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What's New in Event Venues: Growing Trends in Group Business, Continued Interest in NFTs, Holiday Experiences, and More

Rounding up the latest news from hotels, convention centers, meeting spaces, restaurants, and other event venues around the world.

Event Venue News for December 2022
As business travel and in-person meetings return, venues are finding out-of-the-box ways to encourage group business. Case in point: Hotel Clio, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Denver Cherry Creek, has implemented a slate of creative options for corporate groups and local professionals alike. A highlight? A simple, streamlined process for small corporate groups to quickly reserve short-term meeting spaces via OpenTable. Bookable co-working options include the lobby’s grand epicurean table (pictured) as well as The Nook and The Worktable, two comfortable spaces within the lobby’s fireside living room area. Overall, Hotel Clio has 10,000 square feet of event space.
Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Clio, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Denver Cherry Creek

In Case You Missed It
Our editors recently spotlighted high-tech esports venues around the world that can host state-of-the-art events, along with 10 tried and true—and brand new—venues in Milwaukee. We also took a look at some slightly less traditional venues with our profile on the New York-based Death of Classical, which aims to bring the musical genre to new audiences by presenting performances in unusual spaces such as crypts, catacombs, and cemeteries.

And don't miss our chat with Angie Gates, the new president and CEO of Events DC, who told us all about her history in venue management and her hopes for the future of meetings and conventions in Washington, D.C.—along with the lasting career lessons she got from her time as a professional boxer.

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

1. Benchmark Resorts & Hotels' 2023 meetings outlook shows some important changes to group business.
Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, the independent division of hotel management company Pyramid Global Hospitality, recently tapped the leaders of its 60-plus properties to ask their opinions for meetings in 2023. The results led the company to claim "the four walls are dead" in a recent press release.

What does that mean? Group event sizes have condensed a bit, according to Eric Gavin, the chief commercial officer of the luxury and lifestyle division of Pyramid Global Hospitality, and "smaller events have opened up creativity for alternative meeting setups tailored to more intimate experiences, whether that’s creating a living room design in a traditional meeting space or moving the group think tank to an outdoor pavilion.”

Other observations from the report include increased demand for outdoor meeting spaces in unexpected, natural settings; a rise in requests for vegetarian and vegan cuisine; a desire for more team-bonding experiences, particularly angled around philanthropic causes; and a need for high-quality technology, like strong Wi-Fi bandwidth, audiovisual equipment, and guest messaging platforms.

2. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has launched a line of NFTs.
In keeping with recent trends, InterContinental is the latest hotel brand to wade into the metaverse. The company recently entered a partnership with British contemporary artist Claire Luxton to launch its first collection of 10 exclusive non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that contain luxury travel benefits like InterContinental Ambassador status and a one-night stay at the new InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace, opening in 2023.

Each NFT features artwork created specifically for the brand, inspired by the concept of global travel using Luxton's signature flora and fauna style. Motifs paying homage to key historical InterContinental properties were brought to life as an animation in a virtual NFT gallery—including the blue and yellow macaw, representing the first InterContinental hotel in BelĂ©m, Brazil, and the panther chameleon, spotlighting InterContinental Resort Mauritius on Balaclava Bay. Event Venue News for December 2022"The brand’s ability to transcend a multitude of cultures is inspiring, and the project has let me transform my original work for InterContinental into contemporary digital artwork," Claire Luxton said in a press release. "Each is a memento of the elegance of worldly travel—a theme at the heart of our partnership."Photo: Courtesy of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

3. A group of catering and hospitality pros have banded together to improve the industry.
A group of 16 catering, event production, and hospitality companies have created Elite Catering + Event Professionals (ECEP), a collaborative global network that aims to propel the global catering and event industry forward through innovation and new ideas. The group, which officially formed last year, took action during the pandemic by aligning itself with the National Automatic Merchandising Association and working with Congress to get the catering and food service industry declared as “essential services.” Similarly, it's currently advocating with the IRS for companies who have yet to receive their Employee Retention Tax Credit. ECEP also has an education component: The 2023 ECEP Symposium will be held in Palm Springs, Calif., from Feb. 27-March 2.

The group—which has more than $615 million in annual revenue among its members—knows it can have a powerful voice in the industry. “If money talks, we have the ability and the desire to say and do something significant to effect positive change,” says Susan Lacz, the inaugural president of ECEP and CEO and principal of Ridgewells Catering. â€śOur industry is in dire need of advocacy, leadership, and collaboration."

4. Convention center bookings for 2023 are reportedly pacing 13% over 2022. 
That piece of good news comes from Lodging Analytics Research & Consulting’s December 2022 U.S. Outlook presentation last week, as reported by real-estate information company CoStar. Ryan Meliker, the president and co-founder of the consulting firm, predicts that leisure travel will stabilize after hitting record highs in 2021 and 2022—but that group and business travel demand will continue growing through 2023.

5. Plans may be in the works for the world's largest boat...
...and it'll be shaped like a turtle. An $8 billion turtle, that is. According to CNN, Pangeos is a so-called terayacht from designers Lazzarini that’s 1,800 feet long and 2,000 feet wide; plans call for hotels, shopping malls, parks, a beach club, and even ports for smaller ships and aircrafts, along with space for 60,000 people—all in a turtle-shaped space. The designers are hoping to anchor the yacht on a square kilometer of sea outside Saudi Arabia. If they manage to secure the funds, Lazzarini plans to start construction in 2033, and currently has a crowd-founding initiative where guests can buy a virtual entrance ticket or virtual VIP apartment via an NFT. 

6. Venues' holiday experiences continue to impress.
Last month, we rounded up some of our favorite seasonal pop-ups from hotels and event venues around the country—and we just can't resist bringing you a few more. Scroll down for some more holiday inspiration that caught our eye this month... Event Venue News for December 2022Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in Las Vegas has unveiled its new holiday display: Gingerbread Dreams, a Holiday Confection. Now through Jan. 1, the winter display is decked in holiday-trimmed botanicals and giant pastry elements, including a 42-foot-tall white fir tree sparkling with thousands of lights, a snowy holiday village, and a gingerbread cottage made by the Bellagio pastry team. The display aims to engage all five senses with features like a custom scent—dubbed Gingerbread Dream, with notes of clove, cinnamon, vanilla, and apple—filling the air, and a holiday soundtrack setting the mood. For the first time, the Conservatory is also offering sweet holiday treats for sale baked by Bellagio’s pastry chefs. Overall, the display boasts some jaw-dropping numbers, including 140,000 poinsettias, 15,000 gingerbread men, 8,700 holiday ornaments, and 800 pounds of faux white frosting.

“For this exhibit, we continue to push the envelope by utilizing and incorporating classic and time-honored holiday themes with an innovative and imaginative approach,” said designer Ed Libby. “Guests will feel like they’ve stepped into a delicious and fanciful world filled with magical characters, sugary sweet confections, and holiday wonders around every corner.”
Photo: Courtesy of Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Event Venue News for December 2022On Dec. 8, the Washington Capitals hockey team launched Capitals Winter at the Wharf, a new fan experience at The Wharf in Washington, D.C. that's open through Feb. 25. The activation includes three 12-foot-wide igloos featuring hockey net entrances. The individual igloos are all holiday- and Capitals-themed with TV screens playing Capitals-related, holiday-themed content, games, player images, and more. The igloos each fit up to four guests, and will be open for the public to enjoy whenever the Wharf Ice Rink is open.Photo: Courtesy of the Washington CapitalsEvent Venue News for December 2022Los Angeles’s Fairmont Century Plaza has debuted its Winter Swiss Chalets, an après-ski dining experience within three wood Swiss chalets located on the new hotel’s outdoor patio. The spaces feature cozy, festive decor along with a prix-fixe menu of chocolate fondue, cheese fondue, and a curated selection of winter appetizers (think: short rib croquettes, smoked salmon on potato roesti, charcuterie, and more) along with holiday cocktails like the Espresski Martini and Eggnog of the Century. There’s also a small private fire pit area, where guests can order an elevated s’mores platter. Reservations for chalets are available daily from 5-10 p.m. for $125 per person.Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Century PlazaEvent Venue News for December 2022Calling all Dolly Parton fans! The Kingston Resorts in Myrtle Beach, S.C. is celebrating the holidays–or “Dolly-days,” as the hotel refers to it—with a series of experiences inspired by the iconic country star, including themed suites decked out in rhinestones, pink Christmas trees, and custom artwork. The suites are available to book through Jan. 19 (Dolly’s birthday!). The hotel is also offering Dolly-inspired cocktails, cookie-decorating classes, screenings of Christmas movies starring the singer, and more.

“With the final phase of our property-wide renovation officially complete, we knew we had to blow this holiday season out of the water,” said Bob Barenberg, the managing director of Kingston Resorts. “Not only is Dolly Parton a country music legend, she’s a philanthropist, inspires love and happiness in everything she does, and brings the season’s cheer like no one else."
Photo: Courtesy of Kingston Resorts

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