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Loews Ventana Canyon Drops "Resort" from its Name

The 'r' Word Tends to Carry with it a Stigma with Potential
 Corporate and Government Business

By Dan Sorenson, The Arizona Daily Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 2, 2010 --You won't be getting those skin-abrasive, roach-motel towels there, but Loews Ventana Canyon has dropped "resort" from its name to keep the corporate and government types coming to meet, eat and sleep in the gorgeous Santa Catalina Foothills.

It's part of a national, post-AIG-bailout trend in the luxury-hotel business to drop the "resort" in names, said Brian Johnson, managing director of the swanky hotel formerly known as Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

"Nothing else has changed. We haven't changed our service. We haven't changed our staffing. All we've done is take 'resort' out of the name, because if you don't, you don't even get to bid on the business," said Johnson -- whose voice-mail message still contained the offending word as of Monday afternoon.

Representatives of several of the area's other higher-altitude, "resortish" hotels didn't return calls Monday about how they are handling the offending noun.

But the "R-word" seems to come and go in promotional and online material.

Ask the all-knowing Google and sometimes our more luxurious hotels are resorts, sometimes resorts and spas, and other times they're just the Omni Tucson, the JW Marriott Starr Pass, the Westward Look and the Westin La Paloma.

"We definitely have seen statewide a trend to downplay that 'resort' word because these days it tends to carry with it a stigma," said Kristen Jarnagin, vice president of communications for the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association.

That stigma began in 2008 when, just days after the feds committed $85 billion in taxpayer money to bail out AIG, execs of the giant insurance company took a retreat at a luxury California resort and spa.

Jarnagin said the peak of post-AIG hysteria came when the Social Security Administration held a conference at the Arizona Biltmore last summer. She said they were getting rooms for $85 a night because, well, it was Phoenix in July.

"They'd be paying that at any Holiday Inn in Detroit," Jarnagin said. "But they were crucified all over national news. It's an emotional issue these days. People don't want to see people enjoying themselves. It's better to fly under the radar."

Jarnagin said there was a $2 billion drop in visitor spending in Arizona in 2009, which she said amounts to a loss of $167 million in state and local taxes.

The resortectomy trend is a "slippery slope," she warned, because Arizona's resort-hotel industry has worked hard and spent a lot of money to build up its reputation for luxury.

That's why Jarnagin said she doesn't see many of the luxury hotels taking "resort" off their signs and other "collateral."

Loews Ventana Canyon isn't changing its signs, for example, Johnson said.

And you'll still have to drive up North Resort Drive to get there -- unless you take the company helicopter.

Contact reporter Dan Sorenson at 573-4185 or dsorenson@azstarnet.com

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To see more of The Arizona Daily Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.azstarnet.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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