When Julie D’Anastasio, director of meetings and events at Kestra Financial, held the company’s national educational conference at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona, she did so knowing the hotel had undergone a renovation. While she would not credit the uptick in attendance solely to the hotel, it definitely had some impact on the numbers. Additionally, Kestra Financial saw an increase in attendees who brought their significant others with them to enjoy the rooms and resort while they were in meetings.
“Our attendee experience was definitely heightened by hosting the event at the newly renovated Fairmont Scottsdale Princess,” D’Anastasio says. “Typically, we host this event at a nice hotel, but not usually a resort. By hosting at a resort, and one that was so newly renovated, we saw an increase in attendance at the event. We had many people pre- and post- extend their stay — which isn’t as typical for this program. We also received many comments on the survey about the size and comfort of the rooms at the hotel.” D’Anastasio adds, “People said it was nice to go back to their room after long days of meetings to relax and not feel cramped in a small hotel room. With almost every room having a balcony or patio, they also commented that it was wonderful to sit outside since most of them were coming from colder climates. We loved the hotel so much that we already renewed for our 2022 program.”
As a meeting planner at a financial-based company, D’Anastasio is always searching for the newest or most well-kept hotels across the country.
“We don’t like our programs to feel stale, and going to an outdated property brings the energy of a meeting down. While many hotels, or planners, may feel like the room or hotel decor doesn’t matter, I feel it absolutely does,” D’Anastasio says. “When an attendee feels comfortable in their room, when they’re able to get a good night’s sleep, when a hotel exudes warmth and cleanliness, it changes the actions and experience of the conference attendee. Before an attendee even makes it to our event registration desk, they’ve already formed an opinion of the hotel from either their experience at check-in or their feelings about their room.”
D’Anastasio’s goal as a planner is to ensure that an attendee has a great experience from start to finish, and a huge portion of that relies on the hotel, the services they offer and the hotel’s appearance.
Kurt Beadell, president and senior event manager of Vibrant Table Catering & Events in Portland, Oregon, agrees. Beadell and his team have produced a number of high-end, discriminating events at the renovated Portland’s White House. The boutique venue is tailor-made for the small meetings that will be increasingly more popular in the wake of the pandemic.
“First impressions are critical for prospective clients,” Beadell says. “When they first see the newly renovated Portland’s White House, they are impressed and immediately interested in holding an event there. Before the renovation, it looked old and dated and was not very impressive, so many of our sophisticated clients were simply not interested in doing business there. After the improvements were made, it was a completely different story. It is one of the city’s most desirable venues for our upscale clientele.” Portland’s White House had been in run-down condition prior to the $1 million renovation, which included an extensive remodel of the Greek revival mansion, including the bedrooms, grand common areas and an expansive ballroom.
Nancy Minard, CMP, independent meeting professional, has also been drawn to utilize a renovated venue — specifically Swissôtel Chicago and its Élevé, a modernized and spacious ballroom adorned with crystal chandeliers and offering breathtaking views. Since the venue’s renovation, Minard has used Élevé twice for two separate groups, including a global finance group within a Fortune 100 company. “There were 300 people in attendance and we used Élevé for the opening reception,” Minard says. “It proved to be the perfect venue to kick-off our three-day meeting. The space is elegant and offers a magnificent view of Chicago with floor-to-ceiling windows around the room’s perimeter. It was impressive to attendees who gathered from all over the world showcasing Chicago.”
From Minard’s experience, newly constructed hotels and resorts and newly renovated spaces are very favorable in regard to creating a successful meeting and event experience. “The atmosphere is fresh. In spaces that are dated, you have to do a lot with decor to cover up rooms and furniture that are tired and worn out,” Minard says. “Attendees are infinitely more impressed with a fresh, new look and new furniture. On a personal note, it is easier for me to bring clients into a space that is fresh and new.”
Known as America’s first resort destination, the Palm Beaches in South Florida is comprised of 39 towns and cities from Boca Raton and Delray Beach, to Palm Beach and Jupiter, as well as 47 miles of palm-tree lined, golden beaches along the warm coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Palm Beaches has a host of recently renovated properties, with additional resorts opening in 2020 and slated for 2021.
West Palm Beach is now home to The Ben, Autograph Collection by Marriott. This new hotel features a stunning library, state-of-the-art fitness center, rooftop pool with private cabanas and outdoor fire pit. As West Palm Beach’s only waterfront rooftop ballroom, the space boasts spectacular Intracoastal Waterway views across to Palm Beach and the Atlantic Ocean from its top floor. In addition, the hotel’s Blue Heron Ballroom provides magnificent event space.
The Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences, which spans 7 beachfront acres on Palm Beach County’s picturesque Singer Island, is taking reservations starting in April. The property will feature 12,000 sf of flexible event space that can be used for any function.
Just a few miles south, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach is a recently renovated beachfront hotel based in Fort Lauderdale. Now completed, the property-wide, multiyear renovation included renewed guest rooms and suites, updated meeting and event spaces, including 10,000 sf of total event space, which includes a new boardroom and 14 meeting spaces.
Located in Memphis, Tennessee’s iconic South Main District, The Central Station Memphis is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. This new boutique hotel features a world-class music experience with an intimate listening room, sound bar and an expansive library of vinyl records. The rooms showcase stunning views of the Mississippi River and Memphis proper, and feature one-of-a-kind photographs from local artists and EgglestonWorks speakers designed by Memphis-based audio designer, which play curated music in each guest room.
Charlotte, North Carolina is home to the Grand Bohemian Hotel Charlotte, Autograph Collection, which opened in late summer. The hotel takes center stage as the area’s newest luxury icon, boasting a Poseidon Spa, 16,000 sf of versatile meeting and event space, an executive lounge, a Mediterranean-style restaurant and a rooftop bar providing unparalleled views of the ‘Queen City.’
In Savannah, Georgia, the entertainment venue, Plant Riverside District, is anchored by the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District — which boasts more than 18,000 sf of ballroom space that can be transformed into breakout rooms, pre-function space and the capability of reserving public spaces for private parties, including an incredible rooftop deck.
Mandarin Oriental, Boston underwent an extensive $15 million renovation that wrapped up in the fall after a delay due to the pandemic. The renovation project included updates to all guest rooms, the spa, fitness center and 10,000 sf in event spaces to reinstate the hotel’s position as the premier luxury hotel in the city. Situated in a prime location in Boston’s Back Bay, the hotel’s stylish interiors will feature updated amenities and technology.
Thompson Washington, D.C., which opened early in 2020, is a lifestyle hotel in the emerging Navy Yard neighborhood. The hotel features floor-to-ceiling windows and breathtaking views of the Anacostia River and Nationals Park. The hotel’s expansive rooftop bar offers 360-degree views of the city and the river. In addition, the hotel offers more than 7,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space, including two formal meeting rooms, a multipurpose room, a private dining room at Maialino Mare and a wine room.
Designed to celebrate Chicago’s sophisticated and modern architecture, and in unison with the hotel’s 30th anniversary, the aforementioned Swissôtel Chicago introduced its new, elegant ballroom, Élevé. Located on the 42nd floor with high ceilings and windows, Élevé showcases magnificent views of the skyline, Chicago River and Navy Pier. The hotel’s spacious 4,836-sf ballroom is adorned with crystal chandeliers and features a contemporary look with elegant decor, high-end finishes and custom millwork, and is anchored by a showpiece chandelier extending the entire length of the ballroom at more than 150 ft. An award-winning luxury hotel, Swissôtel Chicago also features a new state-of-the-art fitness facility.
The Hyatt Regency Indianapolis completed the first phase of its renovations last winter. The work included a redesign of the hotel’s meeting and event spaces, an updated fitness center, lobby and renovations to all restaurants, including the city’s only revolving rooftop restaurant, The Eagle’s Nest. And newly-opened is the Bottleworks Hotel in Indianapolis — an awe-inspiring art deco boutique hotel, which is part of the massive redevelopment of what was once the largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in the world. The entire Bottleworks District will include the anchor hotel, a movie theater, restaurants and an independent food hall.
Live! by Loews – St. Louis opened in early 2020 as an entertainment hub and ideal home base located steps away from Busch Stadium — home of the St. Louis Cardinals — in downtown St. Louis’ Ballpark Village. The hotel reflects a simple, modern style with inventive design touches celebrating the origins of American baseball. Meetings and special events groups can take advantage of 17,000 sf of indoor/outdoor flexible event space with views of the Gateway Arch.
San Francisco is home to the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. In the heart of the city’s financial district, on the top 11 floors of the 345 California Center, the hotel underwent extensive renovations that boast modern designs and amenities and stunning views. The hotel’s rooms and suites have been completely updated.
The just opened The Clancy, Autograph Collection in San Francisco boasts nearly 12,000 sf of meeting spaces, including 16 modern spaces that can be tailored to fit an event’s specific objectives. The Clancy offers easy access to a wealth of notable attractions, including the Moscone Center, Oracle Park, the Embarcadero, the historic Ferry Building and other gems within San Francisco.
Also in San Francisco, the W San Francisco celebrated the completion of its Gold Fever guest room renovation with an expanded roster of guest services. Located in the bustling heart of San Francisco’s forward-looking SoMa neighborhood, W San Francisco offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline, views of the Bay Bridge, and is just steps away from attractions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Gardens and the waterfront. The hotel’s transformation reflects the city’s distinctive culture, historic landmarks, electric urban energy and non-stop social scene. The neighboring Moscone Center, one of the most successful convention centers in the country, adds to W San Francisco’s prime location. W San Francisco’s transformed Gold Fever guest rooms pay homage to the 1849 Gold Rush and feature solid surfaces for optimal work efficiency.
Also this year, Mar Monte Hotel, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, emerged as Santa Barbara’s newest lifestyle boutique hotel with reimagined guest rooms and two new dining concepts. The hotel features spaces that effortlessly flow from indoors to outdoors across 3 acres of Spanish-influenced grounds. In addition, Mar Monte Hotel features 15,000 sf of meeting and event space with full oceanfront views of the Pacific Ocean.
The aforementioned Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is Arizona’s largest and longest running AAA Five Diamond hotel. The venue renovated its guest rooms and luxury suites, including both of the property’s presidential suites. During the past few years, the hotel’s other guest rooms and suites were renovated to provide guests with a fresh, modern experience. I&FMM.