Resorts Rebound – Frigid Snowy “Polar Vortex” Boosts Bookings

By Mary Minor Davis –

Want to create a great business climate for luring hordes of winter tourists to Tucson and big profits for Southern Arizona resorts and spas?

Then let it snow, let it snow, let it snow – at least across the Midwest and Eastern portions of the U.S. – which is exactly what happened in the winter of 2013-14.

Tucson’s sunny skies, warm temperatures and dry winter weather, which was even more perfect than normal, combined with a long, bleak, frigidly cold season back East and in the nation’s heartland, produced skyrocketing occupancy rates and profits for Tucson-area resorts and spas.

“The Polar Vortex conditions that the East Coast faced this winter resulted in an increase of guests seeking an escape to Tucson for our beautiful warm weather,” said Alexandra Williams, a public relations specialist for Canyon Ranch.

Michael Tompkins, CEO of Miraval Resort & Spa, was obviously pleased weather conditions came together as they did. He said last year and the first part of 2014 have been “the best years in history” for Miraval and produced record-breaking revenue.

Tompkins is not alone. Officials throughout the Southern Arizona resort and spa industry are not only reporting substantial business growth, but also are making optimistic prognostications that those trends will continue.

“We are encouraged to see that people are traveling more in 2014 than in the past several years,” said Patti Todd, director of sales and marketing for Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. “We are experiencing significant increases in leisure vacation travel, group meeting business and weddings. Our forecast for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015 is stronger than at this time last year.”

Todd said being named one of 14 “must see” and “up-and-coming destinations in the world” by Conde Nast Traveler and one of the 10 best cold-weather getaways in the country by USA Today also helped to spur a 30 percent growth in revenue for the Tubac resort this year.

Kim Van Amburg, senior VP at Casino Del Sol Resort, said the resort’s market share has had steady growth during its first two years of operation and predicted that trend to continue over the next year. “Our ability to grow our share of the market is because of all we have to offer at one destination – beautiful accommodations, an unbelievable concert schedule, Tucson’s best casino – and we are Arizona’s only Forbes 4-Star rated casino resort,” she said.

Also reporting increased business was Ryan Bunker, director of sales and marketing at Loews Ventana Canyon. He said the resort “continues to see improvements in occupancy and average daily rate year over year with an increased demand in both group and leisure travel.”

Chris Sabala, director of sales and marketing at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon, credited much of the improvement within the Southern Arizona resort market to Visit Tucson’s new brand and marketing campaign, which he said has been effective in attracting leisure travelers.

“Our Visit Tucson office has done a masterful job getting the word out about our fine city,” he said. “Continued partnerships with the City of Tucson, Oro Valley and Marana remain strong as the hospitality industry works hard to bring guests to Tucson to experience the wonderful and many great things we have to offer.”

White Stallion Guest Ranch, as well as several other area resorts, has had growth in both American and foreign customers. Susanne Walsh, head of marketing at White Stallion, said 2014 “is promising to be a very busy year for both domestic and international travelers. We are fortunate to have a significant number of guests who return every year. Our emerging markets are Italy and France and the outlook is currently quite good, based on airfares and exchange rates.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain gained international recognition as the host of the Accenture Match Play golf tournament over the past eight years. Even as it’s possible the tournament will move on, Mike Kass, hotel manager, said the resort’s outlook is bright.

“We are optimistic about the future as (the resort) has clearly come into its own,” he said. “Our guest offering is compelling. Our increasing repeat business is a clear indicator of this. It is also gratifying, and a true tribute to our team and the region, to win so many awards and accolades from major national travel and luxury publications. Being named to the Travel + Leisure top 100 resorts in the world list is a tremendous motivator for all of us.”

Representatives of the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa and Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort also reported increased numbers of visitors and promising forecasts of future business.

Visitors to Tucson resorts aren’t the only ones receiving needed TLC. Many of the region’s resort attractions are undergoing extensive additions and renovations. For example:

  • Last October, an 18-month, $35 million rejuvenation of the Westin La Paloma was completed.
  • Room renovations and the ballroom makeover at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa that have been ongoing for the past year are finished.
  • Loews Ventana Canyon recently upgraded furnishings throughout its property.

A number of resorts are also introducing new programs and activities. Here are highlights of activities going on at the leading Southern Arizona resorts – along with a snapshot of this summer’s staycation specials.

1. Canyon Ranch
Canyon Ranch has expanded both its facilities and programs. To support its enlarged Spirituality Program, it opened a new 3,000-square-foot Spiritual Wellness Center in February within the Health and Healing Courtyard. Phase II of this project includes the addition of a Zen garden, which is expected to be completed later this year.

A new Equine Inspiration Workshop, a partnership with Rancho Bosque, allows participants to experience the spiritual connection between human and horse. The workshop is led by Dr. Allan Hamilton, a Harvard-trained brain surgeon and author of the award-winning book “Zen Mind, Zen Horse.”

Other new activities this summer at Canyon Ranch include aerial yoga – a combination of yoga and acrobatics, rebound exercises using kangaroo jumps and indigenous spa services. For information about summer savings, log on to

2. Miraval Resort & Spa
New to the Miraval Resort & Spa in 2014 is the Miraval Gives Back program, a charitable endeavor designed to give the gift of wellness to individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the famed resort. Launched on March 4, Miraval’s philanthropic endeavor invites people to nominate friends and loved ones in the United States who have experienced a difficult time and could benefit from the Miraval experience. Nominations can be made anytime on the resort’s website.

This summer, Miraval Resort & Spa is giving guests an unprecedented $1,000 of resort credits and 20 percent off all stays of five nights or more. The resort credit can be used toward spa treatments, workshops, activities and exclusive Miraval programming, food and non-alcoholic beverages, complimentary shuttle transfers from Tucson International Airport or complimentary parking and a welcome gift. Nightly rates start at $343.20 per person. The program runs through Aug. 15 and is subject to availability. For reservations, visit or call (800) 232-3969.

3. Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
This summer, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa is offering three packages:

  • “Check in early/Stay late.” Check in at 11 a.m., check out at 3 p.m. The package is based on a two-night stay and includes discounts on golf and spa services, plus breakfast for two one morning. Rates start at $149.
  • “Unlimited Golf Day of Play” includes unlimited golf on the 27-hole championship golf course, unlimited use of practice facilities, club storage, unlimited use of the fitness center and discounts on spa services. Package starts at $158.
  • The “Girlfriends Getaway,” a package that includes two cruiser bike rentals for one day, two 50-minute spa treatments, two cocktails and a casita suite with two queen beds. Prices start at $158.

To book reservations or for more information go to

4. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
The resort has added spa cabana services for couples and groups who can enjoy select outdoor poolside spa treatments. Techies of all ages will enjoy the new poolside technology butler, who charges electronics and cleans screens for connected guests at the pool.

This summer, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain offers two special packages for guests. The Summer Fun Package starts at $239 per night and includes a $100 nightly hotel credit. The Summer Return Package starts at $214 per night and offers a $50 nightly hotel credit. Both programs are available until Sept. 11. To make reservations visit or call (800) 241-3333.

White Stallion Ranch
The third generation of Trues has taken the reins at the ranch, as Steven and David True follow in father Russell’s steps. It is a tradition that each member of the family gains a working knowledge of the entire ranch by working in all facets of the operation. David is currently working in the corrals and the kitchen, while Steven is handling personnel, payroll and inventory management.

This year’s special, “Summer Bonanza,” will be available until June 15.

Packages include lodging, all meals, horseback riding (except Sundays), cookouts, airport transfers from Tucson International Airport and daily ranch activities. The Four Night/Five Day package starts at $669 per person (double occupancy), and the Seven Night/Eight Day package starts at $1,113 per person (double occupancy). To make reservations visit, or call (888) 977-2624 or (520) 297-0252.

Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort
The Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort is a popular destination for locals and travelers alike. It boasts 45 holes of championship golf on three courses. Families love the variety of programs and amenities, including the water slide for the kids.

The resort is launching a new off-season program – “Conquer the Summer.” Rates start at $89 per night and include activities for the whole family. Guests receive a passport packed with 14 discounts and access to a special lineup of summer programming and entertainment. Activities include live music every weekend, poolside dive-in movies and s’mores, stargazing and solar tours, cooking classes, junior archery and more. Discounts are offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day. To make reservations or for more information visit summer.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa
For summer visitors and local residents looking for a staycation, popular morning and evening rituals at the hotel – such as the daily complimentary Tequila Toast and self-guided hikes on Bowen Trail – will continue this summer.

The fitness center at the Hashani Spa has been upgraded, and the kids and Teen Club offer great activities for families. Keeping cool in the popular Lazy River and water slide is always a hit when the temps reach into the 100s.

For summer specials and last-minute deals, visit, or call (520) 792-3500.

Casino Del Sol Resort
For families, there’s “Family Fun in the Sun Staycation – Parents Night Out” for $125. This includes a one-night stay in a standard room for two adults and two children, ages 4-12. The package includes food, entertainment, movies and welcome gifts for the kids and a party for the kids. See the resort website for more information. Use the code FAMILYFUN when booking.

For concert nights, there’s the “Party Like a Rock Star” package. Rates start at $299 for a standard room, $399 for a suite, and include two tickets to the show, a $50 band merchandise credit and a $50 resort credit. Reservations must be booked 14 days in advance. Some restrictions apply. Use code ROCKSTAR when booking.

In July, rooms start at $99 per night at Casino Del Sol Resort and include a $20 resort credit for each night, valid July 1 through July 20. Some restrictions apply. Use code 20YEAR when booking.

For more information or to make reservations, visit

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort
Guests at Hacienda Del Sol have always raved about the food, with the onsite garden providing fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. New this year are culinary and beverage classes so customers can take some of their favorite tastes home with them.

This summer the boutique resort is offering a summer staycation package starting at $199 per night that includes a $100 dining credit, a bottle of wine for adults, and a packet of house-made chocolate chip cookies. Use the Summer Staycation booking code STAY.

In addition, guests can stay two nights and get the second night at 50 percent off. Use the booking code AA3. For reservations and information, visit, or call (520) 299-1501.

Westin La Paloma Resort
This year the resort will completely redesign the Westin La Paloma’s Kids Club as the model for a new brand standard for Westin properties nationwide. The new design will include expanded offerings for younger guests – ranging from cooking classes to craft projects.
This summer the resort is offering Beach Party packages starting at $99 per night that include a $50 food and beverage credit with a two-night minimum. There are eight uniquely themed beach parties available – (including Hawaiian Heat, Margaritaville, Under the Sea, Life’s a Beach, Survive Our Skills Challenge, Surf and Safari, Fifties Flashback and Beach Patrol – along with a July Fourth All-American Barbeque. Packages are available until Aug. 31. Visit or call (888) 716-8137 and note SAVINGS (F&B offer) or SUM2014 (rooms only).

Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa
Regardless of your age, Westward Look is the place to spend the summer, boasted David Yamada, general manager of the resort.

“Westward Look offers three resort pools and a world-class, all-organic Chef’s Garden,” he said. “Combined with our tennis courts, bicycle paths and horseback riding opportunities, it is an ideal summer destination for adults and children alike.”

This summer, Westward Look is offering the following programs:

  • The Baja Bound summer special allows guests to relax in a beach atmosphere with margaritas by the pool and Baja Coast cuisine in Tucson – now through Sept. 18. Rates start at $99 per night and include a Passport to Savings at shops and restaurants, as well as for spa services, tennis and horseback riding. For reservations, visit, or call (800) 722-2500.
  • A weekday summer camp for children ages 6 to14 is offered through Aug. 1. Fees include tennis, basketball, volleyball, swimming, crafts, snacks and more. Registration is $20. Weekly camp for a full day is $210, for half day $155. Options for meals are available separately. To learn more or to register, call (520) 297-1151.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
The Lodge at Ventana Canyon sits against the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Nestled within this spectacular setting is a Lodge with just 50 suites and two Tom Fazio-designed championship golf courses.

This summer rooms start at $105 per night. For golf specials and group packages, visit or call (800) 828-5701.

Loews Ventana Canyon
Also offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to play the aforementioned 36 holes of golf designed by Tom Fazio is Loews Ventana Canyon, which features summer rates as low as $99 per night. The Lodge has been a prestigious AAA Four Diamond property for 18 consecutive years. Guest suites offer 800 to 1,500 square feet of touches like full kitchens, large bathrooms, private patios or balconies as well as flat screen televisions, a new expanded fitness center, junior Olympic size pool and 12 lighted tennis courts including a stadium court, plus a spa.

The award-winning boutique resort is offering a variety of special promotions, including:
• “Eat, Drink, Our Treat,” which includes a $25 food and beverage credit per night
• “Spaaahh Package,” which allows those staying in luxury accommodations a free spa credit toward the treatment of their choice
• “Third Night’s a Charm,” which offers up to 20 percent off room rates for those who stay at the resort for three nights or more.

For reservations, call (800) 234-6397 or book online at

Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel
Treena Parvello, director of public relations and communications for the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel “is looking forward to a busy summer of staycations and meetings as residents beat the heat.”

This summer’s specials include the Summer Treat Package – with rates starting at $119 per night for a deluxe room, continental breakfast, a $20 food credit, a $14 in-room movie credit, a $6 gift shop credit and complimentary beach ball. Make reservations at or at (877) 777-4212.

In addition, Desert Diamond is promoting the Summer Meeting Special, which requires a 25-guest minimum. Room rates start at $69 per person. Add $34 per person to receive continental breakfast, morning beverage break, buffet lunch, afternoon break and audio/visual package for group presentations. To book a summer meeting, call (520) 342-3030.

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