Tucson Offers Rich History and a Clear Vision of the Future

The destination moves forward while still embracing its multicultural roots

Ventana Canyon

Visit Tucson's tagline -- "Free Yourself" -- is a fitting one, according to Graeme Hughes, director of sales for Visit Tucson. "We're proud to be a little out there," he says. "We really embrace the multicultural aspect of our community; the diverse culinary scene; the unique arts; and our Native American, Mexican, Spanish, and Anglo-Western cowboy cultures. We give visitors great access to all of those things -- in an environment where they all harmoniously exist together."

The city is also freeing, in a sense, for meeting planners, thanks to its value and variety. Peter Winters, senior director of global accounts for HelmsBriscoe, has brought several meetings to Tucson's Casino Del Sol Resort for a number of clients. Winters says that Tucson "is more affordable and a better desert 'resort' experience, especially when compared to the market currently in Phoenix and Scottsdale." The Casino Del Sol Resort, in particular, he says, attracts groups because it has a "resort experience without the pricing that typically goes with it."

Northwest of the Casino Del Sol Resort, Tucson's vibrant downtown district is now even easier for meeting attendees to explore thanks to the new Tucson Streetcar, which debuted in July 2014. The streetcar encompasses a four-mile stretch of the downtown area, from the Mercado neighborhood to the Arizona Health Sciences Center. The closest stop near the convention center is located at Church Avenue, about a five-minute walk.

In October 2014, SMG was appointed as the new facility management company of the Tucson Convention Center, which also includes the 8,920-seat Tucson Arena, the 2,289-seat Tucson Music Hall, and the 511-seat Tucson Leo Rich Theater. The arena recently completed an $8.8-million renovation that includes new seats, updated concession stands, and a new sound cluster and video board.

Tucson's hotel properties are also undergoing updates. The 398-room Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, which has been managed by Loews Hotels & Resorts since its opening in December 1984, was recently purchased by Loews from the Estes family, and will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is also embarking on a major multimillion-dollar, multi-phase renovation that will begin with updates to all 40 of its one-bedroom suites, followed by the property's dining areas, pool and Jacuzzi, spa, and expanded Golf House and Golf Academy. The property's common areas were just recently renovated.

Back in August 2013, the 487-room Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa finished a $38-million renovation that included guest-room redesigns, as well as a remodeling of all of the property's 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

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This article appears in the April 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.