From the Arizona Biltmore hosting Marilyn Monroe and providing Irving Berlin a writing platform for the iconic “White Christmas,” to the Hotel Valley Ho being the first accommodation in Scottsdale to offer central air conditioning, Valley hotels and resorts have an impressive history and reputation for staying ahead of trends and upholding a top spot as an economic driver in Arizona.

Last year, a record 43 million overnight visitors came to Arizona, while collectively spending a whopping $58 million per day during their stays.

With $40,000 in tourism revenue fueling our economy every minute, some of the state’s most high-profile properties have undergone multi-million-dollar renovations in an effort to attract an even bigger slice of that tourism pie and create an economic impact that will further drive the already prosperous local tourism industry.

Why renovate?

Part of what keeps both local and out-of-town visitors coming back to local landmarks like the Hotel Valley Ho, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa and Mountain Shadows is a collaborative drive to remain relevant to the needs of travelers, while simultaneously honoring the original integrity, history and charm of architecture and the surrounding environment.

“We always want to keep the hotel looking great and stay ahead of the curve on renovations,” says Hotel Valley Ho General Manager Ronen Aviram. “The redesigned rooms and suites in The Tower fit the iconic Hotel Valley Ho style of mid-century modern meets contemporary modern and we added bold lighting elements and décor, introduced jewel tones and incorporated the signature B&B Italia sofas and Knoll Lounge Chairs to fit the modified color scheme.”

Even Mountain Shadows, which is nearing completion on a complete rebuild, pays homage to the former Mountain Shadows Resort that made its initial debut in 1959.

“There are nods to the original resort,” says Andrew Chippindall, general manager of Mountain Shadows, “from the historic black-and-white photo hallway to the name of our pool area, juice bar and fitness center — The Citizens Club (a reference to The Citizens Committee that originally incorporated the Town of Paradise Valley). We were also able to salvage and reuse some of the original concrete block designed by notable mid-century modern Valley architect Ralph Haver.”

Taking note

Although most studies reflect that only half of communication is “effectively consumed,” this is not the case for local resort operators. When it comes to listening to feedback from guests, local hoteliers are listening and the resulting renovations prove it, as does Arizona’s healthy lodging and tourism economy.

“We not only invest a significant amount of capital every year solely to renovations and expansions,” says Michael Surguine, vice president and managing director at Sanctuary, “we also collect in-depth feedback from guests to help guide our enhancement plans.”

And what they’re asking for is clear and consistent across the market.

“Wellness, relaxation and de-stressing are what I find modern travelers to be seeking most,” Surguine says.

Which is why, Surguine explains, that the theme of wellness is a foundation and the antithesis for a significant area of renovation beyond the guest rooms of the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa. The goal is to also encompass the upgrade to existing facilities and the addition of a meditation area for post-spa treatment relaxation.

While travelers near and far relax, they have also shared a desire for a unique experience.

“Guests expect distinct design, genuine service, a great hotel restaurant and recommendations on the best local things to do,” Aviram says. “When working on the redesign concept, we always kept in mind the one-of-a-kind style of the hotel and picked out elements that fit our legacy of mid-century modern design.”

Chippendall, agrees, adding, “The modern traveler wants a rich, local experience, from the restaurants to the outdoor activities. Our goal is to help them get those experiences, whether it’s museum-quality art with an Arizona connection at The Gallery, unique resort events like paddleboard yoga and photography classes, or our courtesy Tesla Model X that will take guests to several locations, including the hiking trails at iconic Camelback Mountain.”

Preparedness and healthy competition

Of course, there’s another catalyst to continue to revamp and renovate: healthy competition.

“The Scottsdale area is very competitive for hotels and resorts,” Aviram says. “Visitors have so much choice when it comes to where to stay here. In order to succeed, you have to offer something truly unique and make sure you are offering a great experience, from the service to the quality of the guest rooms.”

And to remain competitive and nurture the local economy, local hotels and resorts need to maintain a certain level of preparedness and vigilance toward renovation and modernization. It’s a price that our resorts and hotels are more than willing to pay.

“After the recession, many properties were forced to reduce or eliminate their plans to renovate,” Surguine says. “Although this was not the case for us, I believe the collective change at most properties is due to positive trends in the economy. However, at Sanctuary we make sure to set aside significant capital investment in both the good times and the bad.”


Renovation revolution

Here are some of the ways Arizona hotels and resorts — in alphabetical order — have worked to keep up with supply, demand and national trends to make Arizona an innovative hot spot for travelers and locals.

Boulders Resort & Spa: The Boulders Resort has made its mark as one of the finest golf destinations in the world. Now, they have unveiled a luxurious new clubhouse facility with the same panache. The space features an expansive pro shop, lounges, swimming pool and event space all set amidst the most stunning natural landscape in the area.   

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: Fresh off the completion of the 2016’s Sunset Beach expansion project, which included the development of 102 new luxurious guest rooms, the Fairmont received an impressive 2017 update, as did its event spaces within.

Hermosa Inn: The iconic property underwent a $5.5 million renovation that included introducing 10 deluxe hideaway casitas, renovating 12 historic rancho casitas and an expansion of Lon’s Last Drop bar and patio.

Hilton Sedona: As part of recent renovations, the upscale 219-room resort redesigned guest rooms, lobby and social spaces that reflect the natural elements of Sedona. They also developed partnerships with The Hike House Sedona and Pink Adventure Group to offer travelers options for adventures.

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort: In mid-2017, El Conquistador completed its largest renovation in the resort’s 35-year history, encompassing all areas of the 500-acre property. Two especially unique enhancements – a Hummingbird garden with 14 species of the beloved birds and the launch of El Conquistador Western Adventures on property.

Hotel Adeline: Thanks to a $12 million renovation, the former Scottsdale Inn re-opened as Hotel Adeline in fall 2017. The property was transformed into a contemporary urban retreat meant to attract savvy leisure and business travelers, as well as locals, who crave a vibrant social experience.

Hotel Valley Ho: Downtown Scottsdale’s mid-century modern icon since 1956 revamped its rooms and suites in The Tower. The design overhaul was completed in September and features new, mid-century-inspired elements including lighting, décor, flooring, and millwork.

JW Marriott Camelback Inn: Camelback Inn plans to build a conference center that is scheduled to debut in June 2018. The space will include the new 15,000-square-foot Paradise Ballroom, along with an additional 20,000-square-feet of outdoor and pre-function spaces.

Mountain Shadows: The $100 million boutique resort, luxury condominium and golf course project at the base of Camelback Mountain opened its doors in 2017. And while the property retains the Mountain Shadows name in homage to the original resort, the sleek new space was masterfully conceived for today’s guest and built from the ground up, with no expense spared.

Royal Palms Resort and Spa: In mid-2017, Phoenix’s romantic destination resort announced a multi-million-dollar renovation to all 119 rooms, including its Presidential Suite, as well as select meeting and event spaces. The renovations were completed in late Fall 2017.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa: The resort has been doing big things over the past two years, including $2 million in renovations to its Spa Casitas and Spa Suites. Sanctuary also launched the Spa House, a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom private guest enclave.

Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch: Formerly the Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, the newly named Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch underwent a massive $11 million renovation, which transformed the independent resort and revitalized its amenities head to toe.

The Phoenician: The Phoenician announced its largest refurbishment project since the resort opened in 1988. The extensive renovations represent the second phase of a two-year repositioning plan, which began in summer 2016 with the redesign of the resort’s casitas and all guest rooms, as well as the makeover of The Canyon Suites.

The Scott: In 2017, Classic Hotels & Resorts rebranded and renamed Firesky Resort & Spa as The Scott, then announced that over the next two years, it will invest $15 million in updating the property to both celebrate the historic building’s iconic architecture while introducing a new look and feel and elevated guest service culture.