Destination Brief: Phoenix as the New Luxury Host City With Mega-Event Capacity

An image of the Phoenix skyline as seen between cacti in the Sonoran Desert.

Skift Take

Phoenix has long been known for its luxury resorts and scenic desert terrain, but it now also boasts some of the country's best amenities for hosting major events. From state-of-the-art transportation options to renovated five-star hotels to industry-leading sustainability efforts, discover all the reasons that Phoenix is quickly moving up the ranks as a premier event destination.

Greater Phoenix is a premium destination that combines the luxury of a resort town with the amenities of a major city center, making it a top choice for both Super-Bowl-level mega events and incentive trips. Thanks to ongoing investments, America’s fifth-largest city boasts some of the nation’s best transportation infrastructure and high-capacity event venues, along with a growing list of critically acclaimed eateries. With the country’s sunniest weather and spectacular natural scenery on offer, Phoenix continues to uphold its longstanding reputation as an exceptional backdrop for events of all kinds. In the words of Lorne Edwards, chief sales officer for Visit Phoenix, it is “a tale of two cities.”

“While we still boast an enviable collection of world class resorts around Greater Phoenix, we want planners to know that our large convention product in downtown Phoenix is maturing at break-neck pace with new luxury hotels coming online, unique special event venues along with a vibrant and energetic nightlife scene.  The one stand-out comment we oftentimes hear during a site visit of downtown Phoenix is ‘I had no idea downtown Phoenix had so much going on.’”

– Lorne Edwards, chief sales officer, Visit Phoenix

Navigation: State-of-the-Art Transportation Matched With Walkable Streets

It’s no accident that Phoenix is rapidly becoming known as “championship valley.” The city’s infrastructure investments have quickly paid off as major sporting events gravitate toward Phoenix. In addition to hosting the 2023 Super Bowl, it’s slated to welcome the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four basketball championship rounds in 2024 and 2026, respectively. Events at this magnitude require travel routes to function like a well-oiled machine. Here’s how Phoenix supports traffic influxes and gets people where they need to be all year long.

Canyon on Third at the Phoenix Convention Center.


A multi-year, $1.2 billion upgrade to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is preparing the city to handle visitor surges without compromising on service. These changes are already being pressure tested; February 13th, 2023 — the day after the Super Bowl — was the busiest day in the airport’s history. Despite processing more than 200,000 visitors, wait times at TSA security checkpoints never lasted longer than 22 minutes.

Some of the planned airport improvements are already complete and open to the public, including a 2.5-mile PHX Sky Train extension to the Rental Car Center, an eight-gate concourse dedicated to Southwest Airlines, an American Airlines hub, and a brand new Terminal 3. Other upgrades are soon to come, like an airplane taxiway designed to reduce runway congestion and keep travelers moving toward their destination instead of waiting on the tarmac.

Inner City Transportation

Phoenix is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, and city planners have been working to ensure its transportation infrastructure is up to the task of supporting that growth. This intentional design shift benefits another type of planner: the kind that organizes events. They can rest assured that their attendees will get from point A to point B efficiently, affordably, and sustainably.

For example, investments in the Metro Valley Rail system connect the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport directly to the Phoenix Convention Center, and the ticket costs only $2. Getting to downtown Phoenix from the airport takes about 20 minutes (but almost always less than that). New developments are underway to improve upon the city’s existing highway system, so getting around town is an increasingly smooth and painless experience.

Phoenix is also one of only two cities to offer Waymo, the world’s first ride-hailing services that uses self-driving cars. Further, Waymo’s partnership with Sky Harbor International makes it the only autonomous vehicle airport service in the world. During the Super Bowl, Waymo saw record ridership as fans made their way around Phoenix celebrating the year’s biggest sports event.


Time and time again, what surprises event planners most is how easy it is to navigate and get around Phoenix on foot; downtown Phoenix has a 94 out of 100 Walk Score, putting it at the top of the walkability list. With city blocks about half the length of those in other major U.S. cities, Phoenix is a highly pedestrian-friendly city offering countless opportunities to experience vibrant city life and local culture.

There are renowned hotels, restaurants, and museums all within walking distance of the Phoenix Convention Center, not to mention respected museums, live music and entertainment venues, and trendy rooftop bars and nightlife. It takes just 10 minutes to walk north from the Phoenix Convention Center to Roosevelt Row, a popular arts and entertainment district in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. Walk five minutes to the southwest to find Cityscape, a culinary hub with a concentration of beloved local bars and restaurants.

Luxury Meets Urban Renewal: World-Class Resorts, Hotels, and Restaurants

Greater Phoenix has long been known for its luxury resorts and wellness retreats nestled in the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert wilderness. But you don’t have to leave the city center to take advantage of all the high-end experiences Phoenix has to offer. Here are some of the newer opportunities now available right in the downtown Phoenix area that every event planner should have on their radar.

Resorts and Hotels

With its downtown residential population set to double in the next year, Phoenix is in the midst of an urban renaissance. Downtown Phoenix currently has over 4,300 hotel rooms located within walking distance of the Phoenix Convention Center, and the list is growing as expansion continues. Various luxury hospitality brands are set to open new properties soon, like The Global Ambassador, Ritz Carlton Paradise Valley, and the Fairmont Downtown Phoenix.

Among the properties that aren’t entirely new, chances are that they’ve been recently renovated to meet and exceed the expectations of contemporary travelers. The JW Marriott Phoenix at Desert Ridge completed an $80 million dollar renovation in 2022, and The Biltmore, the storied 1929 property where Irving Berlin composed White Christmas, completed a $70 million dollar renovation in 2021.

Two women lounge by the poolside at a luxury Phoenix resort.

The Foodie Scene

Some might assume that Phoenix’s restaurants specialize in cookouts and Mexican cuisine, but in reality the local culinary offerings are far more diverse. In 2020 alone, more than 100 restaurants, bakeries, and dessert shops opened throughout the Greater Phoenix area. Phoenix boasts some of the top pizzerias in the country, according to Yelp. Local stalwart Pizzeria Bianco was named the best pizza in the world, and chef Chris Bianco was the first pizzaiolo to win a coveted James Beard award. Thanks to the vibrant, up-and-coming food scene, restaurateurs often flock to Phoenix for a chance to develop national name recognition that they can later leverage to expand into other major California cities and up and down the West Coast.

Wellness and Nature

Part of the appeal of these inner-city attractions is their proximity to exceptional outdoor scenery. While Phoenix is the sunniest major city in the U.S., the Sonoran Desert nonetheless receives more rainfall than any other desert in the country. That balance makes for unique scenery and broad biodiversity. Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden, Papago Park, Dobbins Lookout, and Pinnacle Peak are all must-see ways to experience the breathtaking vistas and natural riches that the city has to offer.

Popular wellness activities run the gamut from yoga to meditation and horseback riding to picnicking, while water activities like rafting and paddleboarding call travelers to the Salt River. Phoenix is also one of the top golf destinations in the world, with nearly 200 golf courses located in the greater metropolitan area.

Vision: Leading the Way With Innovation, Sustainability, and DEI

Phoenix is establishing itself as a pioneering destination with a strong vision for the future of what a city can and should be. Today’s public is increasingly invested in identifying opportunities to spend on travel and experiences that are aligned with their values, whether that means forging groundbreaking technological developments or working toward a more sustainable and equitable world. Here’s how Phoenix is leading the way in innovation, sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

A Hub of Innovation

Phoenix is quickly becoming one of the country’s top hubs for tech startups and innovative research across a variety of fields. This includes the range of medical companies and semiconductor factories that have moved to the region, bringing high-level thought leadership and a wealth of intellectual capital.

There have also been particularly noteworthy developments in the biotech sphere. The Phoenix Bioscience Core (PBC), a 30-acre urban medical and bioscience campus offering more than six million square feet of academic and clinical space, is home to more than a dozen individual research facilities and is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix. These world-class professional facilities were developed in partnership with city and local universities, including Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona.

Event organizers working with PBC benefit from access to expert speakers and academics, educational enrichment, hands-on simulation environments, world-class laboratory facilities, gathering and meeting spaces, and more. Many highly specialized national medical organizations have already taken advantage of those resources by hosting their annual conventions at PBC, including the Society for Critical Care Medicine, American Foot & Ankle Surgeons, the American Society of Microbiology, the American Society of Laser Medicine, and the American College of Chest Physicians.

A Model of Sustainability

Phoenix is one of 122 cities and counties across the globe to be named to the 2022 CDP A-list recognizing environmental action and transparency. A growing group of top local event venues are vital contributors to the city’s sustainability goals.

At the heart of that effort is the Phoenix Convention Center, which has undertaken multiple targeted sustainability initiatives of its own. For example, the recently completed lighting efficiency replacement project saw the conversion of thousands of existing light fixtures to LED technology, using new advanced lighting controls for greater efficiency and reduced power consumption. The Convention Center also maintains a stringent recycling program, mandating that everything from event signage to carpeting and plateware to packaging materials are all either repurposed or recycled.

In keeping with this spirit, the city’s sporting events are equally attentive to their environmental impact. The Footprint Center, an arena that’s home to the The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury teams, is creating a new model for the industry through its partnership with Footprint — a material science company dedicated to ending our dependence on single-use plastics. The arena functions as a living laboratory for solutions to these complex problems.

As yet another example of the city’s commitment to sustainability, the Waste Management Phoenix Open — a major stop on the PGA tour — is the largest zero-waste sporting event in the world.

A Leader in DEI

With a reputation as a welcoming, progressive city, Phoenix offers multiple resources to help event planners meet their DEI goals while on the ground. For the eighth consecutive year, the City of Phoenix earned a 100 percent score in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Municipal Equality Index. Phoenix is also one of only six major U.S. municipalities with a non-discrimination ordinance in place.

In support of these city-wide values, Visit Phoenix curates and maintains lists of businesses that are LGBTQ+ or Black-owned and recommends ways to explore and celebrate indigenous and AAPI cultures. Similarly, regional organizations including One Community, Local First Arizona, and the Community Collaborative offer resources and opportunities in support of corporate social responsibility projects.

A man and a woman look out at Phoenix from a great distance while standing on a clifftop at sunset.

Phoenix is a Premium Event & Meeting Destination

Phoenix has invested deeply in transportation, premium hospitality, and technological and social innovation to become a premium event destination. It offers not just resort-level luxury in a stunning natural environment, but all the professional and cultural opportunities of a major city center — making Phoenix a hotspot for business travel and corporate gatherings.

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

Did you know?
A Model of Community Action:
Phoenix has been making dreams come true for decades. The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded when the local Phoenix community rallied to fulfill the last wish of seven-year-old Christopher James Greicius: a helicopter ride and an immersive experience of his dream job as a police officer.

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