Nestled between four mountain ranges, Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona. Its temperate climate, stunning vistas, and year-round outdoor lifestyle make it an ideal meeting and event destination. Likewise, Scottsdale offers unprecedented beauty and amenities aplenty. Just ask Jill Philippe, national account executive for Kuoni Destination Management. The company recently hosted its annual leadership meeting at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, where 50 top executives networked, celebrated the successes of the year, and brainstormed future strategies.
“The event embraced Scottsdale’s southwestern influence with unique designs and a memorable cultural program that blended the Native-American, Mexican, and Western cultures,” Philippe says. “Our attendees had the opportunity to learn and buy from local artisans, including a Native-American sand painter from the Navajo Nation Reservation and a Hopi silversmith/jewelry maker.”
If Mother Nature is a source of inspiration for meetings and events, then look no further than Sanctuary. Terraced high on one of Arizona’s best-known landmarks, Camelback Mountain, the resort features compelling views of Paradise Valley from every vantage point. Offering 9,000-sf of indoor and outdoor meeting and catering space, Sanctuary provides the ideal venue for small groups, business professionals and associations seeking an exceptional attention to detail to ensure a productive, focused and well-orchestrated meeting.
“Spending time outdoors is a lifestyle that is enjoyed all year in Scottsdale,” Philippe says. With over 300 days of sunshine in Arizona each year, meeting professionals can take advantage of the variety of outdoor meeting and event spaces offered at Sanctuary, which includes two lawns and a garden terrace, totaling 5,500 additional sf. Along with the inviting weather, the greater Scottsdale area is home to world-class shopping, museums and professional sports, all just a 20-minute drive from Sanctuary.
Tracy Stuckrath, president and chief connecting officer at thrive! meetings & events, also recently hosted several events in Tucson, including a national franchise conference, an international senior management conference and a national sales/operations meeting.
“Tucson’s natural landscape is not only beautiful, it invites [attendees] to partake in its magnificence through a variety of outdoor activities — hiking, cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, and astronomy.”
“For meeting planners, Tucson is great because it is small, yet also a large vibrant city,” Stuckrath says. “The hotel options give a variety of options to choose from to fit the groups. Downtown Tucson has a lot of great options for dining and the outdoor activities are endless. It affords the opportunity as well to have programs outside after a long day of meetings inside. For attendees, Tucson’s natural landscape is not only beautiful, it invites them to partake in its magnificence through a variety of outdoor activities — hiking, cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, and astronomy.”
And food enthusiasts will revel in Tucson’s many offerings as the city is the first in the U.S. to be designated a City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), making it a true foodie destination.
“We held all of our events on-site,” Stuckrath says. “I did tour the Pima Air & Space Museum, which is a fantastic venue to host an off-property event. The outside facilities at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson also have venues that make it feel you are off-property, but are still on property.”
Located on 100 acres in the Sonoran Desert, the 398-guest room Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson is a warm weather, nature lover’s paradise that offers a little something for everyone. From the resort’s beautiful Window Walk nature trail and quick access to Ventana Trail and Sabino Canyon for hiking to the 80-foot natural waterfall, 36 holes of Tom Fazio golf and award-winning Lakeside Spa, meeting attendees can experience relaxation and adventure all in one place.
Brenda Klink, executive assistant and meeting planner with Broan, orchestrated a national sales meeting for about 120 people at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. “The Tucson area is beautiful, the weather is sunny and amazing. There is great food everywhere and something for everyone — from hiking, to golf, to museums, to craft beers,” Klink says. “And the people are friendly and welcoming everywhere you go.”
Klink found that Loews Ventana Canyon Resort offers a great amount of meeting space with more than adequate space for any kind of event or display. “It also offers unparalleled, and professional support from every staff member,” Klink says. “They work with planners to get to really know their group, needs and expectations. Also, the resort is tucked away in the foothills, but still with plenty of things to do. It’s easy to keep your group together and happy.”
When planning a meeting or event at any resort, meeting planners’ attention is often focused on the type of accommodations available for attendees of all levels — from C-Suite executives to keynote speakers to team members who want to work a little and play a little.
Eight villas at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa are available to VIPs and executives who crave privacy or want to host smaller events and meetings. These multimillion-dollar homes feature exceptional décor, extensive patios, swimming pools and sweeping views of the desert landscape.
Also, Sanctuary’s intimate size reinforces privacy for each meeting group, with close proximity to guest casitas and facilities, including the acclaimed Sanctuary Spa, which offers group wellness programs designed to rejuvenate and inspire. For active groups, a vast infinity-edge pool, tennis compound, hiking and biking trails and fitness center are available along with golf privileges at Phoenix/Scottsdale’s most renowned courses. Sanctuary Spa underwent a top-to-bottom renovation and expansion in April 2018, introducing a fresh new look throughout and a brand new feature, the Women’s Quiet Room.
Henry Kartagener, meeting planner and founder of Kartagener Associates Inc., operates a travel trade show, Tour & Travel Exchange, every year in Arizona. He brings together 50 tour operators based in the United States and Canada with 50 suppliers from Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The show alternates between Tucson and Scottsdale.
For Kartagener, Tucson offers great weather and venues that ensure he keeps delegates in-house throughout the show, which maximizes the networking opportunities for all delegates.
“Major destinations offer far too many distractions, which do not allow us to ensure our delegates are interacting with one another throughout the three days of our show,” Kartagener says. “I would be remiss in not pointing out that value for money is a major factor in selecting Tucson. I have shopped the show in no less than 15 other cities and the savings is over 50 percent when comparing in the month of June.”
Keeping distractions at bay is the highlight of Canyon Ranch Tucson, which works with meeting planners to create meetings or incentive programs that inspire participants, encourage innovative thinking, reinvigorate their passion, and lead to increased productivity. Whether a meeting planner is looking for a corporate retreat, incentive or board meeting, Canyon Ranch offers extensive team-building opportunities, lectures that boost attendees’ brainpower and an environment that re-energizes attendees and fosters optimism.
In addition, Canyon Ranch can arrange special classes, events or excursions customized for group, such as a private outing with a Canyon Ranch chef to a local farmer’s market or specialty grocery store for tips on selecting the best fresh ingredients. Then there’s a cooking demo and private lunch featuring the ingredients gathered at the market.
Or perhaps an afternoon with a Canyon Ranch exercise physiologist would appeal to attendees. Each program could be tailored to topics such as “Exercise: The Fountain of Youth” or “Chasing Your Athletic Dreams at Any Age.” In addition, Canyon Ranch recognizes the stressful and demanding role C-Suite executives experience in their roles as company leaders. So the resort developed an Optimal Wellness Program specifically for company leaders, complete with one-on-one consultations, measurable and trackable results, ongoing support and take-home tools, and discounts for executives and their families.
Kartagener recognizes the importance of incorporating some fun and activities into each event he plans. For instance, at a recent trade show Kartagener developed, attendees enjoyed a food tour of Tucson, which Visit Tucson helped organize.
“Our delegates loved it and some who sell tours to Tucson are planning to add that activity to their tour program,” Kartagener says. “One evening at our outdoor dinner we had a few telescopes with an astronomer to explain what our guests were viewing. It was a huge hit!”
Offering a wealth of entertainment amenities is the cornerstone of Scottsdale’s Talking Stick Resort’s success. In addition to offering more than 100,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space, Talking Stick Resort boasts six restaurants ranging from quick bites to fine dining, 11 bars and lounges, two retail outlets, a concert showroom, a cultural art display, resort pools and cabanas, and an award-winning casino.
Likewise, El Conquistador Tucson spans 80 acres and boasts award-winning amenities ideal for groups of all sizes. Some of the celebrated amenities include the resort’s own horse stables, a mini-Western village ideal for BBQ-centered team-building events, Native-American flute players, and three pristine golf courses. In addition, meeting planners can host a cocktail soiree at the resort’s sunset point, which showcases stunning mountain landscapes and painted sunsets.
Kartagener stresses the importance of meeting planners partnering with Visit Tucson or other tourism boards in the planning process of a meeting or event. “They are a wealth of knowledge and eager to work with any meeting or event planner,” Kartagener says. “In my 40+ years in tourism, Visit Tucson is without question the most helpful and pro-active CVB I have encountered.”
Stuckrath also recommends meeting planners work with Visit Tucson. “They were a great partner in searching for the venues,” Stuckrath says. “Make sure you check the airlift for your group. Tucson does have direct flights from a lot of major airports, but not all. That being said, I think it is worth the trip.”
Tucson is undergoing a wealth of development and exciting changes, all of which is sure to delight both meeting planners and attendees. In downtown Tucson, the number of locally owned small businesses at the Mercado San Agustin (MSA) food and retail complex has doubled. These 13 new shops and eateries are housed permanently inside converted shipping containers, next to a new 500-seat outdoor festival venue for public events.
Tucson’s all-new City Park is expected to open by fall 2019 on Congress Street in downtown Tucson. This multiuse complex currently under development will house a food hall, two restaurants, an entertainment venue with a bowling alley and a pinball arcade, a bar, a private event space, and connecting ground-floor patios. The top level of the five-story structure will offer a 2,600-sf rooftop deck for events such as concerts or conferences.
In March 2018 Tucson celebrated the completion of the Loop, a 131-mile system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of buffered multiuse bike lanes that spans the metro area, allowing cyclists, pedestrians, joggers and equestrians an opportunity to enjoy the scenic Sonoran Desert on vehicle-free pathways. The Loop connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, hotels and motels, and shopping and entertainment areas.
In the world of corporate and incentive travel, timing is everything. That’s why meeting planners should pay attention to the unique events happening in and around Tucson to make the most of attendees’ experience in this beautiful locale.
For instance, the Tucson Jazz Festival is the only major jazz festival in January in the country. It presents 10 days of live music featuring legends and emerging talents of all jazz genres — from straight-ahead to contemporary — at outdoor and indoor downtown venues such as the Fox Tucson Theatre and Rialto Theatre. There is also the free Downtown Jazz Fiesta presented on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Tucson Desert Song Festival fills concert halls in February with singing in orchestral, chamber, choral and solo formats. Performers include internationally celebrated soloists and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (Arizona’s oldest continuing professional performing arts organization, formed in 1929), Tucson Chamber Artists, UA Presents, Arizona Opera and others, in conjunction with master classes and lectures at University of Arizona School of Music.
Tucson’s Rodeo Parade salutes Tucson’s Old West spirit every February. The Tucson Rodeo is the first major outdoor event on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association schedule and the parade is the largest non-motorized parade in the country. This event dates to 1925, when local ranch hands saddled their horses and hitched up their buggies for the annual “celebration of the cowboys.”
The Agave Heritage Festival is an annual weeklong fiesta on or near May 5 in Tucson for people 21 and older that celebrates the art, science and cultural traditions behind the production of agave-based spirits. The fiesta extols the indigenous agave plant with a tradeshow, seminars, and tastings of tequilas, mezcals, sotols and bacanoras at Hotel Congress and several other downtown Tucson venues. The full week allows for strong influences, such as guest speakers and cocktail-making demonstrations, from both sides of the United States-Mexico border.
Wine aficionados within a group of attendees in Scottsdale will be drawn to the city’s newest farm-to-table concept. Recently Scottsdale introduced five Arizona wine tasting rooms in Downtown Scottsdale. Each tasting room tells the story of the region’s 100 award-winning wineries. Called the Scottsdale Wine Trail, visitors from around the globe purchase a “passport” and receive reduced-cost wine tasting experiences.C&IT