Palm Springs, CA: A Desert Oasis, Renewed

To say that the city of Palm Springs, CA, has undergone a renaissance is a bit of an understatement. In the past three years, the city has benefited from more than $200 million in reinvestments to improve its tourism infrastructure and the results have been outstanding, says James Canfield, executive director for the Palm Springs Convention Center & Bureau of Tourism.

“Overall, Palm Springs has really gone through a renaissance over the last two to three years,” Canfield explains. “People have this misconception that Palm Springs is a retirement mecca with a lot of older folks and nothing to do. That’s not the case. It’s a vibrant, exciting, and fun destination.” He adds, “We came off the economic downturn strongly. Everyone stepped up and put programs into place, and the hospitality industry embraced them. We’ve seen double-digit growth in both flight capacity and passenger counts at the airport, and extremely high occupancy levels.”

Part of the reinvestments included a complete renovation and rebranding of the convention center hotel into a Renaissance property. Canfield says that there’s a potential, new 200-room property near the convention center coming online, as well as a massive downtown development slated to open in 2015. That project will include a 190-room Kimpton hotel, and shopping, dining, and entertainment outlets. “It’ll expand our current downtown, Palm Canyon, and open it up to the mountains and to the east toward the convention center,” says Canfield.

The city has also added to its roster of hotels with several new additions in the past year. In October 2013, the former Hotel Zoso was reopened as the 163-room Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. Existing hotels like the Hilton Palm Springs and Riviera Palm Springs have also undergone major renovations. 

Another one of the city’s biggest draws for groups, says Canfield, is that fact that it’s so easy to access and navigate. “We have a beautiful 261,000 square-foot convention center that’s attached to a 410-room Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel, and there are another 2,000 rooms within close proximity of the convention center,” he says. “We’re five minutes from an international airport.  We have an incredible, walkable downtown area with all the dining, shopping, and natural beauty that you could want. This is truly a meeting oasis.”

Meeting groups also benefit from a variety of programs and promotions offered by the convention center and bureau of tourism, says Canfield. For example, citywide groups can utilize the Palm Springs Promise program to welcome their attendees to the city with airport signage, special welcome desks, hotel transportation, banners, and more, as well as a VIP rewards program. 

“Over the last year we’ve seen attendance growing exponentially for a lot of our groups,” says Canfield. “ We just hosted a state association group and their attendance was up 35 percent from last year, with 1,000 more people. We’ve really been bullish.”

The future of meetings in Palm Springs continues to look bright, says Canfield. “The year 2014 is really looking like our breakout year; we’ll be another 15 to 20 percent up over previous years.”
Where To Meet: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
While many visitors to Palm Springs may know about this scenic tramway, which takes you some 8, 516 feet up to the 14,000-acre Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area, they may not know that it also offers a variety of meeting spaces and rooms, each with picturesque views of the surrounding forest. In the winter, you can even take in some snow. During the summer months, groups can also arrange meeting breaks and activities that involve short hikes.

Where to Play: Desert Adventures Eco-Tours
From jeep tours and a GPS Geo-Trek to a Chili Cook Off and Desert Olympics at the Old Mining Camp, Desert Adventures has groups covered with a variety of fun and engaging teambuilding programs that take advantage of Palm Springs’ natural landscapes.

Where to Eat: Spencer’s 
Right at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, this restaurant specializes in new American cuisine with French and Pacific Rim influences. The restaurant is a popular location for weddings as well as private dinner parties thanks to its variety of dining options, including a beautiful outdoor patio, complete with a firepit.