Destination West in Arizona Explored 2023 Meetings Industry Challenges

The Northstar Meetings Group event welcomed more than 70 planners and suppliers in Tucson, Ariz.

Casino Del Sol Destination West in AZ
Photograph by Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Northstar Meetings Group's first Destination West in Arizona event brought together more than 70 meeting planners and suppliers for three days of networking and learning at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Ariz. The near future of the meetings industry was the topic of one of the eye-opening conversations held over Nov. 1-3, and the meeting also featured one-on-one hosted-buyer appointments as well as special events at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The first education session focused on expectations for 2023, in the form of a Q&A with David Kliman, president of the Kliman Group, which specializes in customer advisory-board facilitation and consulting services for hospitality and travel industry organizations. Kliman addressed such trends as solidifying crisis plans for meetings and using science to create welcoming spaces for all attendees, as well as what might be coming in 2024 and '25 after all the meetings that were postponed to 2022 and 2023 have been executed. He noted how hard it is to predict whether organizations will meet the way they did pre-Covid, and whether stakeholders will still feel that face-to-face events are worth the same effort as in the past.

In the second session, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Barlette, now a mindset and performance expert, imparted a lesson on the power of perseverance, based on her time in the cockpit of such planes as the A-10 Warthog. Represented by Paragon Speakers, Barlette's stories encouraged attendees to keep a mission-critical mindset — keeping the overarching project in mind when small elements start causing problems.

Northstar's generous sponsors helped make the event a success. Along with the Casino Del Sol, those partners were Visit Tucson, Stova (formerly MeetingPlay + Aventri + Eventcore), PC/Nametag, American Airlines, Essential Bodywear, the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort, Discover Flagstaff, Visit Concord, Calif., and the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa.

The following photographs, by Ketara Gadahn of Studio Alani, capture some highlights from the event. 

Destination West 2023 will take place May 11-13 at Colorado's newly renovated Sheraton Denver Downtown. View the full roster of upcoming Northstar events for more information or to register your interest as a hosted buyer or supplier.

Day One

Is it indoors or outdoors? The trompe l'oeuil ceiling above the Casino Del Sol's gaming floor makes it hard to tell.

Upon arrival, attendees were treated to loungewear from sponsor Essential Bodywear.

Corona the very popular burro was adored by all at the opening reception held on the Casino Del Sol's pool deck. (Her sister, Sophie, joined the group the next day at lunch.)

Day Two

David Kliman of the Kliman Group spoke of current challenges facing meeting professionals.

Visit Tucson was joined by exhibitors from Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico and Utah, to hold one-on-one appointments with planners.

Shrimp tamales were a big hit at lunch, held at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass.

The evening event was held in the Baldwin Gallery at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Day Three

Former fighter pilot Tammy Barlette's talk on the power of perseverance was one of the highlights of the three-day event.

A second round of hosted-buyer appointments kept the business of placing meetings at the forefront.

The farewell lunch featured a Hawaiian theme.