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January 5, 2011

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Phoenix

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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.

Here is my Phoenix slide show

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  • I've been following you for years, and used to comment more often, but even as I've gotten busier, I always make time to read your newsletter. How about coming to Portland Oregon in 2011? I'll show you around some of our great sites, microbreweries, wineries, and we can hit Mt Hood!1 Todd M Portland, OR

  • You know that Ivar's Fish Bar below has one of the best clam chowders in the world. And Beecher's has the best mac and cheese. Seattle is a foodie paradise. Just sayin... Tom W Seattle

  • Good Morning and welcome to my city!!!! You've chosen the northern-most major city in the lower 48 on the shortest day of the year! Don't blink or you will miss daylight today! Michael - Seattle

  • "Thank you for taking us along...." Jean-Louis

  • "Following in my footsteps, was there 2 weeks ago. There is a fairly decent Panera (read free wi-fi) in the Alderwood Mall about 20 minutes south of the plant. Good rest stop..." Ralph S -

  • "While you're up there....go over to Flying Heritage museum at the south end of PAE. Incredible warbirds!!" Scott M Anchorage, AK

  • My fave airline in the world...hands down. Tom Washington State

  • Was catching up on my reading last week and came across your article on Xmas gifts and what you travel with. Motivated me enough to go out and get the Belkin surge protector and another international converter (which I was able to grab for $1.63 the postage was more than the cost!). BTW, Seagate's 650GB portable drive is now $59. Good article. Thanks for the tips. Have a good New Year. Jim F Fort Lauderdale, FL

  • I am a girl in Kansas who loves your website and looks forward to your weekly emails. I have been meaning to write you for a very long time, but I am busy wandering around. ;-) Your photos, trivia, stories, information, and strategies are fabulous. Your celebrity/VIP encounters are always fun to read about. My passion in life is travel, but I am not nearly as ambitious or motivated as you are to write about it. I have written some very amateur travel logs, mostly about cruising. I applaud you for making a career out of your passion and getting FREE travel. Thanks to you, I have experienced several things sooner rather than later. For example, after your feature on A380 intro flight at LAX, I booked the A380 on Emirates. An aviation lover's dream. I used a lot of your travel tips in London recently. I bought my dad the Scottvest for Christmas after reading about it on your site. I could list many things that you have clued me in on that made a difference in my travel experience. You have been a wonderful resource and a fun read. Thank you.
    There is one big frustration for me and your "Where Is Johnny" blog. Since everything you do is "sponsored", you will never write anything negative. I always find myself thinking, what would a professional like John say/do or where would he stay if he was paying the bill? I am a leisure traveler all about getting the most bang for my buck. Most of the hotels you report on are not being visited by your average person. I would love more info on getting the best deals on first class or luxury travel. Maybe someday you can lump all of your experience together and let me know when the Marriott is a better value than the Four Seasons or where you would stay/eat in any given place if you had to pay the tab. That is what I am looking for. Reading opinions from the Frommer's board, Trip Advisor, etc., are helpful, but unreliable as most things in life are subjective and relative. I need opinions from the professionals who can give seriously informed evaluations. Paige B Kansas City

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Amy L. Scott
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