More than 100 members of downtown Phoenix’s hospitality community recently joined hands—literally—to demonstrate their shared commitment to bringing more faith-based meetings and conventions to the city’s urban core. Meeting professionals from Church of God of Prophecy International and Arrowhead Conferences and Events, in Phoenix for a site visit, emerged from the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel on the morning of March 7 to find the street lined with a human chain of local hospitality employees. The phalanx of well-wishers—which included hotel general managers, restaurant workers, and sales and services staff—stretched four blocks to the Phoenix Convention Center.

The surprise gesture was the brainchild of Visit Phoenix’s “Faith in Phoenix” sales team, which was formed seven years ago with the goal of making America’s sunniest metropolis the premier Western destination for religious conventions.

“Phoenix is blessed with three attributes that are important to the religious-meetings market: accessibility, affordability and activities,” said Julie Nicolazzi, who oversees religious citywide sales for Visit Phoenix.

The accessibility starts at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is a hub for two low-cost carriers and is located only five miles from downtown Phoenix. A one-way trip from Sky Harbor to downtown aboard light rail costs only $2; a taxi ride typically costs less than $20.

The value of meeting in Phoenix is amplified during summer, when hotel and rental rates fall substantially. Summer is also when many faith-based groups hold their annual conventions.

“Our value season dovetails with the religious-meeting season,” Nicolazzi said. “And many of our top family-friendly attractions—pools, water parks, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Arizona Science Museum—are ideally experienced in summer.”

Since the Faith in Phoenix team was formed, Visit Phoenix has booked several large religious meetings, including the Southern Baptist Convention, Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, Assemblies of God General Council, The Gideons International, and the National Baptist Congress.

One of the objects of Phoenix’s good-faith efforts to attract religious meetings was impressed by her recent visit—and the hospitality community’s public show of unity.

“They truly ‘get’ the religious market and understand the value of our business in an off-peak season,” said Jamie Kervin, an account manager at Arrowhead Conferences and Events. “Having seen the city and experienced everything it has to offer, I don't hesitate to recommend Phoenix to my clients.”