What is in the mood for your next off-site affair? Informational? Fun? Productive? Relaxing? With excellent outdoor opportunities, a rich history, exceptional indoor attractions, and millions of square feet of meeting space, Arizona is the place for great meetings and events venues.
Arizona has a splendor and peacefulness all its own. For many meetings and events professionals, executing a memorable gathering — small or large, simple or elaborate — can depend on the venue. Luckily, Arizona offers a plethora of splendid entertaining locales complete with wonderful accoutrements that surprise and delight at every turn.
Scottsdale is situated within the stunning Sonoran Desert, the draw of which starts with accessibility. A short, 10-mile commute from the nearest international airport — Phoenix Sky Harbor — Scottsdale offers all the outdoor recreation options meetings and events attendees could dream of. Luckily, they can easily experience these recreation opportunities as the area touts 300+ days of sunshine each year. Mix in an outstanding array of world-class resorts and cozy modest lodgings to accommodate groups of all sizes and budgets, 200 of the world’s finest golf courses, a plethora of luxurious spas, and a dash of sophisticated cowboy chic, and meeting attendees will be inspired and entertained. It’s all topped off by the untamed beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with wide-open spaces, diverse vegetation and unrivaled sunsets, providing an environment that is nothing short of invigorating for any event.
Meeting planner Mike Ferreira, owner and founder of Meetings Made Easy, says Scottsdale is arguably one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. “It’s due to the airlift, time to and from the airport, various resorts, weather, excursions and cuisine. There’s a resort or hotel for any group or demographic out there,” Ferreira says. “I personally love the destination because of the cuisine, weather and flight time. The Phoenician, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, Mountain Shadows Resort Scottsdale and Hotel Valley Ho are some of my absolute favorite resorts there.”
Ferreira has worked with groups of 10 people up to 450 in Scottsdale at various hotels. “There’s something for everyone, and the service levels always exceed expectations,” Ferreira says. “I personally believe any type of group can consider Scottsdale. The rates, airlift, weather, cuisine and resorts will exceed your expectations. The world is moving so fast these days, and the destination is made for the modern business traveler. [It’s] a home run in my eyes.”
From a savings standpoint, planners can stretch their program budget with group values and room rate discounts during the summer and shoulder seasons. As Kelli Blubaum, CMP, vice president of convention sales & services at Experience Scottsdale explains, customized meeting planner packages can include benefits such as rebates to the master bill, waived room rental fees, food and beverage discounts, and generous complimentary room policies. “Additionally, Experience Scottsdale offers a variety of FAM opportunities each year, along with our Site See & Fly Free promotion, which allows us to pick up airfare expense for qualified planners,” Blubaum says. “This program encourages them to experience a customized site inspection and see firsthand what makes Scottsdale a top meetings destination. We work closely with our clientele to understand their individual needs, and match them with the right businesses and resources in the destination to meet those specific needs.”
The city of Scottsdale has several newly debuted and upcoming resort openings to look forward to, including the following:
While Scottsdale is typically known for its first-rate resorts, spas and golf courses, it is also a wonderland for those who love the outdoors. The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve — untamed, protected desert land spanning 35,500 acres — makes up a third of the city’s land mass. There, travelers can find 225 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking of every level of difficulty, and hundreds of the city’s trademark, statuesque Saguaro cacti. It also takes many visitors by surprise that there’s water in the desert. Attendees can enjoy guided kayak excursion trips to unexpected oases found on the Lower Salt River and Saguaro Lake with the chance to see bald eagles, river otters and wild horses. The wide range of outdoor options, from rugged treks through the desert via mountain bike or ATV to a serene hot-air balloon tour, or horseback ride, make the city an optimal choice for groups who want to experience nature.
For those looking for a less action-packed, but equally as engaging experience, Scottsdale is home to a number of museums and attractions that will leave guests in awe, including UNESCO World Heritage Site and Scottsdale National Historic Landmark, Taliesin West, the former winter home and studio of famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Not only is it a working architecture school and great for an afternoon architecture tour, it is also a breathtaking space for an evening event, in which attendees can stroll through its dramatic terraces and gardens overlooking the beautiful Sonoran Desert at sunset.
As Blubaum explains, Scottsdale is teeming with venue options aplenty. One such venue is Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. Nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, this resort Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is a destination for meetings and events that allows its group clients the opportunity to reach their potential. The meetings and events experience will be enhanced by Montelucia’s famous old-world charm, arching entryways, splashing fountains and meandering walkways. With more than 29,000 sf of total meeting space, Omni Montelucia also offers meeting planners a wide range of venues ranging from the elegant Alhambra Ballroom to showstopping outdoor spaces complemented by breathtaking views of iconic Camelback Mountain. With access to three sparking pools, newly refreshed kitchen and bar at Oasis Pool with private cabanas, the property’s 31,000-sf landmark Joya Spa, and decadent Spanish-Inspired dining, attendees will have everything they need at their fingertips.
Phoenix has outstanding weather, great outdoor venues and spaces, a plethora of signature hotel and resort choices with sophisticated service, and a variety of entertainment and activities throughout the destination. Phoenix is also one of a handful of cities that has a thriving downtown environment for both urban meetings and conventions, along with more than 40 resort choices. “Metro Phoenix is one of the hottest markets in the U.S. for hotel development,” says Ronnie Collins, director of sales at Visit Phoenix. “We currently have several projects in construction, as well as many others in the pipeline.
In addition, Phoenix is a large sports market with all major sports represented. Visitors can catch a game at State Farm Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and the site of Super Bowl LVII in February 2023; the newly named Footprint Center, which is home to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury; and Chase Field, home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Several concert venues, art galleries and live theater options are also in the mix. “With the majestic Sonoran Desert as our backyard, hiking, biking, hot-air ballooning, cookouts and other adventures in the desert are available for every type of traveler and event,” Collins says.
For Leah Johnson, CMP, DES, director of meetings & conventions at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, a few key factors contributed to the association’s selection of Phoenix for a three-day conference consisting of education sessions, keynote speakers and a trade show for dental hygienists. “We had just over 1,000 attendees and exhibitors attend the conference, which is about 60% of our normal numbers. The event was held at the Phoenix Convention Center,” Johnson says. “The factors that helped us select Phoenix were the overall costs at the convention center, which was appealing for our group. In addition, the hotels offered affordable room rates for our attendees, who are very price sensitive. Another factor was the upcoming development in the downtown area, including more restaurants, retail, residential and off-site venue options. The convenient location of the airport, the downtown tram system and the overall walkability in the area also were a plus.”
Johnson says meeting planners should make sure to use the resources that the Visit Phoenix team and the convention center team provide. “They have so much to offer, including the Ambassador program,” Johnson says. “Both partners truly are full service, and genuinely want to make sure you have a successful event. They are your biggest allies.”
Phoenix, and nearby areas such as Tempe, are teeming with hotels and resorts that offer ideal options for meetings and events of all sizes. With convenient accessibility to nearby Phoenix, and as the largest new hotel to debut in Tempe, in nearly four decades, The Westin Tempe features a new signature restaurant and the Valley’s highest open-air rooftop bar and lounge. The full-service hotel boasts 290 spacious guest rooms and suites and approximately 21,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event space. In contrast with its ground-level counterpart, Skysill Rooftop Lounge soars above the city on the hotel’s 18th floor, making it the highest open-air rooftop bar in town. During the day, the venue offers a hip, relaxing escape with its rooftop pool, jacuzzi, daybeds and cabanas, and large video screen overlooking the vast metropolitan Phoenix area. As the sun sets over the mountain horizon, it then transitions to a luxurious lounge where all levels of service and experience are elevated.
Tucson is home to the idyllic El Conquistador Tucson, a Hilton Resort, which offers nearly 45,000 sf of indoor meeting space. Offering two 12,000-sf ballrooms, an executive conference center, as well as spectacular outdoor venues with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, El Conquistador Tucson can accommodate groups both large and small. While the property was last renovated in late 2017, it recently built a new standalone spa, SpaWell, in fall 2020. El Conquistador Tucson offers an array of indoor and outdoor activities to keep attendees refreshed, relaxed and inspired.
For planners looking for expansive options for large-scale events, the Tucson Expo Center is an ideal option. Strategically located near Tucson International Airport, the Tucson Expo Center features 155,000 sf of space ready for meetings, special events and conferences. Located on a 17-acre property with more than 1,000 parking spaces, the Tucson Expo Center features ample renovated exhibit space, which acts as a multipurpose facility that can accommodate a variety of events. With the capacity to hold up to 900 exhibit spaces, the Tucson Expo Center also features ballrooms and halls that offer a range of sizes.
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 and award-winning Lakeside Spa, meeting attendees can experience relaxation and adventure all in one place.
Relaxation and adventure — that sums up Arizona perfectly. | AC&F |