Meeting planners are drawn to new and renovated hotels for a myriad of reasons. “New space offers an exclusivity factor to the attendees by allowing the group to be the first to experience the hotel,” says Susan Abbate, owner and event planner at Abbate & Associates in Oak Park, Illinois. “There is sometimes a cost benefit associated with being the first group at a hotel. The newness of a new hotel or renovated space enhances the guest experience through hotel rooms and amenities. From a meeting perspective, having new or renovated meeting space helps in the selection process when looking at multiple options. Knowing a space has been renovated can give it an edge.”
New spaces are a draw for the guests and a way to add some cachet to the event. “If you are in a renovated space that guests have seen before, they also might be interested in seeing how things have changed and been upgraded.”
— Christina Taylor
Christina Taylor, president and CEO at TaylorMade Experience in Silver Spring, Maryland, says new spaces are a draw for the guests and a way to add some cachet to the event. “If you are in a renovated space that guests have seen before, they also might be interested in seeing how things have changed and been upgraded,” Taylor says.
Every new or renovated hotel may have a few issues arise at the onset of their opening or reopening, so it is important that corporate meeting planners do a walk-through so they are familiar with the space.
“The rules are important,” Taylor says. “Know if you can use an outside caterer or if you have to use the in-house company, know the time you can get into the space for setup, know where the coat check and restrooms are located. Being an expert on the space is key.” At a recent corporate event that Taylor organized at a renovated venue, they said that they could not serve dark beverages on the reception floor — no red wine or dark soft drinks because the tile of the floor would stain if something spilled.
“Knowing that and managing client expectations is key,” Taylor says.
Indeed, Karen Shackman, president of Shackman Associates in New York City, adds that there are key advantages to hosting an event in upgraded facilities. These include advanced technology capabilities, healthful and mindful amenities, and new approaches to food and beverage menus.
“For example, many of the new hotels in New York City are focused on providing healthy farm-to-table options and unique craft cocktail menus that millennial destination meeting attendees are seeking,” Shackman says. “Millennial attendees don’t want traditional touristy activities after hours, and many of New York City’s new hotels are opening in hot neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, Tribeca and Brooklyn. Attendees are closer to more after-hours venues that provide them the opportunity to experience the city like a local.”
Brenda Randolph, event specialist at Marketsource Inc. in Alpharetta, Georgia, also understands the inherent benefits of orchestrating a meeting at a renovated hotel. Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida, has been her company’s leadership meeting location for the past eight years. “The value, commitment and partnership that stems from the superior team they have onsite from the sales team right down to the banquets team for implementation of our vision has always brought us back to this great resort.”
The hotel has partnered with Marketsource to host executive meetings for the company’s clients — from groups as small as 15 people up to their 225-person leadership meeting.
Hammock Beach Resort, managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, is undergoing significant improvements, which include the renovation of its lobby, remodeling of its one-bedroom villas and also meeting facility enhancements. The Hammock House, the popular halfway stop on the resort’s famed Ocean Golf Course, is also being expanded. The renovation will be completed in stages and finished in its entirety by Labor Day 2016.
Opening in mid-2016 on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is another Salamander property: the Henderson Beach Resort, situated in Destin along one of America’s top beaches and also adjacent to the 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park. Guests of the luxurious hotel will enjoy nearly two miles of beach renowned for its white powdery sand and emerald-green water. The property features a grand seaside hotel called The Henderson, which has 170 guest rooms and suites, a nature-inspired spa, Gulf-to-table cuisine and 10,000 sf of meeting space.
In 2017, Starwood Hotels & Resorts will open its latest Le Méridien in Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale, following an expansive $30 million renovation and conversion of the hotel. This most recent opening follows on the heels of other recent openings in Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, New Orleans, Tampa and Indianapolis. Le Méridien Fort Lauderdale will offer an expanded fitness center, a renovated outdoor pool and 20,000 sf of state-of-the-art flexible meeting space.
The new Hilton in West Palm Beach, Florida, is teeming with opportunities for productivity and relaxation. Directly accessible to the adjacent Palm Beach County Convention Center, Hilton West Palm Beach offers the perfect setting for conventions, trade shows, meetings and social events. State-of-the-art amenities include an expansive fitness center, curated art program, and poolside bar and grill, along with a wealth of dedicated function space. The Palm Beach County Convention Center features a 100,000-sf exhibit hall, a 22,000-sf ballroom and 21,000 sf of flexible breakout space divisible into 19 rooms.
Meeting and event guests visiting the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort this summer at Universal Orlando will walk into a colorful Caribbean hideaway built around a lush, tropical lagoon and towering waterfall. The new Caribbean-themed resort will offer 1,000 rooms and 115,000 sf of meeting space, including a 41,000-sf ballroom divisible into 12 sections, a 31,000-sf hall, 16 breakout rooms and 27,000 sf of prefunction space. Planners also can utilize 11,000 sf of beautifully landscaped outdoor function space.
Need even more space? Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will connect to Loews Royal Pacific Resort by a walkway creating a massive meeting complex with a total of 2,000 rooms and more than 247,000 sf of meeting space between both properties.
The remodeled Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, features freshly remodeled guest rooms and suites, a completely redesigned Cascades lobby with VIP check-in area, a convention center and a 20,000-sf spa and fitness center. In addition to the 600,000 sf of meeting and convention space, attendees can explore nine acres of shopping, entertainment, dining, indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls and an indoor river on a charming Delta flatboat.
Another Southern gem, the 30-story, luxurious Omni Louisville Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, will embrace the Southern charm and hospitality of Louisville while celebrating the city’s historic delights.
Set to open in early 2018, the Omni Louisville will be the tallest hotel in Louisville and will be located one block from the Kentucky International Convention Center. As the cornerstone of the area’s eclectic retail, entertainment and office district, the hotel will boast luxury guest rooms and expansive apartments. In addition, the hotel will offer approximately 70,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space. Meeting and convention attendees will have access to an additional 300,000 sf of meeting and exhibit space at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
In Austin, Texas, the Hilton Austin, located directly across the street from the Austin Convention Center, announced the beginning of a multimillion-dollar transformation initiative that will include a full renovation of the hotel’s lobby, public areas and meeting space, as well as the launch of two new restaurant concepts, and a flexible event venue — to be completed by the end of the year.
With 801 guest rooms, including 81 concierge-level rooms and 25 suites, the Hilton Austin is the largest hotel in the city and features the largest ballroom in Austin. The hotel offers a total of 80,000 sf of meeting and event space. The Governor’s Ballroom and the Austin Grand Ballroom are each divisible into five different rooms to accommodate individual group needs, and both ballrooms flow into ample prefunction space and breakout rooms. The property’s wraparound prefunction space offers floor-to-ceiling windows and views of downtown.
The Reverbery, which opens in the Hilton Austin in late summer, offers an “Austin-cool” recording studio vibe, with flexible indoor and outdoor space and specially designed food and drink menus. The Austin Taco Project — a craft beer and fusion taco bar — opens late fall and features a streetfront patio just off Austin’s music “Main Street.” Also opening late fall will be a 3,000-sf Starbucks, one of the first in Texas to offer Starbucks Evenings menu. All the renovations come on the heels of a $23 million upgrade to the hotel’s 801 guest rooms, suites and executive lounge that was completed in 2014.
Scheduled to open in 2017, the Omni Frisco Hotel in Frisco, Texas, will be a full-service upscale hotel and serve as a cornerstone of the mixed-use development, which will be anchored by the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters and the Ford Center. The publicly owned, 12,000-seat multipurpose event center will be used to host various activities and special events. The Dallas Cowboys also will use the event center as its training facility.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently announced that it is expanding its ever-popular Aloft brand and has opened its first hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale’s vibrant entertainment district, Aloft Scottsdale features 126 spacious rooms, state-of-the-art technology for meetings and events and an energetic social scene.
Offering sweeping views of Camelback Mountain, Aloft Scottsdale boasts an ideal location and offers easy access to nearby art galleries, boutiques, a wide variety of restaurants and the Scottsdale Waterfront.
In the heart of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Starwood Hotels & Resorts will introduce The Westin Milwaukee in August 2017 with 220 guest rooms and stunning views overlooking Lake Michigan and the downtown skyline. The hotel also will feature 9,000 sf of meeting facilities, a unique fine dining restaurant and lobby bar.
With more than 15,000 sf of multi-purpose space, the new Hyatt Regency Bloomington-Minneapolis accommodates a variety of meeting and event needs. From the stylish grand ballroom to smaller breakout rooms, to high-tech executive boardrooms, all spaces are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art technology. Designed to foster connections and act as an energizing, dynamic space, the hotel has 303 guest rooms, 14 expansive suites, and is located close to the world-renowned attractions of Mall of America.
Opening in 2018, the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center is located minutes from Denver’s airport in the rapidly developing city of Aurora. In addition to offering more than 1,500 guest rooms, the resort will boast 485,000 sf of extraordinary meeting and convention space, as well as 20,000 sf of outdoor covered space. Teeming with rustic alpine charm, the resort also will feature first-class restaurants, a luxurious spa and salon, diverse shops, winding waterways and access to the Rocky Mountains, making this retreat an adventurous option for meetings and events.
Also located in Aurora is the new Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center. This IACC-accredited hotel features 249 guest rooms and suite accommodations, and more than 36,000 sf of meeting and event space including 15 meeting rooms, 20,000 sf of traditional meeting space, an 11,750-sf Grand Ballroom as well as approximately 4,000 sf of outdoor terrace space.
One of the most sweeping recent renovations on the Las Vegas Strip took place at MGM Grand, which spent $160 million on a full remodel. Its 3,570 grand king and queen guest rooms have been updated in bright, contemporary designs. All of the MGM Grand remodels include environmentally friendly updates, such as LED lighting, solar shades and biodegradable bath amenities.
Another MGM Resorts International property, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is a unique destination resort set on 120 lush acres on the Las Vegas Strip. Its recent renovation included the redesign of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites. Mandalay Bay Resort offers three distinct hotel experiences: Mandalay Bay, reflecting a modern tropical ambience; Four Seasons Hotel, a AAA Five Diamond hotel-within-a-hotel, offering 424 newly remodeled rooms and suites; and the stand-alone luxury all-suite Delano Las Vegas. Earlier this year, Mandalay Bay completed an expansion of its convention center, which now boasts more than 2 million sf of meeting and exhibit space.
Likewise, Caesars Entertainment recently announced plans to upgrade more than 4,800 hotel rooms at four of its Las Vegas resorts, and more than 900 rooms at three regional casinos totaling more than 5,700 owned or managed rooms across the enterprise.
These resort upgrades include the transformation of the original tower at Caesars Palace to create the Julius Tower as well as the refurbishment of the resort’s Augustus Tower. Additional room upgrades will include Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah’s Las Vegas. Regionally, Harrah’s Gulf Coast, Caesars Atlantic City and Horseshoe Tunica also will complete room upgrades.
Set to open in September 2016, the Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC, will offer a total of 38,000 sf of meeting and event space, including an opulent 13,200-sf grand ballroom. The company’s $200 million redevelopment of the Old Post Office will feature 263 richly furnished guest rooms and suites, among the largest luxury rooms in Washington, DC, with lofty ceilings, soaring windows, beautifully restored historic millwork, and glittering crystal sconces and chandeliers. The three extraordinary Presidential Suites at 2,500 sf, 3,500 sf and 6,300 sf will be among the largest in the country. The awe-inspiring grand ballroom will capture the Trump brand’s elegance and detailing, with European influences, and be ideal for meetings, conferences and events.
To meet the unique needs of its guests, the DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki recently completed a renovation of its meeting space to accommodate 200 guests for meetings or catered affairs.
The remodeling project of the function space includes the newly redesigned 3,500-sf Pikake Room, which features floor-to-ceiling glass windows with sweeping views. The venue can accommodate 200 guests for sit-down dinners or receptions, 200 guests in theater-style seating and 120 people for meetings. Upgraded lighting, carpeting and wall coverings also are a part of the project, which resulted in a modern event space with a Waikiki touch. With this new space, the DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki now features 10 private function rooms, including intimate meeting rooms for four. C&IT