The past several years have been a time of great change – at first very good and now a bit more challenging (to say the least) — for the Arizona hotel and lodging industry. Certainly, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt far and wide across the globe, with perhaps no group hit harder than those around the world working within travel and tourism sectors, including the millions of people employed by hospitality, food and beverage businesses of every shape and size. But, with steely resolve, Arizona hospitality forges ahead. Some recently completed significant upgrades. Others made the move to launch entirely new properties. And others are working toward opening over the next year, with still so much in the world uncertain.

A tip of the hat to those who’ve endeavored through any of the above given the challenges faced today. Among them, these forward-thinking Arizona hotels and resorts, including those that have re-imagined or reinvented themselves in the past year-plus, those that have opened, and those soon to open:

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa

Earlier this year, Sanctuary unveiled a series of sweeping renovations and refreshments to its private villa collection. Rebranded as The Villas at Sanctuary, these eight architecturally distinctive mountain homes offer resort guests the intimacy of a private retreat with full access to Sanctuary’s award-winning resort amenities, from the world-class Sanctuary Spa to critically acclaimed dining at elements restaurant and jade bar to a wide array of recreational activities. Now known as Villa del Sol, Villa Roca, Villa Montana, Villa Mesa, Villa Luna, Villa Norte, and Villa Ventana, the eight villas occupy more than an acre of land each and feature amenities ranging from private pools and Jacuzzis to wrap-around terraces and home theaters. Several have undergone changes in the past year ranging from complete transformations to modest remodeling.

Lake Powell Resort

In the early spring, Lake Powell Resort – the only lodging inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – reopened its signature restaurant, the Rainbow Room, after a head-to-toe renovation. Since the panoramic views of Lake Powell have always taken center stage from the dramatic floor to ceiling windows, the décor needed to complement the views. As such, a fresh palette of earthy desert tones in the new flooring and furnishings define the contemporary sophistication, upholstered in rich shades of dark chocolate accented with cloth napkins in teal. New sleek custom lighting gives the restaurant a feeling of both elegant and inviting. New outdoor furnishings were also added to further enhance a relaxed and sublime dining experience.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Arizona’s largest and longest-running AAA Five Diamond hotel, recently completed an impressive renovation of 458 standard guest rooms and 20 luxury suites. The new guest room design features a soft, tranquil desert décor with clean, modern lines and furnishings; custom designed-mattresses and cool, crisp new bedding; modernized bathrooms with sleek, polished stone and oversized walk-in showers replacing the Mexican tile and bathtubs; and meaningful technology upgrades, including an Echo Dot with an “Ask the Princess’ menu to answer guests’ most frequently asked questions. The upgrade also included an update to the famed Princess Pool, which was the first of the six pools to open with the resort in 1987 and recognized as one of the Top Ten Pools in America. The pool deck is now a single level with eight new cabanas and added seating, offering sweeping views of the McDowell Mountains and TPC Scottsdale. Two new whirlpools were also added as was a new waterside eatery and communal bar area.

Gila River Hotels & Casinos – Wild Horse Pass

This year, Wild Horse Pass broke ground on a $143 million expansion project in Chandler. Scheduled to open in fall 2021, at the center of the expansion project is a new 11-story hotel tower, which adds 205 guestrooms including six poolside suites, 27 tower suites and two 1,500-square-foot Platinum Suites. The expansion will feature an added 18,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and 4,000 square feet of outdoor meeting space as well as new amenities including an oversized oasis pool area with two hot tubs, full-service cabanas and access to the Bar & Grill and a new adult pool. The casino floor will also be revamped with new carpeting, color palette, lighting fixtures and a LED screen overhanging the floor stretching 80 feet wide and 12 feet tall. Every new element will be finished with custom artwork from 17 different artists who reside in the Gila River Indian Community.

Talking Stick Resort

Talking Stick Resort recently announced a host of new amenities slated to open in early-to-mid 2021. Notably, the enhancement will bring a new restaurant, new bar and significant renovations to its high-limit lounge. The restaurant will be modern and upscale with a Mediterranean influence. It will feature hand-crafted cocktails with fresh, local fruits, herbs and vegetables. Dining will be comprised of booths and tables for nearly 60, a full bar and patio as well as floor to ceiling windows offering amazing views.

Downstairs, final plans are still being made, but the planned bar – called Sage Bar – will surprise and delight with a bevy of new offerings.

ADERO Scottsdale

ADERO Scottsdale debuted in October following a $100 million investment as a Marriott International Autograph Collection. With its elevated views of Arizona’s famed Four Peaks and McDowell Mountain Range, ADERO is Scottsdale’s only Dark Sky Zone resort boasting 177 guest rooms including 16 oversized suites, fitness activities, nature experiences, art, wellness cuisine, and culture. Spanning across 55,000 acres of Sonoran Desert, with endless adventure at its fingertips, the property’s Adventure Concierge offers morning to night hikes, biking excursions led by McDowell Cycling, astrology sessions with on-property ‘Star Dudes’ and more, to connect guests to the wonder of its natural setting. Guests can recharge with featured wellness cocktails or desert-inspired treatments at ADERO’s boutique spa, or dine at its signature restaurant, CIELO meaning ‘sky,’ which will offer one of the best views in Scottsdale and an inventive cuisine created with regionally sourced ingredients.

Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale Old Town

Designed as a natural extension of Scottsdale’s historic arts district, Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale Old Town opened in October and offers a vibrant Southwest energy infused with Mid-Century Modern sophistication in every aspect of its architecture, aesthetic, service and culture. The seven-story, full-service hotel offers a variety of locally inspired amenities that create a lively and energetic space to work, rest and play from early morning to late-night, including a state-of-the-art fitness center with Technogym equipment; the ground-floor signature restaurant, Cobre Kitchen & Cocktails showcasing a menu of thoughtful cuisine with an emphasis on Southwest touches and locally sourced ingredients; and Outrider Rooftop Lounge, the rooftop pool and bar that elevates the Scottsdale social scene with crafted cocktails, posh bites and unrivaled views of the Camelback Mountain.

Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown. (Photograph by Stephen Denton)

Canopy By Hilton Tempe Downtown

Also opened in recent months, Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown is a contemporary hotel nestled in the heart of vibrant downtown Tempe. The distinctive hotel offers 198 spacious guest rooms and suites with a modern aesthetic inspired by the spirit of the Southwest. Spanning 14 floors and amenities include approximately 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space, an expansive private fitness center with a wellness flex space and a rooftop pool deck including a terrace bar, cabanas and a fire pit. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Alter Ego, features modern American fusion cuisine crafted with locally-sourced ingredients and regional dishes. The 14th floor rooftop bar, Alibi, provides a scenic venue for gathering, tapas-style light bites and a curated local cocktail menu.

Ambiente, A Landscape Hotel

On track to open in Sedona in the fall of 2021, Ambiente will be comprised of 40 cubed-shaped guest atriums elevated above the ground by steel piers. Each atrium will offer striking 360-degree views of Sedona’s famous red rocks and the surrounding Coconino National Forest. Built using matte-charcoal colored metal and floor-to-ceiling, bronze-tinted glass walls, many atriums will have access to their own private rooftop decks with a secure staircase for the ultimate sunbathing and stargazing experience. The center of the property, a lagoon-inspired pool and spa surrounded by private cabanas will be positioned contiguous to an open-air Poolside Lounge serving fresh, farm-to-table cuisine and locally-sourced juices. The Lounge will house a full service, indoor/outdoor bar complete with multiple TVs, ample lounge seating, fire pits and a catering kitchen.