Arizona’s vast open spaces, endless sunshine and spectacular natural wonders attract business and leisure travelers alike to this year-round destination in the American Southwest. Add world-class resorts, unique art and cultural explorations, plus a vibrant culinary scene, and the stage is set for creating exceptional events that inspire and elevate the meeting experience.
“With many of our resorts tucked in the foothills that surround the city,” says Cindy Aguilar, director of communications for Visit Tucson, “it is easy for groups to go from the ballroom to outdoor activities, such as biking or hiking at Saguaro National Park or exploring our various attractions.”
In fact, having a destination that offers such a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor spaces was top of mind for HPN Global’s recent client that was seeking a site for their annual meeting. “The property [Loews Ventana Canyon Resort] was chosen as the client was looking for a high-end resort and one that was close to bike trails for their demos,” says Teresa Bacal, vice president, global accounts for HPN Global. “They were also looking for a hotel that would give them a lot of flexibility in how they used and branded their event space.”
Bacal cites the special touches that enhanced the attendee experience. “The hotel allowed us to brand a couple of public areas during our stay, which was very important to the client,” she says. “They were very flexible with the client requests and last-minute changes. The client turned an outside reception area into an immersive shopping experience, which many hotels would not have allowed.”
Bacal’s group enjoyed the property’s Lakeside Spa + Fitness Center and four lighted tennis courts during their stay. The resort also offers two Tom Fazio-designed, championship 18-hole golf courses.
Overall, the attendees’ reaction to their stay at Loews Ventana Canyon was “very positive,” Bacal says. “They enjoyed the hotel and how it felt very intimate. They enjoyed the outside space and took advantage of the walking trails around the property. Being able to have the product gallery and the shopping experience outside was a big hit and kept the attendees from spending most of their time inside.”
While citing the challenge of added travel time for those meeting-goers requiring connecting flights, Bacal gives high praise to Tucson as a meeting destination. “Tucson has plenty of great restaurants and outside activities, and the Loews Ventana was a fabulous property. The hotel staff were a pleasure to work with and went out of their way to accommodate all our event needs.”
Bacal also encourages planners to support “plenty of local small businesses that offer unique gifts and experiences for group attendees,” and to take advantage of Visit Tucson’s expert services. “They are there to answer any questions you have about Tucson and can assist in setting up a site visit, sourcing hotels and can recommend local restaurants and vendors based on your group’s needs,” she says. “Visit Tucson was extremely helpful to our group both prior to and during our event.”
In addition to Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson offers a number of upscale properties for memorable meeting events. Aguilar cites the luxury Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa’s recent multimillion-dollar transformation as but one new development in the works. The renovations feature newly imagined refreshed spaces throughout the property, from lobby, lounge and restaurants, to meeting spaces, the Mokara spa & fitness center, and 51 new casitas and haciendas for a total of 130 guest accommodations. In addition, two new meeting rooms will enhance the event experience, providing more than 25,000 sf of versatile indoor-outdoor meeting space in unique venues.
Host to the annual Cologuard Classic, an official PGA TOUR Champions event, Omni’s award-winning Catalina Course is surrounded by eight sparking lakes and tree-lined fairways with an 18th hole viewed among pros as one of the most challenging finishing holes on the PGA TOUR. Its Sonoran Desert Golf Course has also met with enthusiastic reviews from golf aficionados. Golf instruction and group packages are available.
Also on the Tucson horizon, two new boutique hotels are slated for upcoming openings: the 145-room Leo Kent, a Marriott Tribute portfolio property spanning nine of Tucson’s tallest downtown skyscraper’s 23 floors, conveniently located in the heart of downtown steps away from the light rail, and The Eddy Hotel Tucson, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, located just minutes from Midtown.
Kelli Blubaum, CMP, vice president of sales & services for Experience Scottsdale, says the biggest draw of the destination is accessibility.
After three successful years producing a client event, Opal Group returned for a fourth time to the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, says senior meeting planner Joanna Puchalski. “It is a beautiful property with great meeting space and has Camelback Mountain as the backdrop. We’ve been hosting this event in Arizona since 2000 and in Scottsdale since 2003. Arizona, and Scottsdale in particular, is an amazing location in January, when it is cold in most of the country. Every attendee looks forward to kicking off the year here.”
Even more, Puchalski says, “The service level has exceeded my expectations.”
A total of 102,000 sf of event spaces includes everything ranging from 16 meeting rooms to the 9,216-sf Alhambra Ballroom, a 2,548-sf arrival foyer and more. For Puchalski’s group, “The banquet food was spectacular. We did a buffet lunch outside and our team received so many compliments on the lunch choice of an Italian buffet.” She gives a personal shoutout to the culinary team: “Thank you, chef, for making us look good. And the cookies for the p.m. break — probably some of the best hotel cookies I’ve ever had.”
Puchalski acknowledges that Arizona is hot in the summer months, but when planners are on a budget, this is when there are value dates, she says, advising planners to “Always contact your CVB representative to coordinate group visits. Scottsdale is an ever-changing city, and Experience Scottsdale will always know what’s new and can tailor your experience to your group,” she says. “Whether it is golf or a cultural experience, Scottsdale is lucky to have a vibrant Native American community and I am grateful I was able experience it.”
Puchalski notes that Omni Montelucia will undergo renovation of the resort’s meeting spaces and guest rooms starting soon. “I saw a preview of the guest rooms and some swatches for the meeting space. I cannot wait to see it in person next year,” she says.
The resort offers 160,000 sf of total indoor-outdoor meeting space, which includes three ballrooms, 24 meeting rooms, four boardrooms and the historic Jokake Inn, together with comprehensive meeting services complemented by executive meeting specialists.
One of the area’s most anticipated openings later this year is the ultra-luxe Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley, The Palmeraie, which will be the centerpiece of the $2 billion community, and offers more than 60 luxury and speciality boutiques and numerous dining outlets. The resort features 215 hotel rooms with private entrances, detached casitas, bungalows and oversized suites, a 16,000-sf spa, and in a first for The Ritz-Carlton brand, the resort and all 81 residential villas will have ionized air throughout with guest and visitor safety top of mind. The property’s 20,000 sf of event space includes two large ballrooms and several meeting rooms designed to showcase natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows.
For off-site family-friendly activities and event venues, Scottsdale boasts a plethora of fun options, such as sunrise hot air balloon rides with Rainbow Ryders; an entertainment complex at Arizona Boardwalk; 35,000 acres of pristine, protected desert beauty at McDowell Sonoran Preserve for hiking and mountain biking; Desert Botanical Garden, featuring an outstanding collection of desert flora; Taliesin West, the former home and studio of acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Scottsdale National Historic Landmark; and several art museums, such as the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Western Spirit. I&FMM