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What’s New in Event Venues: 2022 Travel Trends, Robot Employees, Convention Center Expansions and More

Rounding up the latest news from hotels, convention centers, meeting spaces, restaurants and other event venues across the United States and Canada.

Conrad Los Angeles Opening April 2022
One of the country's most anticipated 2022 openings is the buzzy Conrad Los Angeles, a 305-room luxury hotel designed by architect Frank Gehry that's slated to open in April. Part of the new The Grand LA shopping and entertainment district, the property will have a 16,000-square-foot rooftop terrace and 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space. See more: 2022’s Most Anticipated Event Venue Openings in the U.S. and Canada
Photo: Courtesy of Conrad Los Angeles

We're rounding up the biggest venue news of the month—in one convenient place. Got a tip? Get in touch!

In Case You Missed It
On BizBash recently, we highlighted 2022's most anticipated event venue openings in the U.S. and Canada, from new luxury hotels in New York and Los Angeles to exciting convention center expansions in Kentucky and Seattle to new cultural spaces in Boston and Edmonton. We also explored how the rise of legalized sports betting is fueling venue growth around the country. 

Here are seven more things you should know this month...

1. 2022 travel trends are starting to take shape.
While the hospitality industry eagerly awaits the full return of business travel, a number of media outlets have recently shared some insights into what that may look like. This week, CondĂ© Nast Traveller reported a story on the top 10 travel trends for 2022, which offered some interesting insights for the event sector. The publication predicts that all-inclusive resorts will see an increase in popularity, perhaps to alleviate some of the stress that comes with COVID requirements and the associated paperwork, as well as a rising interest in wellness- and personal development-focused retreats, adventure-focused expeditions and destinations that allow for “workcations.” 

A recent TravelPulse story, meanwhile, sees experts predicting that hotels will continue to embrace the work-from-home model, offering things like free Wi-Fi access and usage of conference rooms, as well as increased demand for local experiences and a bigger emphasis on interesting room service options.

2. Hilton is offering free continuing education resources to its employees.
Beginning this spring, staffers at Hilton’s U.S.-owned and -managed properties and corporate locations will be able to earn a vast array of new educational credentials debt-free via a new partnership with Guild Education. The continuing education platform will offer a variety of learning offerings, including everything from high school completion, college degrees, English-language learning, digital literacy and professional certifications in high-demand career areas such as culinary, business, data analytics and technology.

“At Hilton, we’ve been on a life-long journey to build an inclusive culture of continuous learning for all,” said Laura Fuentes, Hilton executive vice president and chief human resources officer. “This partnership with Guild Education—a first of its kind in our industry—is yet another way we will be able to better meet our team members where they are right now on their educational journeys and help them achieve their career aspirations.” 

3. A Florida hotel has hired what it calls a "robot employee."
The Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport has hired what it’s billing as its first “full-time robot employee.” Betty Bot, trained by AI company Bear Robotics, will act as a busser at the hotel’s Radiant166 restaurant, where she can bring food, drinks and dirty dishes back and forth from tables to the kitchen. Kitchen staffers will help load food and drink orders onto Betty Bot and send her into the dining room to deliver them, allowing human staffers to continue to focus on customer-facing interactions. Armed with 3D sensors, the robot can avoid obstacles to reach her assigned tables.

4. Cities are investing big bucks in their convention centers.
A number of exciting new convention center openings are worth keeping an eye on. The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center recently reopened after a 20-month expansion that increased the facility’s size to 800,000 square feet, which includes a 350,000-square-foot exhibit hall. It’s part of an ongoing $1.1 billion expansion, which will grow the venue to a whopping 1.2 million square feet and include a new 800-room hotel; the city hopes to unveil the final project in late 2025. 

That’s not the only city investing heavily in convention centers right now. Downtown Lexington, Ky.’s Central Bank Center is slated to unveil a $300 million expansion in spring 2022, resulting in 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space. In late 2022, the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle will debut its newest addition, The Summit, which will add approximately 250,000 square feet of exhibition space and 160,000 square feet of meeting room space. And a new-build convention center is coming to the Midwest in April 2022, when the 41,000-square-foot Terre Haute Convention Center is slated to open next to Indiana State University. 

Looking further ahead, Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center has broken ground on a $420 million expansion. Expected to be completed in early 2024, the new space will have 445,000 square feet of convention space and 52 meeting rooms. Meanwhile, the Fort Worth City Council has approved plans for a $500 million expansion to the Fort Worth Convention Center, which will create more than 97,000 square feet of total exhibit hall space, along with flexible meeting rooms and a new 60,000-square-foot ballroom. Other new projects on the horizon include a $21 million expansion of the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, as well as a $38 million refresh of the Tampa Convention Center and a $6.1 million facelift for the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Whew!

5. Check out these tips for effective communication between hotels and meeting planners.
The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) recently outlined eight ways to improve communication between hotels and meeting planners, and it’s certainly worth a read for event venue operators of all types. There are tips for ensuring flexibility on both sides, particularly in terms of COVID-related cancellations and offering clear information on food stations, sanitation and other amenities. Another interesting piece of advice? To conduct ongoing post-contract (but pre-event) pulse checks, to get in front of any changes and prepare for any possible cancellations. Check out the whole story here.

6. Marriott is offering new travel insurance options.
In response to today’s slightly unpredictable travel environment, Marriott has a new initiative that allows guests to seamlessly purchase travel insurance from Allianz Partners. The plans can cover everyone staying in the room including friends or family, and may provide reimbursement for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses like airfare, expenses incurred during covered travel delays and medical emergencies. When a guest chooses to purchase travel insurance, the cost is added to the total cost of their stay, and they are charged in a single transaction.

7. Hospitality veteran Richard J. Ferris has died at age 85.
Richard J. Ferris has passed away after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The renowned hospitality veteran is most known for serving as co-chairman of the board at Pebble Beach Co. for more than 20 years. He started his career in the 1960s as a staff planner for Westin Hotels (then Western International Hotels), before rising the ranks and eventually becoming president of United Airlines’ Food Service Division after its acquisition of the hotel group. In 1975, he was appointed president of United Airlines, and later became CEO of Allegis Corp., the parent company of The Hertz Corp., United Airlines, Westin Hotels and Hilton International.

In the late 1990s, Ferris and his business partners acquired Pebble Beach Co. from Sumitomo Bank and Taiheiyo Club, bringing the Pebble Beach Resorts back to American ownership. The World Golf Hall of Fame plans to recognize Ferris with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award on March 9.

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