In an effort to grow their meetings-related economy, many cities around the United States are expanding their hotel offerings and renovating older infrastructure like airports to attract corporate planners and entertain guests. Here are five cities meeting planners should keep on their radars.
“Pittsburgh is in the midst of a cultural renaissance, especially when it comes to the event industry,” says Sheila Weiner, president and founder of Pittsburgh-based corporate event planning company the Event Group. Dubbed one of the “New Portlands,” thanks to an influx of young creative types, the city is experiencing a sort of rebirth with a thriving food and art scene. In terms of accommodations, Hotel Monaco, which is part of Kimpton Hotels, recently opened, offering trendy digs, and the historical Omni William Penn continues to be a luxury option. Pittsburgh also boasts plenty of meeting and convention facilities, including the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Overall, one of the biggest advantages to planning a meeting in the city is cost. “Pittsburgh offers planners big-city perks without the big-city prices,” Weiner says.
“I know I’m a bit biased because this is where I’m based, but Austin continues to prove its popularity,” says Cindy Y. Lo, director of communications for the Association of Destination Management Executives International and owner of Red Velvet Events in Austin, Texas. Known for its live music scene, walkable downtown area, and plethora of festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, the city provides loads of activities and entertainment choices. As for facilities, the recently opened Hotel Granduca Austin in West Austin offers six meeting rooms, plus a 3,506-square-foot ballroom. “With its laid-back atmosphere yet get-it-done attitude, it’s very easy to mix business with pleasure in this town,” Lo says.
From grand mansions to cultural landmarks, the family-friendly South Carolina town offers history lessons around every corner. Suzanne Wallace, director of sales for the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, explains that many of the city's off-site venues, such as the Lowndes Grove Plantation and the Old Exchange, which is an 18th-century building that was used as a government meeting place, are very popular with planners, thanks to their significance. Other group attractions include the South Carolina Aquarium and the Maritime Center. Plus, several new hotels with meeting spaces recently opened, including Hyatt Place Charleston Historic District, La Bohemian Hotel, and the Spectator; the Dewberry Charleston is slated to open in the winter.
“New Orleans is in constant motion. New restaurants, venues, parks, and festivals are popping up daily. These new innovative sides to our city are exciting and allow us to provide a new local perspective for our clients,” says David Rome, director of sales for New Orleans-based BBC Destination Management and president of the Association of Destination Management Executives International. And as the city approaches its tricentennial in 2018, along with the opening of the newly renovated Louis Armstrong International Airport, meeting planners should expect the city to continue to grow in demand.
In November, Hyatt House New Orleans Downtown opened in the city’s BioDistrict, which is adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The extended-stay property features apartment-style rooms to accommodate guests attending meetings, conventions, and trainings. The adjacent Hyatt Regency New Orleans hotel also boasts the largest meeting space in New Orleans, with 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, 80,000 square feet of exhibition space, two ballrooms, 70 meeting and banquet rooms, 19 executive-level meeting rooms, and seven boardrooms.
While the hotel rates in the Midwestern city are comparable to most major cities, other expenses like entertainment, food, and transportation are less expensive, making it a cost-effective alternative to nearby Chicago. Minneapolis, which will host the Super Bowl In 2018, also offers nearly 5,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the city's convention center. Many properties have also recently undergone renovations, including the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel the Depot—a former train station that now houses two hotels, a water park, and an indoor ice rink in the winter. And although planners may shy away from the cold temperatures, the city claims to experience more sunshine days per year than Chicago or Indianapolis.