Happy 2011! I hope you had a great holiday. Thank you for allowing me to take you with me on my 2010 trips. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you, and I hope 2011 brings us the same. In case you were not checking emails over the holidays (is that even possible?), I’m including the stories that we published last week, including my trip to Seattle to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Boeing factory and picking up a brand-new Air New Zealand 777-300ER plane. I’m also catching up on my travels, so here is my story on my stay at the Ritz-Carlton Phoenix and Juliet Pennington’s story on Vegas’s City Center. In November I flew to Phoenix to attend the annual PhoCusWright conference–it was the largest PhoCusWright conference to date with over 1,200 attendees. Most of them are the who’s who in travel. All the top executives that are behind the travel websites that you use every day, like Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, and Groupon, were there. Every year PhoCusWright switches coasts; it used to just alternate between Los Angeles and Orlando. But this year they went out of the box and had it in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the location and venue were pretty much perfect. The main event, the Travel Innovation Summit, is the innovator: 34 innovative companies take center stage for nine minutes each to demonstrate their latest applications and technologies that will take travel planning, purchasing, and memorializing to a new level. I was planning on being there for the entire summit, but I had to change my flight when my beloved computer crashed–I wasn’t going anywhere without my best travel companion. Since I missed most of it you can read great recaps of all those involved on the BootsnAll and UpTake blogs. The conference is run flawlessly (they have over 100 full-time employees during the yearly event), and it should be, because they charge the most of any conference I’ve ever been to. It costs $3,400 to attend, and to be one of those innovator presenters will set you back $12,500 (that comes with a booth plus one guest, but you have to qualify). Bloggers can get in for $500, and press for free. I had to jump through hoops to get my press pass, which I’ve never had to do at any other conference–that might be why the press/blogger side was very thin. If I were a presenter, I would want them to loosen the requirements (they only want B to B) and lower the blogger admission fee–after all, the more bloggers and press who attend, the more their word is going to spread.

I couldn’t get a room at the host hotel, which was the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, because I applied late. There were other hotels nearby, but since I have a great relationship with Ritz-Carlton hotels, I chose to stay at their property in nearby Phoenix. It was a 20-minute drive from the Westin and just 12 minutes from PHX airport. The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix is a business hotel in a city that is full of plush resorts. They cater to the business traveler, and you wouldn’t want to stay there if you are on vacation, but if you are in Phoenix to work then this is the place to be. After spending three nights there it wasn’t difficult for me to see why it’s the hotel of choice for most visiting pro sports teams and rock stars. Check out my slide show to see how their service is second to none in the Valley of the Sun.

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