the front desk, the staff knows your name and has your room key ready and waiting.”
“Sanctuary’s impeccable service is always a standout for planners as well as attendees.” Laura Rudzinski
Terraced high on one of Arizona’s best-known landmarks, Camelback Mountain, the resort features compelling views of Paradise Valley and surrounding mountains from every vantage point. Sanctuary Camelback Mountain offers 9,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space, and provides the ideal venue for small groups, business professionals, and associations who seek an exceptional attention to detail to ensure a productive, focused and well-orchestrated meeting.
In addition, meeting planners can build customized events such as an “Iron Chef America”-inspired food battle, aura readings and photography workshops. There is also corporate yoga and Pilates, as well as team-building hikes and other activities.
Of course with over 300 days of sunshine in Arizona each year, meeting professionals will want to use the wealth of outdoor function space at Sanctuary, including two lawns and a garden terrace, totaling 5,500 additional sf. The private upper lawn overlooks Mummy Mountain and the valley below. This space can accommodate up to 80 attendees for a seated event, or 120 for a standing reception or buffet. The larger, lower lawn overlooks the McDowell Mountain Range and accommodates 100 attendees for catering and 200 for receptions and buffets.
In addition, Sanctuary’s Garden Terrace is a secluded venue next to the resort’s infinity-edge pool, the perfect platform from which to admire the mountains, desert, and town of Paradise Valley. Accommodating 60 for banquet seating or 80 for a cocktail reception, this provides private space for casual receptions and outdoor dining. And at Phoenix and Scottsdale’s largest infinity-edge pool, up to 150 guests can savor the Sonoran sunsets during a cocktail reception.
Rudzinski stresses that Sanctuary provides a place for attendees to unwind and escape when their meetings end. Attendees can find a desert oasis featuring beautiful sunsets, a world-class spa, fancy dining at elements restaurant and renovated guest rooms with soaking tubs, fireplaces and more.
Holly Ann Dewing, senior administrative assistant, Management Consulting and Forensic & Valuation Services, Strategy & Operations at Michigan-based financial services firm, Plante Moran, orchestrated last year’s Praxity FLVS Conference — held every other year — at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. This conference brings together similar firms that are members of a Global Alliance — Praxity, specializing in forensic accounting, litigation and valuation services. There were 150 attendees including members and guest speakers.
“I asked if anyone would be opposed to having it here at the The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch and without hesitation, they said, ‘Absolutely not!’” Dewing says.
The reason for such an emphatic response is because The Scottsdale Resort, with 326 guest rooms, offers 80,000 sf of unique meeting experiences that no other Scottsdale resorts or hotels offer. In addition, the resort boasts unique venues called break stations.
“The biggest ‘wow’ factor for our attendees was the fabulous ‘break room’ That was just the icing on the cake,” Dewing says. So what makes this so special? The resort is the only hotel or resort in Scottsdale that offers a Complete Meeting Package (CMP) and a Modified Meeting Package (MMP). Included in these packages are break stations, which are basically full-service coffee break rooms centrally located to all the meeting spaces. Groups purchase a CMP or MMP and the attendees have unlimited access to these break stations. The resort rotates the food and beverage offerings throughout the day, starting with breakfast options. This offering eliminates menu planning and simplifies the meeting planner’s tasks. Also, groups don’t have interruptions to their general session or breakouts with banquet staff rolling in and out of the meeting rooms or coffee breaks.
For Dewing, the pre-convention meetings are always a plus for her to tighten any loose ends and meet the person with whom the group will be working.
“The staff shows exemplary customer service — making you feel like the world revolves around you during the time that you are there,” Dewing says. “They are eager to please and not too far away when you do need something. They are extremely attentive and always make sure you have exactly what you need.”
In addition to the break rooms, what truly stands out at The Scottsdale Resort is the food quality, amount of meeting space, the architecture of the space, and, of course the quality of the staff. The resort has more than 15 team members who have been there for more than 20 years, and two team members recently celebrated their 40th year with the resort. Many of the remaining staff have been with the resort for 10-plus years. Imagine being a repeat group every year or every three years and returning to see the same staff who made your meeting successful and they remember you by name, your favorite food, coffee or cocktail. This happens often and the resort team loves it.
Unlike many resorts, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess welcomes the opportunity to host full buyouts of the entire facility or an individual restaurant or pool, giving groups a wide array of options. The fact that the resort has five restaurants and six pools enables the resort to dedicate them to private events.
Tamra Brown, meeting planner at i4cp in Seattle, Washington, says her company has orchestrated its annual human resource member conference for the past 10 years at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This conference includes 500 attendees, including senior executives from Fortune 500 companies.
“We have multiple pre-conference breakout sessions with a 2 1/2-day general session, including social events each day,” Brown says. “This is a beautiful property — if you are going for a business trip, at least you are at a lovely, relaxing location.”
Indeed, meeting attendee and planner surveys consistently highlight that Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has an exceptionally engaged staff with an unusual spirit of service and proactive professionalism. They frequently mention the ‘heart’ the Fairmont team puts into helping them achieve their meeting goals. From a guest relations manager who stayed with an attendee in the hospital after a medical emergency, to a banquet server who noticed an attendee had a bad cough then stopped by the pharmacy for cough drops and syrup for the guest between breakfast and dinner as a gift, the stories of Fairmont’s staff’s personal engagement with group guests are innumerable.
“The friendly, helpful, caring, fun, courteous staff at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess makes it like coming home every year,” Brown says.
Another favorite Arizona locale among meeting planners is The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale. Together, The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician — the property’s AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star boutique hotel on the resort grounds — are able to accommodate meetings of all sizes and needs.
The groups gracing The Phoenician’s environs range from the highest-end small board meetings to large conferences and trade shows of 800-plus attendees. With three ballrooms and 27 breakout rooms, along with beautiful outdoor patios, lawns and themed event areas, The Phoenician offers approximately 160,000 sf of indoor/outdoor space. Combined with the resort’s breathtaking setting at the base of Camelback Mountain, the property is able to host signature events designed to exceed each group’s expectations year after year.
And to make the attendee experience that much better, The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites recently completed an extensive three-year transformation — the largest in the resort’s 31-year history. Virtually every part of the resort was refreshed, with a redesigned main lobby, lounge, pool area, guest rooms and retail corridor; new restaurants; a premiere, three-story Phoenician Spa; a new, two-story construction, The Phoenician Athletic Club, featuring a 4,600 -sf fitness center with tennis and pickleball courts; and a restructured 18-hole golf course.
The Phoenician prides itself on providing groups and their attendees with a personalized, hand-crafted experience — no matter what size of program — indicative of the venue’s AAA Five Diamond standards. The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites also offers great convenience, located just 9 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and 1 mile from the restaurants, nightlife, galleries and shops of Old Town Scottsdale.
Another venue, The Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, offers the perfect setting for business gatherings, weddings, conferences, special events, travel and romantic getaways. The resort is situated in the heart of Scottsdale and the beautifully landscaped grounds create a perfect backdrop for special events of every nature. The resort features more than 27,000 sf of flexible meeting space, as well as 75,000 sf of outdoor space and several unique private dining spaces on which to stage events of practically every size and variety, all inspired by the Andalusian region of Spain.
Arizona’s diverse agriculture is a major area of focus for the resort, specifically with the Desert to Dish Culinary Series. Omni partners with passionate farmers, winemakers and local purveyors to supply guests with the freshest ingredients year-round, and each month the resort hosts a themed Chef’s Kitchen Dinner, held in the Chef’s Kitchen dining space. The philosophy behind the culinary practices is simple: find the best quality, seasonal ingredients and prepare each dish with passion and artistry, all with an appropriate infusion of worldly elements. The culinary team at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa often takes inspiration from local Arizona and constantly innovates the dining options for meetings and groups.
When hosting a meeting at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, attendees can ‘visit’ Europe. The resort, at the base of Camelback Mountain, models an Andalusian village. The Spanish region lends a soulful and distinct flavor to the colors, architecture and décor of the resort and spa, with the Alhambra Walkway modeled after the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. The beautiful arrival dome of Joya Spa and more than 170 antiquities, including 16th century hand-carved antique doors, are sourced from Andalusia.
Another Scottsdale meeting and event gem is Talking Stick Resort. This Four Diamond property features more than 100,000 sf of flexible meeting space, ideal for full-scale trade shows to intimate board meetings. The hotel conference center’s 12 meeting rooms can be configured into several setups fulfilling every aspect of a meeting — creating highly productive settings. Both indoor and outdoor meeting venues at the resort provide a beautiful backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, all while boasting award-winning catering, an award-winning spa, championship golf and live entertainment in the 650-seat Showroom, an ideal locale for large gatherings and keynote speakers; Degree 270; Players Sports Bar; and Shadows, an elegant martini and cigar bar. The Tower Club Lounge, located on the highest guest accommodations floor, is the ideal gathering space, boasting sleek décor plus floor-to-ceiling windows allow visitors to take in the views of the surrounding mountains. For meeting planners looking for a variety of meeting options, Talking Stick Resort includes a Salt River Grand Ballroom, which accommodates 2,000 attendees.
Wrapping up Scottsdale’s offerings, Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Curio Collection by Hilton, was designed to blend beautifully into its Sonoran Desert surroundings. It offers 50,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event spaces, two award-winning golf courses, 33,000 sf of spa and fitness facilities and five eateries offering everything from Southwestern to American cuisine.
The 1,300 acres of desert and rock formations surrounding the resort offer many opportunities for outdoor activities without leaving the property.
Imagine meeting attendees gathering at dusk after an entire day of meetings, to be serenaded by a Native American flute player delighting all with the soothing sounds of indigenous music. Meetings and events at El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort, go far beyond the boardroom or the ballroom. Named a 2018 ‘Best Experiential Hotel’ by Hotel Interactive Lodging Industry Elite Awards and the only resort in Arizona to achieve the AAA Four Diamond designation for 36 years straight, the resort understands how to engage attendees and embrace the local culture.
The resort offers 428 recently remodeled guest rooms and suites teeming in luxury and comfort. Uniquely Southwest, El Conquistador Tucson offers more than 100,000 sf of indoor and outdoor function space. Conduct meetings around a fire pit or alongside the chef’s herb garden.
The resort features two 12,000-sf ballrooms for maximum flexibility and an IACC Conference facility with amazing views. Last Territory Western venue — an on-site location that provides a taste of the Old West — is an indoor and outdoor venue with picnic tables, string lighting, fire pits, built-in outdoor barbecue, space for a band and/or dancing, indoor bar and more. Guests feel like they’ve gone off property, but without the hassle and expense of transportation.
Spanning 50 acres, El Conquistador also features amenities such as the Linda Vista hiking trail, tennis, golf, five pools, and activities such as bird-watching, photography, biking, guided hikes and fitness classes. What’s more, for nature lovers, Catalina State Park is five minutes from the resort’s door and is the perfect way to get acquainted with the different types of flora and fauna. Horseback trail riding is another distinctive way to see and experience the setting, and allows attendees to unleash their inner cowboy.
Also, a new $3.1 million spa is being built on-site that will really enhance El Conquistador’s current offerings and add value to each and every meeting experience, whether for the participants or their accompanying guests and family. It is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year.
For the ultimate interactive experience, the resort staff can arrange scavenger hunts, team-building activities, and have groups work with the culinary team for sangria and salsa challenges and chef demonstrations.
Also in Tucson, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa presents spectacular views of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Sonoran Desert. The AAA Four-Diamond hotel offers 92,355 sf of indoor and outdoor event space, five outdoor pools with cabanas, golf at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and soothing massages at the 9,300-sf Mynd Spa & Salon. The resort, 16 miles from Tucson International Airport (TUS), also offers seven eateries, including: AZuL Restaurant, offering Southwestern fare; Sabino’s Pool Bar & Grill, offering sandwiches; Contigo Latin Kitchen, offering Latin American meals; and AZul Lounge.
Its largest rooms are the Arizona Ballroom, at 17,479 sf, which can accommodate up to 2,100 attendees reception-style, and the Grand Pavilion, which at 13,448 sf, can accommodate up to 1,200 attendees theater- or reception-style.
Another top-notch venue in Tucson, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, also sits against the Santa Catalina Mountains. It was named by USA Today as one of the “10 Best Luxury Hotels in Tucson,” “10 Best Romantic Hotels in Tucson” and “10 Best Family Friendly Hotels in Tucson” from 2014 to 2019.
In addition to its 398 guest rooms — which includes 27 suites — it has two heated pools, two award-winning PGA golf courses and the Lakeside Spa.
Culinary choices include Flying V Bar & Grill, Canyon Café, Vista Barista, Bill’s Grill and Cascade Lounge. There is also the Blues, Brews & BBQ Sunday Brunch, where chefs gather poolside and serve food from the grill directly to the plate.
As for meetings and conventions, the resort offers 37,000 sf of indoor function space. The 10,800-sf Kiva Ballroom has a seating capacity of 1,000 attendees, while the Grand Ballroom encompasses 8,875 sf and can seat up to 900. The resort also offers nearly 40,000 sf of outdoor space, which includes the exclusive 22,000-sf Coyote Corral.
The Enchantment Resort in Sedona is teeming with sophisticated Southwestern décor. Offering nine dynamic event spaces conveniently located within the resort’s Meeting Village, Enchantment Resort’s indoor and outdoor venue spaces range from 608 sf to 19,000 sf. The spaces include everything from ballrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows accommodating up to 540 attendees to smaller meeting spaces outfitted with cutting-edge technology and sophisticated Southwestern décor.
The resort’s natural beauty and serenity in the heart of Sedona’s Boynton Canyon, matched with cutting-edge facilities and unparalleled service from an expert on-site team, makes Enchantment Resort a standout choice among meetings and events professionals.
In addition, the resort offers ‘Meetings in Balance,’ which is a new suite of wellness breaks led by the experts at Enchantment Resort’s award-winning spa, Mii amo. A few options to help fuel inspiration and productivity include a group guided meditation, watercolor class, aura photography lecture and beading with intention.
Phoenix is also a popular Arizona destination for meeting planners. Arizona’s capital city has more than 185 hotels and resorts with nearly 28,000 rooms for attendees. Its population of 1.6 million people in the city proper makes it the fifth-largest city in the U.S.
The largest hotel in Phoenix is downtown’s Sheraton Grand Phoenix with 1,000 rooms. The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa has 950 rooms, Arizona Grand Resort & Spa has 744 rooms, Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa has 738 rooms and the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa has 732 rooms.
The Phoenix area offers an array of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and water sports. There are also art exhibitions and festivals, theater, museums, carnivals, wildlife parks, and of course, golf. In short, something for the whims of any and all conference and event attendees. | AC&F |