Tag Archives: Arizona travel

Starwood to open Westin Phoenix Downtown

Starwood Hotels & Resorts today announced plans to open its first Westin hotel in Phoenix, Arizona in February 2011.

The Westin Phoenix Downtown will offer a prime location just one block from the Phoenix Convention Center, the city’s largest convention and entertainment facility. The 242-room hotel will feature sophisticated oversized guest rooms, averaging 550 square feet, as well as a full suite of the Westin brand’s signature amenities and services.

The Westin Phoenix Downtown will occupy nine floors of the Freeport McMoRan Center, a significant new landmark on the downtown Phoenix skyline. Located at 333 North Central Avenue, the mixed-use complex will also feature 2,100 square feet of ground floor retail, premium office space and indoor parking. Surrounded by a choice of restaurants, shops and nightlife, the new hotel will be across the street from a METRO light rail station, where guests can hop on a train to Sky Harbor International Airport.

Mexico's drug wars, not immigration law, costing Arizona hotels a bundle

The Gadling released a story today entitled “Immigration law costs Arizona hotels a bundle” where the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association believes that tourists have cut back on their visits to the state because of its immigration law.

Their assertion couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s not Arizona’s immigration law that has prospective tourists making other plans.  It’s the violence spilling into the U.S. from Mexico’s drug wars that are to blame.

According  to a Los Angeles Times article, “Mexico Under Seige, more than 28,000 Mexican citizens have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since the start of 2007, shortly after Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug traffickers.  That’s more than the U.S. fatalities in the Iraq war.  There have been 45,000 Mexican troops and  5,000 federal police deployed to 18 states where trafficking groups are fighting local authorities and battling for access to the U.S. market.

Illegal immigration and drug smuggling have always been issues in this border state, but warring Mexican cartels are carrying violence to levels that have shocked law enforcement and government officials.  Arizona State Senator Jonathan Paton told the AFP that “It’s definitely being ramped up beyond anything we’ve ever seen before” and Senator John McCain asserts that this sort of violence is “a threat to our national security.”

Last week Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer filed an appeal to a judge’s ruling in favor of a Department of Justice petition to stop an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed state and local police to request visa papers from individuals stopped for questioning on other matters.

Nearly a dozen states filed a legal brief Friday in support of that law, arguing that the judge erred in ruling that the law interferes with the executive branch’s immigration enforcement priorities.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Arizona Hotel Association's new legislation proposal gets icy reception

If you think that big government has stuck their nose into your business, wait till you see what the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association is proposing.

Arizona hotel operators want families to take an end-of-summer vacation – and, hopefully, fill their empty rooms.

Kristen Jarnigan, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said her industry is weighing legislation that would require all public schools to start their academic year at the same time. More to the point, the law would forbid schools from starting back up before Labor Day.

“It extends the holiday season,” she said. “You get in that Labor Day weekend where everyone does that one last hurrah getaway that pumps millions of dollars of tax revenues into the budget in tourism tax dollars.”

More to the point for her industry, it also would fill empty rooms and the cash registers of resorts, hotels and motels.

Lucy Messing, president of the Tucson Education Association, said Arizona schools used to start after Labor Day. “But we’re about education,” she said. “We certainly should not be run by the hotel lobby.”

District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said a calendar option that would start classes after Labor Day was considered, but was not as popular among parents as the calendar with an earlier start date and a one-week break in October.

Even Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, said the idea makes no sense.

Jarnigan, however, said there are lots of good reasons to consider adjusting the school year.

She said there is evidence that August, when most schools start up now, is at least marginally hotter than June. She cited figures showing the average high in August at 102.4 degrees, versus just 102 degrees for June.

One complicating factor is some schools – like Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts and a number of charter schools – run on a year-round calendar, based at least in part on the educational theory that students lose too much ground when they’ve got too much time between classes.

“They would also need to be included in the discussion,” Jarnigan said, before the Legislature mandates a universal start date.

Terry Locke, spokesman for the Chandler district, said the calendar proposed by the hotel association would be very unpopular in Chandler, where the current modified year-round calendar has a 93 percent approval rating from parents.

Horne said having a uniform, state-mandated start date would overrule such local control. What it also would do, Horne said, is provoke anger.

“You learn from bitter experience not to mess with the calendar committee,” said Horne, who served on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board for 24 years.

“One year we changed it,” Horne recalled of his board. “And we got so much hostility for that, that we learned never to change that again.”

Look for "deals" in Arizona as SB 1070 continues to hurt tourism

The boycott over SB 1070 is costing Arizona hotels and resorts out-of-state visitors, most agreed Tuesday at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, but participants also said that getting many details about cancellations is a problem.

Organizations that cancel meetings or choose not to book future meetings because of the controversy over the new state immigration law don’t want their names used, members of a panel on the problem said.

“People want to know who canceled. They want to put a name to these,” said Brian Johnson, managing director of Loews Ventana Canyon, the resort where the annual tourism conference is being held this week.

But the panelists said disclosing names is not something that can be done in the corporate resort and hotel world. The implication: Resorts’ and hotels’ parent companies might lose their business at properties in other states.

Johnson said it’s “scary” to see what’s happening to tourism statewide. Leads on new businesses are starting to dry up, he said, even as the overall economy starts to recover.

“As we look into the rest of the year, and into 2011, (tourism) seems to be slowing,” said Johnson, who also is a past president of the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association.

“That’s the scary part now. Now no one is talking to us. Avoidance. It’s easier to go to another state. My fear right now is what’s going to be facing us in 2011.”

A consensus at the conference agreed that tourism industry members and elected officials must push a positive message to reverse the downward trend in tourism – and to alleviate concern that the impact might worsen as the overall economy improves.

“Arizona is the same wonderful place it was six months ago,” said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association. “We’re telling people to communicate the facts – that Arizona is a safe and welcoming destination.”

The other part of the message has been that the boycott is hurting the estimated 200,000 Arizona workers and their families who depend on tourism for a living. But that’s the message the association and other tourism groups have been pushing since the boycott began.

Some conference participants placed their hopes in the $250,000 in state funds allocated to start an official national campaign to counter negative publicity.

One of the plans presented would have industry association officials and resort and hotel management people making media appearances throughout the country to push Arizona tourism.

And with nationally distributed accounts of beheadings along the border and kidnapping epidemics in Phoenix, conference members said there is a lot to counteract.

Debbie Johnson said that every time Arizona illegal immigration receives any national media attention, things get worse.

As an example, the CEO cited a story she said she heard from a tourism industry source:

Visitors planning to come to a Sedona resort, Johnson recounted, called to ask if it was safe to drive up Interstate 17 from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in light of recent violence.

Hotelmine Travel Planner – Arizona Travel Guide

Arizona is a great tourist destination. The Grand Canyon is one of the biggest draws, but the state also has numerous other national and state parks where visitors can revel in the desert atmosphere or even hit the slopes. Arizona also has several major metropolitan cities that foster a unique vibrant Southwest culture of art and cuisine.

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The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is, of course, the most famous of Arizona’s attractions. A 277-mile, mile-deep scar carved in the earth by the Colorado River, the Canyon offers breathtaking views and excellent hiking, biking, camping and water sport opportunities. Traveling to the bottom by mule is a popular option, so like many other activities in the park, it’s best to make reservations early.

Other Parks

Petrified Forest National Park features one of the world’s largest collections of petrified wood. Visitors to this colorful park can also visit historical buildings and archeological digs, as fossils as old as 200 million years are abundant in this part of the desert.

Saguaro National Park is home to one of the rare collections of one of the best known cacti in the world, the giant saguaro, and also offers a window into the desert ecosystem.

Arizona is also home to numerous state parks, national monuments and historic sites. See the NPS for a full listing.

Major cities

Arizona also has a number of metropolitan areas with world-class dining experiences and a flourishing new Southwest culture.

Phoenix, America’s fifth-largest city with more than 1 million residents, offers many of the outdoors opportunities that make the state famous, as well as city comforts such as like spas, stadiums and first-rate restaurants.

Tucson, home to more than half a million people, is the second-largest city in the state. Visitors can enjoy an array of cultures here as well–visiting the ballet or the symphony, without giving up access to the wilderness. It’s also just over an hour’s drive from Mexico.

Flagstaff, home to nearly 60,000, is in the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest. It is steeped in Native American culture, and its 7,000-foot elevation means that skiing is a great activity all winter long.

When in Arizona…