Palm Springs – the City is Like a Giant Hotel

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Palm Springs, CA – For years, Palm Springs has used a citywide approach to trade show marketing that makes use of venues orbiting the city’s convention center.

A continually evolving inventory of hotels within walking distance of the Palm Springs Convention Center, as well as the desert resort city’s warm weather and proximity to Los Angeles, have made this relatively small city an attractive option for associations looking for a venue to host annual meetings and events.

“We don’t have the 1,000-room properties where everyone can be under one roof,” said Julius Kazen, president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association. “But we treat the entire city as if it was one giant hotel.”

Palm Springs makes efficient use of hotels such as the newly remodeled Hyatt Regency Suites, the venerable Hilton and a newly remodeled Renaissance, which is convention-center adjacent and features an expansive outdoor pool deck that is a natural for networking functions. Boutique hotels off the beaten path include the Ace Hotel, part of a hipster boutique chain with properties in New York, Seattle and Portland, OR.

Worth the Trip

There are also some unique properties that provide show organizers and meeting planners with memorable options for attendees from places other than the high desert.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway carries visitors 8,500 feet to the top of Mt. San Jacinto where The Pines lodge can host banquets up to 275 people. At ground level, the oasis in Indian Canyons hosts picnic gatherings on the site where Native Americans thrived before the Spaniards arrived.

Palm Springs is also synonymous with golf, and the ancient desert itself beckons. Joshua Tree National Park is 30 minutes away and group tours are available from operators such as Big Wheel Tours and Desert Adventures.

Presidential Retreat

The newest edition to the Palm Springs inventory is steeped in history and the highest level of power politics. The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands is the 200-acre estate of philanthropist, media mogul, ambassador and political insider Walter Annenberg.

Sunnylands, located in upscale Rancho Mirage, hosted six presidents as well as members of the British royal family within its friendly and discreet confines. The deposed Shah of Iran also stayed there for a while as he figured out his plans for the future.

In  November, Sunnylands will be opening a new visitors center on the grounds, which until now have strictly been off limits to just about everyone other than heads of state — and is still keeping the public at arm’s length.

Meeting planners will no doubt see the visitor center as a jewel. Simply made for receptions, the center itself is 17,000 square feet with ample outdoor space, a grand vista of the mountains and grounds that were landscaped as living impressionist paintings.

But the center has not yet opened its doors to event planners. It is reserved for public visits but can also be reserved for VIPs. “You aren’t going to be able to have your wedding here,” said Marketing Director Mary Perry.

What will be held at the center are high-level retreats for a class of movers, shakers, thinkers and captains of industry whose aim is to pave the road to a brighter future for all. A soft opening this Winter involved about 20 up-and-coming film directors who were in town to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival and brainstorm about the role cinema can play in bringing about a better world.

While Sunnylands won’t be available right away for busloads of attendees, the idea of high-level leaders of specific industries putting their heads together in this rarified setting is not out of the question. Geoffrey Cowen, president of the Sunnylands Trust, told Trade Show Executive the business guidelines for the visitor center were “still developing.”

“We won’t be ‘renting out space,’ but where appropriate to our mission might host some events with groups,” Cowen said.

Reach Julius Kazen at (760) 883-1000 or jkazen@srcmail.net; Rick Leson, director of sales, Palm Springs Convention Center, at (760) 322-8402 or rleson@palmspringscc.com; Geoffrey Cowen at (760) 328-2829 or gcowen@usc.edu