Destination Brief: Phoenix Tops Rankings for Airport, Convention Center & Tech Growth

The Phoenix skyline as viewed from Piestewa Peak at sunrise.

Skift Take

From its investment in growth sectors like semiconductors and electric vehicles to its boom in hotel development and innovative transportation, Phoenix is a city on the rise — and event organizers are taking note. This sun-drenched region values nature just as much as technology, bridging the two to find solutions for more sustainable events.

This content was created collaboratively by Visit Phoenix and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

Phoenix is fast becoming one of the country’s top destinations for conferences, business meetings, and mega sporting events. Major investments in infrastructure and strategic high-growth sectors are driving the economy and drawing events to the city.

In January of 2023, Phoenix led the U.S. meetings and events industry by volume, according to research from Knowland. The region is even experiencing an uptick in its traditional off-season, with the Phoenix/Scottsdale area boasting the country’s highest year-over-year growth in short-term rentals for the hottest month of the year, July.

To keep up with this rising demand during mega events like the Super Bowl in 2023, the NCAA’s Final Four in 2024, and the WNBA All-Star Game coming up this July, Phoenix is rapidly building new hotels. In fact, when it comes to growth in new hotel developments, only one other city in the U.S. outpaces Phoenix.

All this expansion isn’t just attracting major sporting events — the city’s investment in research and technology development has also brought in multiple high-profile business, medical, and tech events. Not least is SEMICON West, one of the biggest conferences in the microchip sector. After 50 years with San Francisco as its sole host city, the convention will now be held in Phoenix bi-annually over the next five years.

With the Wall Street Journal ranking the city’s airport in first place and its convention center among the top ten countrywide, Phoenix is a host destination set to impress attendees, stakeholders, and sponsors alike.

Venues: Top-Rated Convention Center and Rapidly Growing Hotel Capacity

Top-10 Convention Center

PCC takes its inspiration from the rust-red walls and blue waters of the Grand Canyon with soaring, slanted windows that mirror the grandeur of the landscape. Appropriately for the Valley of the Sun, its glass atriums, bridges, and indoor-outdoor spaces are designed to let the native sunshine flood in.

An exterior shot of the Phoenix Convention Center at dusk. The building is divided into two sides, with a wide roadway in between and a glass tunnel connecting the two structures.
The Phoenix Convention Center.

The venue contains a range of spaces including three ballrooms, 99 meeting rooms, and a 2,300-seat performance hall. It is also the only convention center with its very own brewery: the Huss Brewpub in the center’s West Building. Further, plans to expand the center on its south side include a 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a high-rise hotel, a residential tower, and even an outdoor park.

Conveniently situated in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the center is easily accessible for both the city’s buzzing nightlife and its hotels, which are undergoing something of a revival.

Wealth of New Hotel Options

The Phoenix metro area is experiencing a notable surge in hotel development, with a record number of new hotel constructions in 2023. This wave is set to keep building: Projections indicate that supply will increase by almost 20% over the next five to seven years, with over 120 projects in the pipeline. This places Phoenix second only to Nashville when it comes to new hotel ventures.

Among the recent additions to Phoenix’s hospitality scene are several properties that have opened their doors within the past year, such as the 237-room Hilton North Scottsdale at Cavasson and the 300-room Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU. The latter has over 35,000 square feet of meeting space to help cater to the needs of event planners. There’s also the 141-room Global Ambassador in Phoenix and the 265-room Caesars Republic in Scottsdale. Looking even further ahead, projects currently underway include the 1,100-room VAI Resort in Glendale — a billion-dollar hotel, amphitheater, and adventure park set to open later this year — and the 215-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences in Paradise Valley. These will offer attendees a comfortable home close to the city and against the backdrop of Arizona’s signature desert and mountain scenery.

A crowd of people stand in a tree-lined courtyard listening to live music played by two musicians on an elevated stage in the foreground. The clean facade of the new Global Ambassador hotel extends upwards on the left-hand side, while a one-story event space spreads out along the center of the image. A mountain range is visible in the far distance behind the event space.
An event held on the lawn of the The Global Ambassador, one of several Phoenix hotels that opened in 2023.

Innovation: Phoenix Rises as a Center of Research & Manufacturing Power

It’s not only Phoenix’s hotel sector that is experiencing rapid growth — the city’s investment in research, technology, and manufacturing is also fostering a new tech and innovation boom. Ten Fortune 500 companies have currently made the city the base for their corporate headquarters. It’s also worth paying attention to the region’s burgeoning reputation as a hub for semiconductor research and manufacturing, a sector that’s truly on the rise.

Getting a Head-Start at the Forefront: A Thriving Microchip Industry

Over 75 semiconductor companies — including industry giants like EMD Electronics, Intel, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) — call Greater Phoenix home, with a workforce exceeding 100,000. According to Joe Stockunas, president of SEMI Americas and host of its exhibition and conference, “Phoenix embodies the drive by SEMI and the industry at large toward greater innovation.”

The region’s commitment to advancing this technology is underscored by its significant investments in the sector. In 2022, Arizona announced a $100 million investment in semiconductor industry research and development under the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act. Additionally, Taiwan Semiconductors’ $40 billion investment in fabrication plants and Intel’s $20-billion expansion are proof of Phoenix’s evolving status as a growth market at the forefront of technological advancement. In fact, Phoenix is one of the key regions earmarked for President Biden’s recent announcement of $8.5 billion in federal grants towards semiconductor manufacturing — helping to rebuild America’s leadership in the sector.

Phoenix Putting Ecology in Technology: A Center for Electric Vehicles

Beyond semiconductors, Greater Phoenix is also making strides in electric vehicle (EV) and battery manufacturing. Notable investments include LG Energy’s $5.5 billion commitment to a new battery-manufacturing plant, which is expected to be operational by 2025. And industry leaders such as Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, and Polestar all have offices and manufacturing plants in the region.

Phoenix Leading Medical Advances: A Hub of Research

Finally, Greater Phoenix is proving a beacon in the realm of medical research and knowledge sharing. The Arizona State University-run Phoenix Bioscience Core is a model for collaboration that brings together local universities and medical centers on its 30-acre urban medical and bioscience campus, which has over 6 million square feet of academic and clinical space and more than a dozen research facilities. It recently opened the doors to a new Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies. Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic began construction on a $135-million research building in 2022 as part of a larger $748-million expansion that will double the size of its North Phoenix campus.

An aerial shot of the Phoenix Bioscience Core, an expansive multi-story center with an ultra-modern exterior combining copper-toned wood paneling, green-tinted windows, and grey cement blocks.
The Phoenix Bioscience Core.

Travel and Navigation: Top-Ranking Airport and World-Leading Public Transport

Known as “America’s Friendliest Airport,” Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport was officially crowned America’s top airport for 2023 by The Wall Street Journal. Conveniently located less than a 10-minute drive from downtown, Sky Harbor is so accessible that some attendees even opt to take a day trip to conferences. And with direct service to more than 120 domestic and international destinations through 1,200 daily flights, this choice is opening up to an increasing number of travelers.

Sky Harbor has also invested $1.2 billion in renovations and improvements, making passing through a seamless — and even enjoyable — experience. It was the first airport in the U.S. to introduce digital IDs for passenger security screening (currently limited to Arizona residents), and the free PHX Sky Train® shuttles passengers between terminals and the train station. Moreover, investment in Metro Valley Rail means that rail transport from Sky Harbor to the Phoenix Convention Center costs just $2, making it an affordable and eco-friendly option for day-trippers.

Further, Phoenix was the first city to offer Waymo’s driverless robotaxi service for transportation to and from the airport. As transportation strikes become increasingly common, these alternative options provide a reliable solution for travelers, ensuring they can get to their destination even amid potential disruptions. Beyond its pace-setting airport, Phoenix stands out as a walkable and pedestrian-friendly city, allowing event attendees to get out and explore its neighborhoods in their downtime.

A self-driving car equipped with sensors and exterior cameras cruises along a Phoenix road, with the Phoenix Convention Center visible in the background.
One of Waymo’s self-driving cars in Phoenix.

Sustainability: A Foundation for Events to Create a Greener Future

In Phoenix, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a commitment that’s being celebrated and acted upon in some of the city’s key events and venues. The WM Phoenix Open has been recognized as the largest zero-waste sporting event in the world, with tournament organizers seeking a record eighth GEO Certification in 2024. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is also bringing water conservation to the forefront, having hosted its last Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards in Phoenix in early 2024.

The Phoenix Convention Center also has multiple innovative sustainability initiatives that demonstrate its dedication to reducing its carbon footprint, including utilizing 41 tons of its compost to feed plants in the city’s parks, and recycling car batteries and seat belts to create seating across its conference spaces. And at the Footprint Center, a multipurpose arena in downtown Phoenix, a “pledge to quit [single-use] plastic” aims to put an end to plastic straws, utensils, bags, and water bottles within the venue.

Leisure: Spectacular Scenery, Top-Rated Cuisines & Variety in Activities

For event planners looking to stage some incredible experiences outside their venue walls — or for attendees wanting to make the most of their shoulder days in Phoenix — the sunniest city in the U.S. offers a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities.

For nature lovers, the city’s botanical gardens are home to the world’s largest collection of desert plants: a reflection of the surrounding Sonoran Desert and Salt River. These landscapes also provide a playground for attendees looking to participate in activities such as hiking, yoga, meditation, rafting, paddleboarding, golfing, and horseback riding.

A woman stands in the middle of a circular concrete platform featuring a spiral pattern, with multiple types of cacti and other desert shrubbery in te background.
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

And for culture mavens, Phoenix has several museums unpacking local and international art, science and history, and a host of other fascinating subjects. These include:

  • The Heard Museum (featuring over 3,600 pieces of indigenous art)
  • The Phoenix Art Museum
  • The Arizona Science Center
  • Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park
  • The Musical Instrument Museum
  • The Hall of Flame (the world’s largest collection of fire-fighting equipment)
  • Taliesin West, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home

Phoenix is also among the country’s top foodie cities, with multiple James Beard finalists.

To learn more about everything that Phoenix has to offer, reach out to the experts at Visit Phoenix.

Did You Know?

Phoenix is well-known for its desert climate — with the most sunshine of any major U.S. city — but it also offers close access to water sports, with six lakes less than a 75-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.

This content was created collaboratively by Visit Phoenix and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.