Meeting properties in Arizona already have the advantage of being located in a sunny, scenic environment, but some planners of corporate and incentive meetings are also amazed at the stellar service provided by their staff members.
“Hats off to the amazing hotel and resort staffs in each and every resort and hotel in Arizona,” says Cindy Rosbrook, president and owner of Phoenix-based Conference Solutions, LLC. “The hospitality industry has been taking some very big hits these past couple of years, and we came out smiling and busy as ever, as we always do in this resilient industry. Hospitality people work 24/7 to ensure the best experiences for our corporate meetings and incentives.”
Rosbrook books hotels in Greater Phoenix regularly for groups ranging from 10 to 650 attendees. They include Mountain Shadows Resort Scottsdale, The Scott Resort & Spa, The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, Hotel Valley Ho and The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale.
In Tucson, Rosbrook books The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa. “There are so many unique resorts and hotels,” she says. “Each Arizona experience is different from the others, pending which resort or hotel is selected, and in which area. So, I encourage clients to look around with me at other properties when they are here for their precontracted meeting to obtain ideas for their next meeting or incentive.”
Tucson also was the site for the National Computer Corporation’s (NCC) Annual Reseller Conference in 2018 and 2023, which attracted 110 attendees. Jody Harris, vice president and co-owner of the company— based in Greenville, South Carolina — came across a site selection company, VenueQuest, while she was searching for a location for the 2018 conference and found that Visit Tucson offers a program that enables planners to visit meeting properties in the city. “The reimbursement for planners’ airfare really caught our eye,” she says. And our conference is in March, and we definitely look for pleasant weather. Tucson definitely fit the bill! We decided on a site there for our 2018 conference and then, for the first time, we chose to repeat in Tucson for 2023.”
For both meetings, NCC attendees booked Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa, an 80-acre property with more than 20,000 sf of meeting space, including 16 meeting rooms, 4,312-sf Sonoran Ballroom, 3,626-sf Catalina Ballroom and 3,696-sf Sonoran Rooftop Patio. “I actually brought my extended family to Tucson for a week to share the location and use them to test some outing ideas,” Harris says, adding that, as a result of the trip, a Visit Tucson staff member helped her to plan a Saturday outing for the 2023 attendees. The outing took place at White Stallion Ranch and included a “cowboy breakfast” and jeep rides to explore the property. “The Trail Dust Jeep Tours drivers use humor and interesting stories to weave in a lot of information about all that is unique about the Sonoran Desert and its fauna and flora,” Harris says.
Tucson offers other excellent venues for corporate and incentive meetings and events, including Tucson Convention Center, with more than 200,000 sf of meeting space, including 20,164-sf grand ballroom and three performance facilities.
Other options include JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, with 88,000 sf of meeting space, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa (more than 92,000 sf), El Conquistador, A Hilton Resort (more than 100,000 sf) Loews Ventana Canyon (83,000 sf) and Casino del Sol/Estrella Hotel (almost 20,000 sf).
Just outside of Phoenix, in Litchfield Park, Rosbrook has booked several meetings at The Wigwam, an AAA Four Diamond resort and Historic Hotel. The groups she has brought here have ranged in size from 10 to more than 650 attendees and have stayed in some of the property’s 331 spacious casitas and utilized the 100,000 sf of meeting space, which includes 30,000 sf of indoor space, 15,000 sf of prefunction space and 55,000 sf of outdoor space, including 10 gardens and lawns.
Rosbrook has not only planned events at the Wigwam, but participated in one as an attendee at a corporate gathering. “The hotel was able to not only handle 2,000 people for elaborate dinner stations and cocktail parties, but pulled it off stunningly and without a hitch,” she says. “It was one of the absolute best and most memorable holiday parties in 14 years that we had attended.”
Phoenix Convention Center features nearly 1 million sf of meeting and exhibit space, including a 312,500-sf main exhibit hall and 99 meeting rooms. The 1,003-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown is the anchor property to the convention center and offers more than 100,000 sf of meeting space.
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort has 255,000 sf, Renaissance Phoenix Downtown provides 51,000 sf and Hyatt Regency Phoenix offers 50,000 sf.
Another premier hotel is Talking Stick Resort, located in Scottsdale. It features 113,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Julie Solomon, chief marketing officer for CCS Presentation Systems — a provider of audiovisual products and equipment based in Scottsdale — brought 350 attendees to the resort for the CCS National Sales Summit a few years ago. She says, “We had a short list of properties, and decided to stay in Scottsdale rather than venture out to another local city. Talking Stick is always a favorite destination for out-of-town guests.”
She says the meeting went smoothly. “Talking Stick had an amazing events coordinator who understood our program and went above and beyond to make sure our complicated event ran smoothly,” Solomon says.
She adds that Talking Stick’s 240,000-sf Casino Arizona is also a major attraction for groups. It contains 1,400 multidimensional slot machines, as well as a high-stakes area for added excitement. The wide array of table games includes tables of blackjack and three-card poker. Casino Arizona also is home to the largest poker room in the state, with 50 tables running Texas Hold ’Em, Omaha and seven-card stud.
Solomon has also brought CCS Presentation Systems groups to JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. She planned the CCS Southwest Presidents Club incentive event for 35 attendees, as well as the CCS annual Holiday Brunch/Golf Invitational for 150 participants. “Camelback had a great staff that worked with us on all aspects of the event,” she says. “We utilized restaurant outlets, catering, and golf and spa staff, all on the same weekend. They made it appear seamless.” She says that all winners in the golf invitational received funds on their account that could be used at the Spa at Camelback Inn and for food and beverages.
Recently, the resort was re-imagined during an extensive $12.5 million transformation of its 453 casitas and suites, lobby, restaurants and patios. This renovation inspired Solomon to book the property. “The CVB (Experience Scottsdale) is always an amazing resource for the latest information on the best properties,” she says. “During the pandemic, they switched their in-person tours to a virtual series where they broadcast live from properties around Scottsdale. This is the way I was able to see the newest renovations to the Camelback, and decided that it was my No. 1 choice.”
JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa has more than 132,000 sf of meeting space, divided among 26 rooms, as well as 19,968-sf Arizona Ballroom and 15,048-sf Paradise Ballroom. The 32,000-sf Spa at Camelback Inn includes a pool, saunas, steam baths, whirlpools, a full range of services and 30 treatment rooms. Camelback Golf Club features two 18-hole championship golf courses featuring extraordinary desert landscapes. It also offers professional lessons and luxurious clubhouse amenities.
Some of the other leading resorts for corporate incentive planners in Scottsdale are The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (more than 200,000 sf of meeting space), The Phoenician (160,000 sf), Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (more than 316,000 sf), Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch (75,000 sf) and DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley/Scottsdale (55,000 sf).
Situated just 6 miles south of Scottsdale, Tempe is another favorite meeting destination for corporate and incentive planners. Bonni Scepkowski, chief strategy officer for Stellar Meetings & Events, LLC (based in South Bound Brook, New Jersey), planned a meeting for her group of 100 at Canopy by Hilton Hotel Tempe at the end of last year. “Tempe is a wonderfully cost-effective, yet convenient alternative to Phoenix and Scottsdale,” she says. “There is plenty to do, it’s not too far away from the airport band the cost savings makes it a win.”
She chose Canopy by Hilton Hotel Tempe because it suited the needs of her creative senior meeting planners. “Putting them in a ‘box’ hotel would not have flown,” Scepkowski says. “The Canopy has a lot of room configurations, from general session space to small lounging areas conducive to small conversations.” The 198-room property has more than 5,000 sf of event space, including seven meeting rooms and 1,870-sf Varsity Ballroom. “The meeting team at the Canopy allowed us to mess around with the furniture and helped us to make a fun and less formal space,” Scepkowski says. “Everyone was flexible and enthusiastic about making the meeting an experience. Having a small mountain a few blocks away helped: We did a silent meditation hike with moderated conversations at the start and end.”
She was impressed with the hotel staff. “They are true partners in every sense of the word,” she says. “They did everything they could to ensure the special experience we were looking for. They really know and love their property and were full of ideas to make our event shine.”
Canopy by Hilton Hotel Tempe offers two culinary options. Alter Ego, the signature restaurant, is located on the ground floor. It serves up elevated fusion cuisine made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, as well as craft cocktails. The interior features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, lush greenery, custom wooden shelving, marble countertops and curated pieces from local artists. On the 14th floor, Alibi Rooftop Lounge offers tapas-style light bites and a curated craft cocktail menu. It provides 180-degree, unobstructed panoramic views of the city, chic cabanas, a fire pit and a custom wrap-around bar. Scepkowski says that the chef at the hotel was open to playing with great, off-menu food options for her attendees, and that they particularly enjoyed “signature cocktails, boozy milkshakes and lots of local, healthy food, mixed in with some decadence.”
The attendees were also able to spend plenty of time outdoors, whether it be on the rooftop of the hotel, taking a mountain hike or walking around the city with Visit Tempe staff. With their help, they also were able to contribute to the community. “We found a shelter to donate suitcases full of clothes and other necessities, using the ‘extra suitcase’ plan. Everyone brought an additional old suitcase to leave behind for those in need.”
Scepkowski says that attendee feedback about the gathering was extremely positive. “Holding my meeting at Tempe was a great decision for me and my group,” she says. “It’s a unique and lovely location with plenty to do. Visit Tempe has a creative streak that one rarely sees in a CVB, and is invested in making your meeting a success. I’m certain that the attendees will be bringing their own meetings to Tempe. And the Canopy was a diamond. We were lucky to find great partners in them.”
Among the other corporate and incentive meeting properties in Tempe, one notable addition is the Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU, which recently opened with 36,000 sf of meeting space, a spacious pool deck and expansive views of the ASU campus. Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at the Buttes provides 40,000 sf of meeting space and Tempe Mission Palms has 30,000 sf of meeting space.
In Mesa, just 7 miles east of Tempe, the oft-preferred site for meetings is Mesa Convention Center and Amphitheatre, which has nearly 40,000 sf of meeting space, including an outdoor amphitheater with capacity for about 5,000 people. The adjacent Delta Hotels by Marriott, one of the city’s top meeting hotels, offers 45,212 sf of meeting space. DoubleTree by Hilton Mesa provides more than 23,000 sf and Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West offers 20,880 sf. C&IT