John Huffman, vice president of sales and sourcing for Robbinsville, NJ-based Meeting Alliance wants to let other planners in on a secret: Palm Springs is one of Southern California's best meeting destinations.
"I'm a huge supporter of Palm Springs," Huffman says. "I used to live in California and work in the hotel business there, and became very familiar with it. The weather is always very good and very predictable, and it's both sophisticated and relaxed."
He emphasizes that Palm Springs is "not a cookie-cutter destination" and he considers the area whenever thinking of sending clients to an unusual meeting or incentive option.
Palm Springs is also changing with the times. Huffman notes the popularity of the annual Coachella music festival, which draws thousands of younger visitors to the desert each spring, and newer hotels that cater to the "young or younger."
Part of this evolution is being driven by new properties and major renovations. Last May, a newly reopened and remodeled Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, debuted. Perched atop a 650-foot bluff, the 244-room resort boasts panoramic views of the surrounding area, 16,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, and 15,000 square feet of outdoor event space. Its 25,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa has a total of 15 treatment rooms. Other properties that have undergone recent renovations include Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa, which renovated its Emerald Ballroom in 2014; Hilton Palm Springs, which refreshed its guest rooms and meetings spaces; and Two Bunch Palms Resort, which is adding more guest rooms.
This year, the 210-room Dolce Selene Palms Hotel, which is located just behind the Palm Springs Convention Center, is expected to open with 15,000 square feet of flexible function space, a rooftop terrace, a recording studio, and a screening room. Another property to look forward to in 2016 is the Kimpton Palomar Palm Springs, a 190-room new build with a rooftop bar and pool -- a first for Palm Springs.
In January 2014, Huffman organized a three-night management program for roughly 80 attendees from a medical company. The group stayed at the Miramonte Resort & Spa. "Everything was very successful; the service levels were great, and they loved the location and easy access to/from the airport," he says.
Increased airlift is something very important to the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Our passenger load is up 24 percent for the past 10 years," says Rick Blackburn, vice president of convention sales and services. "Virgin America just added another nonstop flight from New York, and American Airlines is also operating a nonstop flight through the summer."
Like Huffman, Blackburn wants planners to know that Palm Springs offers more than what most expect. "This is a very green, lush oasis; it's not your typical desert. And we offer incredible experiences that are hard to find anywhere else." Blackburn points to BMW's new West Coast driving school, ATV tours of the desert, cycling tours combined with microbreweries, and hiking tours. He also notes that planners can get value out of their meeting budgets by looking at mid-week dates. "If you haven't been here in a long time, there's no better time to see for yourself how much Palm Springs has changed."
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This article appears in the February 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.