Q & A With Visit Phoenix
As the preferred housing provider for Visit Phoenix, Connections Housing recently had the chance to catch up with Lorne Edwards, Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and Services. Visit Phoenix is the non-profit organization that promotes the Greater Phoenix community to a global audience of travelers and books conventions into the Phoenix Convention Center and area hotels and resorts. In this Q & A, Lorne shares the latest updates on new programs, safety protocols and other innovations from hotels, indoor and outdoor venues throughout the Greater Phoenix area.
Q: In light of Covid-19, what new initiatives and/or programs have you launched to help travel pros feel comfortable booking their events in the Greater Phoenix Area?
A: The Phoenix Convention Center, along with our greater community of hotel and hospitality partners, have implemented several key initiatives that we feel are key to inspiring confidence in planners considering Phoenix.
For example, the Phoenix Convention Center received its GBAC-STAR accreditation ,which certifies that its cleaning practices, associate compliance, internal and external communication protocols are all best in class. This was a very detailed multi-step process that the center had to go through to demonstrate compliance with requirements which have been integrated into daily operational practices. In addition, the Phoenix Convention Center has rolled out its five-step reopening plan centered on cleaning and disinfecting, encouraging personal preventative measures, removing touch points to contactless solutions, following strict CDC physical distancing recommendations, and enhancing both associate and attendee safety through constant training and communication.
Similarly, the hotel community has stepped up its own protocols as evidenced through well-publicized cleaning standards.
Visit Phoenix has developed enhanced communication to meeting planner clients that describes best practices to ensure attendee and planner safety through the cycle of the travel journey. For instance, ensuring we have a coordinated communication plan prior to departure from home destination, including air travel safety guidelines, ground transfers from/to airport. But a key part of this is the planner and attendee commitment and pledge to always act responsibly. This is perhaps the most essential piece. We need attendees and planners taking personal responsibility and wearing a mask properly at all times, maintaining physical distance, and practicing proper personal hygiene.
Several of our area hotels and resorts have already demonstrated their ability to hold meetings and events safely but it requires collaboration and full commitment to adhering to guidelines and proven protocols.
Q: Outdoor venues of every size have always been a key feature available to Groups hosting events in the Phoenix area and the perfect weather lends itself to very few rain disruptions. Which Phoenix venues do you think will be the most popular moving forward?
A: No other destination celebrates the outdoors like we do here in Phoenix. As Phoenicians, this is our way of life, and is also the reason so many flock to our destination year in year out. And why we continue to see so many people and corporations relocating to Phoenix. We do the outdoors better than anyone.
We have so many world-class resorts each boasting sprawling and unique outdoor grounds and event spaces that allow meetings and events to be re-imagined and transformed. Additionally, the Phoenix Convention Center’s Canyon on Third, with 80,000 square feet of outdoor event space, boasts an open-air esplanade-like setting and is the perfect venue for unique exhibition spaces, and events.
Several other large outdoor venues such as Heritage Square, the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, and Chase Field come to mind as great options. Rawhide, Corona Ranch and Fort McDowell Adventures near the We-Ko-Pa Resort Fort McDowell for that quintessential Southwestern experience, and of course WestWorld’s outdoor event spaces in Scottsdale.
Q: Do you offer any marketing or promotional support to meetings/groups coming to the Greater Phoenix Area?
A: Yes, our convention services team offers complimentary services that are invaluable benefits to our customers. These range from providing digital swag, to providing promotional items for attendees and planners and working with our marketing team to support content and collateral needs that serve to generate excitement ahead of their visit to Greater Phoenix. Visit Phoenix also has an expansive and diverse network of almost 1,000 members that supply the unique convention and event support services.
Q: Phoenix Sky Harbor is known for having great airlift, the Phoenix Convention Center is known for flexible space, and the Phoenix hotel community is known for first class hospitality – is the city ready to host large scale meetings again?
A: We have worked closely with state and local governments, along with Arizona Department of Health Services and Arizona Office of Tourism, and have received guidance for meetings and conventions. The hotels, resorts, convention center and special event venues can now host private meetings and events at up to 50 percent occupancy and must follow all physical distancing and mask guidelines. Our destination is open for meetings and events and we are willing and ready to welcome attendees back as soon as they feel safe to do so.
Q: What are additional reasons you feel a planner should consider when choosing Greater Phoenix for meetings for 2020 and beyond…
A: We know outdoor spaces and places will be preferred over indoor. I would encourage planners to check out the many resorts that offer imaginative and creative outdoors spaces and venues for meetings and events. The Phoenix Convention Center’s expansive campus setting also offers groups the opportunity to spread out. This makes Greater Phoenix the perfect setting for those groups whose room blocks may be a little smaller but require ample space to be able to spread out safely.