There’s no question that Arizona is a great place for meetings. Whether corporate groups gather in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tucson or another locale, the diverse meeting and incentive hotels and resorts attract professional meeting planners and attendees alike.
Perhaps nowhere else in the country rivals Arizona for its combination of desert and mountain beauty. The state can be a real change of pace, especially for meeting participants from the coasts or the nation’s heartland.
The region’s rich history, combining the early days of Spanish colonization with Arizona’s later place in the mythos of the American West, offers much appeal to visitors. Meeting planners also benefit from access to a number of top-flight destination management companies as well as the information and services offered by the region’s convention and visitor bureaus.
“Arizona is a great destination for meetings,” says Stacy J. Weber, CMP, meeting and event manager at Moss Adams LLP, a Seattle–based business consulting firm. “You have the ease of airlift into Phoenix, the abundance of hotels, resorts and offsite venues, and of course, the great weather.”
For the past three years, Weber has coordinated her firm’s annual leadership meeting at the Royal Palms Resort. She also planned a department-level retreat at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.
“What’s interesting about Arizona is that you always feel a sense of place,” she says. “In some big cities around the country, you almost feel like you could be in any major city, with a few landmarks. But Arizona feels unique and special, and you’re surrounded by the beauty of the desert.”
“I am a huge fan of meeting in Arizona,” says a director for conference planning from an organization in the Washington, DC, area. “You can count on the weather being warm and sunny, which seems to improve the mood of my attendees every time and takes the stress out of planning outside events and travel snafus. There are countless beautiful resorts to choose from and all seem to have world-class golf.”
Among other venues, she has coordinated meetings at two standouts in Tucson — Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.
“Between site selection trips and meetings, I’ve visited Tucson and Phoenix over 20 times, and I always learn something new,” Reilly says. “It’s a beautiful destination, loaded with gorgeous vistas, lovely weather and friendly locals who love sharing their knowledge and passion for the region.”
Assuredly there is a plethora of properties from which to choose: Greater Phoenix alone, which includes Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa among its 20 incorporated cities, offers about 450 hotels and resorts with more than 62,000 guest rooms and an array of meeting spaces, according to Megan Doyle, spokesperson for Visit Phoenix.
Kelli Blubaum, spokesperson for Experience Scottsdale, adds that visitors get a great deal more than they anticipated.
“They’re always surprised by the desert and how lush and beautiful it is,” she says. “It’s never what they expected.” Meeting attendees also tend to be surprised by the variety of resort offerings, from smaller historic hotels to grandiose resorts with expansive meeting facilities.
“Because of the diversity of our resort portfolio, we see a high number of repeat groups who come back year after year for a unique Scottsdale experience,” she says.
One popular factor is the region’s accessibility. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is located just 15 minutes from Scottsdale and within easy driving distance of a variety of meeting destinations, serves more than 43 million passengers a year from more than 80 domestic and 20 international destinations.
With 300-plus days of sunshine annually, Arizona’s weather is especially appealing to planners who can confidently schedule outdoor events. And the unique desert setting adds to the experience, especially for the many attendees who meet in Arizona for the first time.
“We call the Sonoran Desert a blooming desert because of how vibrant the colors of the plants, flowers and cacti can be,” Blubaum says. “It’s also the home of the iconic Saguaro cactus, which you can only find in the Sonoran Desert.”
The favorable weather supports a variety of amenities and activities, says Carmela Lizzo, president and CEO of Camelback Adventures in Scottsdale. With more than 32 years in the hospitality business, Camelback Adventures is one of the leading Destination Management Companies in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. Along with fine dining, shopping and a diverse cultural climate, she recommends the area’s premier golf courses and outdoor adventures such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and rafting.
“There are so many options available, from a dinner in the desert to hot-air ballooning to museum exhibitions of Native American arts, heritage and history,” she says. Lizzo also touts escapades such as jeep rides, hiking and other outings for adventuresome attendees.
“Our cookouts are particularly well received, as many attendees are amazed by the gorgeous sunsets, the towering cactus and the amazing views,” Lizzo says. “It’s an experience that is completely unique to Arizona and often, the highlight of their stay in the Southwest.”
Dan Gibson, spokesperson for Visit Tucson, affirms that the weather and desert beauty are prime attractions, but also points out that his city and the state in general have strong appeal to those planning corporate meetings.
“Planners love the culture here, the opportunities to get out of the ballroom and the service our properties and Visit Tucson staff provide,” he says. He points to attractions ranging from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the vibrant downtown, impressive cultural opportunities and creative culinary options.
With so many choices for meetings, several properties are enhancing their appeal with additions or renovations.
At the Phoenician in Scottsdale, a variety of renovations will be completed in public areas this summer. They will include a redesign of the main lobby, pool complex, retail shops and eateries. A full rebuild of the resort’s spa should be completed by the end of the year.
This follows the addition earlier this decade of a 45,000-sf ballroom complex to complement the existing 64,000 sf of indoor meeting space. A 15,000-sf ballroom can be subdivided into seven separate function spaces.
The resort’s grand ballroom has more than 20,000 sf of space, and the main building features 26 breakout rooms sized from 365 sf to 1,037 sf. A multimedia theater accommodates up to 600 meeting attendees and supports both teleconferencing capabilities and a computerized audience interactive response system. All told, more than 80,000 sf of total interior meeting and event space is available.
Also in Scottsdale, The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa offers more than 200,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space including 41 meeting rooms. New developments at the resort include guest room enhancements such as larger flat-screen televisions, bedside charging stations for mobile devices and a guest room door-locking technology that will allow guests to unlock doors with their smartphones, as well as a new indoor/outdoor space ideal for up to 12 participants.
Meeting space includes four ballrooms, with the majority of meeting space situated in a central location across two levels within the resort’s main building. Adjacent to the facilities are two upscale shopping, dining and entertainment centers.
At the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, a multimillion-dollar design refresh is planned for this summer. The upgrade will include all of the property’s 119 guest rooms as well as selected meeting and event spaces. The work follows recent improvements to the resort’s event lawns, pool and lounge area, and landscaping. The latest changes will play on the natural backdrop of desert earth tones and wood architectural elements in supporting the overall character of a majestic estate.
Located on nine acres at the foot of Camelback Mountain, the resort features more than 20,000 sf of meeting space. Convenient to Scottsdale, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the Camelback financial corridor, Royal Palms offers a business setting with a variety of attractions for meeting participants from golf to swimming.
Extensive renovations also have been seen at Tucson’s Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, where a multimillion-dollar remastering of guest rooms, meeting space, lobby, fitness center and spa was completed in 2016.
Along with 398 guest rooms, the resort features 37,000 sf of indoor function space and nearly 40,000 sf of outdoor space. An 8,875-sf ballroom is divisible into seven sections with a 6,689-sf foyer, and a smaller ballroom (3,139 sf) can be divided into three sections. Several smaller rooms also are available, as is another ballroom measuring 10,800 sf and an 8,000-sf outdoor patio.
Facilities include a glass-enclosed, 2,000-sf room with city and mountain views, and five different parlors ranging from 728 sf to 1,008 sf. Offering special appeal to guests are nature and hiking trails that include an 80-foot-tall natural waterfall.
The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria resort in uptown Phoenix, offers more than 200,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event space. The two largest ballrooms recently have been renovated with aesthetic and technical upgrades. They include the 24,576-sf Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom, which is complemented by almost 11,000 sf of prefunction space.
Also available is the 14,904-sf McArthur Ballroom. Featuring an additional 6,400 sf of prefunction space, the facility can be divided into several smaller spaces.
The resort’s conference center features more than 25,000 sf of space with an array of function rooms and venues. Choices range from an 11,000-sf ballroom to small private boardrooms, all served by a fully equipped business center.
Other facilities include rooms serving 400–500 guests, a patio accommodating 300 participants and a terrace suite with room for 50 people.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, situated 8 miles north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, offers 109 guest rooms as well as an upscale setting for business meetings. Facilities include a 3,204-sf ballroom with banquet seating for up to 220 guests, a wraparound terrace, breakout rooms and two boardrooms accommodating from 12 to 20 guests.
In addition, eight private mountainside estates provide change-of-pace venues for social and business gatherings. They include game rooms, private pools, tennis courts and secluded patios.
Outdoor spaces include a patio accommodating up to 200 guests, as well as poolside and terrace options handling up to 150 persons each. And an indoor/outdoor venue dubbed the Praying Monk accommodates 60 guests for dinner or 100 people for a cocktail reception.
At Tucson’s Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, planners can take advantage of 20-plus meeting rooms and three outdoor lawn locations. A 9,000-sf ballroom is supplemented by several 500-sf meeting rooms. Activities for groups include “VolunTeaming” experiences, post-dinner hikes, nighttime golf, geocaching and cooking classes.
An attractive feature is the resort’s relationship with nearby Cayton’s Restaurant, allowing groups to rent the restaurant and its large patio, which can hold nearly 300 people. With a 20-foot-high ceiling and one-ton wrought iron chandelier, copper flume fireplace and circular shape, the Cayton’s Kiva room accommodates groups of 10 to 50 guests, while another section handles 30 to 80 people. Many visitors find the unobstructed and sweeping view toward the west especially memorable.
The Westin La Paloma in Tucson offers 64,000 sf of indoor meeting space along with patios and covered decks for outdoor functions, not to mention golf courses and five swimming pools. Along with 27 meeting spaces, it has 487 guest rooms. The resort accommodates groups as large as 2,000 attendees.
Located 20 minutes from the Phoenix and Scottsdale airports, Talking Stick Resort offers 113,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event venues along with 496 guest rooms. Open-air breakout rooms offer a distinctive experience for meeting attendees, and a grand ballroom accommodates up to 2,000 guests. The resort’s conference center can be configured into as many as 12 meeting rooms. For groups of up to 650, a theater features a large stage, production-quality lighting and theater-style seating with private booths and tables. It’s suitable for both keynote speakers and live entertainment.
The Omni Tucson National Resort has 128 guest rooms and eight meeting rooms with 10,500 sf of event space. A 2,900-sf ballroom divisible into two salons features a terrace with a scenic venue for outdoor receptions, meals or refreshment breaks. Another ballroom has 2,650 sf of space. Several salons are located convenient to the reception area. The resort’s gardens are available for teambuilding programs, fitness/meditation classes and other outdoor activities against the backdrop of the desert and the Santa Catalina mountains.
Some 45 minutes from Tucson International Airport and 13 miles from the Tucson Convention Center, the 428-room Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort handles a variety of corporate events. It offers two 11,000-sf ballrooms as well as a separate 11,000-sf executive conference center, with total meeting space topping 100,000 sf.
The Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia has 293 guest rooms along with more than 27,000 sf of indoor meeting space and 75,000 sf of outdoor space. Conference venues include 14 breakout rooms and two private dining rooms. Indoor space includes two ballrooms and 11 other meeting rooms, while outdoor venues range from 1,000 sf to 32,000 sf. Inspired by Spain’s Andalusia region, the resort offers a Spanish motif complemented by modern luxury accommodations.
At Mountain Shadows, guests have access to 12,500 sf of indoor meeting space and 25,000 sf of outdoor event space accommodating events for up to 500 people. A 4,500-sf ballroom features a wall of retracting glass that opens to an attractive terrace (also 4,500 sf). Meeting rooms are equipped with 75-inch televisions, roll-down projection screens and wall-mounted iPad reader boards. Distinctive attractions include a 10,000-sf putting green and an overlook deck.
The Scottsdale Plaza Resort features 21 meeting rooms and 40,000 sf of event space in a single dedicated area. A 10,080-sf ballroom is supported by a 4,256-sf convention foyer and 58 breakout suites. An executive lodge boardroom and 10 executive lodge suites also are available, as well as a tented pavilion, cypress court and roomy courtyard for outdoor events.
At the Wigwam in Phoenix, 45,000 sf of indoor meeting space includes 25 separate meeting rooms. A 10,800-sf ballroom accommodates up to 500 dinner guests, while another ballroom handles up to 300 attendees. Another facility includes a built-in stage, 15-foot-tall ceilings and an al fresco terrace. The rooms are supplemented by 55,000 sf of outdoor space featuring 10 gardens and event lawns
Tucson’s Casino Del Sol, operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, offers nearly 20,000 sf of meeting space accommodating groups of up to 2,000 people. The 10-story property includes an 18,000-sf ballroom offering a variety of configurations, two smaller meeting rooms and an executive boardroom. Complementing the meeting spaces are Las Vegas-style gaming options such as bingo, slot machines and table games, live entertainment and other activities ranging from golf to swimming.
The 50 meeting rooms at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch offer a total of 60,000 sf of event space. A 10,000-sf board room, divisible into five sections, seats 1,000 guests theater-style. Two other rooms, each measuring 6,084 sf, are divisible into three sections per room and hold 505 people theater-style. Three boardrooms range in size from 300 sf to 700 sf. C&IT
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