Tucson’s Downtown Hotel Boom Is A New Oasis for Meetings
A downtown boom adds to Tucson’s rich culture and natural landscape. Pair that with its legacy of stunning and spacious resort properties and Tucson is ideal for all types of meetings.
The renowned saguaro cacti reach for the sky, standing up to 60-feet high in the Arizona desert. A mere 2-inches tall when they are 10 years old, the plants that live up to 250 years are testament to the region’s regenerative and nurturing properties.
Like its most famous flora, Tucson shines brightly in the more than 300 days of sun it enjoys per year. A mix of natural beauty and modern-day amenities, planners will reap the praise for sending groups to a destination with such a feast of opportunities and experiences.
Tucson stands ready to emerge as the go-to destination for events as the world anxiously awaits a chance to fully re-open. Many of the current demands and expectations—vast outdoor spaces, wellness-minded venues, unrivaled cuisine, etc.—have been a part of Tucson’s daily life for years, or more accurately, decades. They don’t have to retrofit anything. Instead, they’ve added. They now have a thriving revitalized downtown with 800 new hotel rooms near the convention center that’s become a business hub for all kinds of meetings.
Home to a glorious national park that borders the city on two sides, including the saguaro’s namesake sanctuary, this desert city has built upon what Mother Nature provides. Many of Tucson’s traditional meeting spaces include stunning outdoor or flexible indoor-outdoor spaces to get a breath of fresh air, a new perspective and a change of scenery. Doesn’t that sound good after the past year?
No less than Forbes lists Tucson among the top 10 best positioned to recover from the pandemic. The staff at Visit Tucson, its hospitality partners and the community at-large are here to spread its healing qualities to visiting groups.
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Big Upside Downtown
It’s never a good idea to stare at the sun too long. Tucson’s deserts and resorts are impressive, but only one of the many ways to congregate. Indeed, downtown Tucson is a vibrant hub with myriad properties and new options available for medical conferences, business gatherings, board meetings, government training seminars and other events.
Tucson Convention Center, complete with 250,000 square feet of meeting space, has received $45 million worth of upgrades. Matching that is a plethora of lodging options adding 800 new rooms:
DoubleTree by Hilton is scheduled to open at the center’s south parking lot in February 2021. The 170-hotel is six stories and has direct access to the convention center.
The dual-branded Home2Suites/Hampton Inn is adding 200 combined rooms minutes from the convention center in July 2021.
Graduate Tucson, a boutique 165-room property ideal for retreats and small meetings, opened in October 2020 is adjacent to the University of Arizona.
The Tuxon, a 112-room hotel near Sentinel Peak, is the state’s first property to be part of Marriott’s Design Hotels brand. Its scenic décor is almost as breathtaking as Tucson’s natural landmarks.
Many meetings, conventions and trade shows are going to start with Tucson Convention Center—for good reason. But gatherings don’t and should not end there. Why waste all that sun?
With a greater emphasis being placed on outdoor venues, Tucson provides the ideal climate to groups warming to a return to in-person events.
Saguaro National Park practically begs for a visit, as it is accessible on the eastern and western sides of the city. Planners can schedule a walking meeting or offer pre- or post-meeting excursions to allow attendees to marvel at cacti that tower over people. Considering some of the namesake cacti live for centuries, what better setting to encourage groups to make a lasting impact than this backdrop?
If a planner wants to make a day of it near the Saguaro, he or she can utilize the nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This venue is popular with weddings, and the same reasons couples say “I do” to the facility is why planners will fall in love with it. The museum has a conference center with a theater that can hold 265. There’s also the stunning Green Room with floor-to-ceiling glass view views of the Tucson Mountains and desert landscape. It holds 220 for an indoor/outdoor seated dinner and 300 for an indoor/outdoor standing reception. Outdoor plazas, terraces, gardens and even an on-site aquarium all provide additional spaces throughout the property to get creative with your meeting or event plans and learn more about this remarkable desert from educators on property.
Also worthwhile if you want to keep receptions and gatherings outdoors, is the one-of-a-kind MSA Annex at Mercado San Agustin in Menlo Park. A hip retail and dining village made of modified shipping container boxes, it’s one of the most unique spots for special events in Tucson. Tucson-based architect Paul Weiner designed MSA Annex so that the containers can be rented out by small businesses (many are women- and minority-owned) that attendees can shop and peruse with a large courtyard for gatherings and a band shell for live music or speeches for opening or closing receptions.
Planners could stage events for years at Tanque Verde Ranch and not duplicate the agenda. Schedule a least one day at this dude ranch in the Rincon Mountains between both national parks. The meeting spaces are impressive, but the teambuilding activities can hardly be matched. Attendees can saddle up for a breakfast trail ride or to herd cattle. Jeep rallies, dancing lessons, margarita/salsa making classes, stargazing and fishing are among the other options. Large groups will enjoy a campfire BBQ cookout, a Wild, Wild West show or casino night.
The surrounding mountains make Tucson Botanical Gardens a bit of a secret gem. If a trip to the desert isn’t possible, the gardens are the next-best thing with its dazzling array of cacti and wildflowers, to say nothing of the butterfly and coyote exhibits. The 5.5-acre site is 15 minutes from the convention center, making it an ideal location for an off-site reception that can be held indoor or alfresco.
With so many natural draws outside, wellness isn’t a new phenomenon in Tucson. It is built into the community’s DNA, which then translates to its offerings for visitors. Walking, hiking, biking and more are part of everyday life for citizens, just as its custom for chefs to create culinary masterpieces from ingredients unique to the region—no wonder Tucson is a UNESCO city of gastronomy.
Recognizing Tucson’s way of life matched its brand, Miraval launched its flagship location here in 1995. A stay in this resort and spa is centered on finding balance. The venue cuts through modern trends to the essence of wellness. Teambuilding activities include crossing a desert tightrope and a journey into the importance of bees. Wellness-centric events can make their base at the resort. Larger conferences can visit the property to provide attendees inspiration for ways to take care of themselves.
Canyon Ranch Tucson is an all-exclusive resort that regularly hosts corporate retreats, incentives, teambuilding, executive training and other exclusive small meetings. Staff customizes experiences, highlighting stress reduction techniques, cooking classes, yoga exercises and more. The 80,000-sq.-ft. spa and fitness complex, and indoor and outdoor pools, ropes course and golf opportunities make this is true desert oasis.
Also of note: Loews Ventana Canyon has 18 exercise stations on a 1.1-mile path along its golf course; Omni Tucson National Resort is a renowned golf destination; Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa has five swimming pools, a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, five restaurants and a tennis and health center; and, not to be outdone, El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort provides a “Window to Wellness” program highlighting Tucson’s culture and brilliant natural surroundings. By the numbers, JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa is looking good as well. To go along with its 88,000 square feet of event space, the property boasts a 27-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, award-winning Hashani Spa and complimentary guided hikes and mountain biking for all guests. Westward Look Wyndham Tucson is known for its Sonoran Spa, as well as arranging for attendees to explore the Sonoran Desert on horseback.
Tucson Makes It Worth It
As if the desert surroundings and new meeting facilities are not worth a trip to Tucson, the CVB has installed several incentives for planners to bring their meeting here.
Visit Tucson is known for its master account credit program. Tiered financial incentives are available from any gathering of 25-50 people to more than 200 attendees.
In partnership with Tucson Convention Center, the CVB has also launched its Destination Downtown Meeting Incentive for events booked by 2022 and held by 2023.
And knowing there is no better way to experience Tucson than in-person, Visit Tucson offer the “You Fly, We Buy” program in which the CVB pays for airfare, transportation and accommodations for a customized site visit.
Business and meetings are about to come back, and Tucson is going to be a bright spot in our nation’s recovery.