It’s a new year and with it, as always, comes new ideas about how to make meetings and events more exciting, more comfortable and above all more useful for those in attendance. Part and parcel of this experience are the spaces in which we meet. Convention centers, hotels and other event venues are upping the ante at all levels to set a positive chain in motion, giving planners what they need so they can pay it forward to the guests. Read on for a roster of what you might see as you greet the new year – and then meet in it!
Part of what people enjoy in their leisure travel is soaking up the sights and culture of their chosen destination and business travelers are no different. As such, we’re already seeing an uptick of local representation – even in hotel chain properties. Instead of cookie-cutter lodging, we’re seeing properties embrace the things that make their city special.
The state-of-the-art Kentucky International Convention Center, for example, recently completed a two-year, $207 million renovation and expansion, and – capitalizing on the popularity and growth of Louisville’s Bourbon District and distillery attractions – incorporated an engaging design reflective of the city’s bourbon culture.
At the new Hotel Indigo Gainesville-Celebration Pointe, colorful in-room murals reflect the music of proud native son Tom Petty.
It’s not just macro, either. Planners will continue to see properties incorporating local culture into the guest – and meeting – experience, partnering with independent local shops, artists, restaurants and other businesses to make stays feel more immersive and authentic.
It’s not just local culture, though – it may even get as local as the weather as an increasing number of properties find ways to bring the outside and the natural world indoors.
That could mean waterfalls in the lobby or rough-hewn furnishings that leave natural qualities (sometimes even branches) to the wood. Rooftop and terrace bars and restaurants will continue to offer attendees a way to make the most of time spent on-site – but outside.
They’re not quite at self-awareness yet, but hotels and other meeting venues will continue to grow “smarter” as technology becomes even more pervasive. Guests will be able to check in on iPads and bring their Netflix subscriptions right into their hotel rooms but planners will be seeing the incorporation of the Internet of Things (IoT) to make their meetings coast along as though flying.
Sensors that communicate with one another will take the human equation out of things such as lighting, HVAC, AV support and more – making spaces more comfortable. In the rooms,
“The IoT will bring sensors throughout the meeting venue to increase efficiency and improve service,” says Corbin Ball, an international speaker, consultant and writer on events technology. “More efficient, lighting, better AC controls, security and AV support, smart guest rooms and lobbies, or tech lounges, will be the result.”
Apps will continue to proliferate, as well. Four Season’s new chat app, for example, makes phone calls for things like towels or even a poolside cocktail a thing of the past, valuable for a growing segment of meeting attendees for whom text is the preferred mode of contact.
Golf tournaments are hardly cutting edge when it comes to non-dues revenue, but a high-tech spin on an evergreen (greens?!) event idea could generate a lot of interest – and thusly, a lot of money! And you can get the ball rolling long before the day of the event with pre-sales on things like mulligans or packages that include on-course snacks and beverages or preferred seating at the post-tourney luncheon or happy hour. Guests love the convenience of having pre-paid, your association will love having all that revenue up front. Mobile check-in makes things easy on game day, and allows you to capture credit card info while speeding up the process – and allowing your players to purchase items, from refreshments to souvenirs, without having to get out their wallets.
Destination Texas: Now Open
Austin – The Hotel Carpenter
This hip, 93-room boutique property on Josephine Street doesn’t have much in the way of dedicated meeting space, but it’s walk-to for loads of what makes and keeps Austin weird and boasts a sweet poolside space called the Q-Hut (it has an arced roof and a Quonset hut feel with biergarten-style tables). Billed as “part pool cabana, part outdoor pavilion” and a nice place to throw a quiet party, it could also host smaller groups for a range of events. A nice, large lobby table easily serves as a meeting space, as well; the walk-up coffee counter (Hot L Coffee – the “e” in “hotel” is missing!) has all the fuel necessary to get the ideas flowing.
College Station – Aggie Additions
Boutique additions have increased the Aggie stronghold’s hip factor – and meeting space! Newcomers in 2018 are ready to host you in 2019. In Century Square, two new options – sister properties Cavalry Court and The George – have close proximity to the campus. The former boasts 141 rooms and 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space including the Stable Ballroom, a large function space that can be converted into smaller meeting rooms. At the 162-room George, the 5,236-square-foot Statesman Ballroom boasts an open-air plaza that will wow for business meetings, luncheons or dinners. Smaller spaces offer more intimate venues for VIPs and executives, as well. The Stella, with 176 rooms, stands on its own with a farm-to-table restaurant venue, craft cocktail bar and more than 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. It’s also minutes from Easterwood Airport.
Waco – What’s Old is New
Slated for a new life in downtown Waco is the historic St. James United Methodist Church, which was completed in 1924 and served the city’s African-American community for decades as a school, a house of worship and a community stronghold. Rather than make way for more modern architecture, the couple that bought the building plan to restore and historically preserve it, transforming it to a 5,500 square-foot destination restaurant. Phase two will add a 500-seat event venue. The restaurant is slated for completion in September.
Author Amy Drew Thompson is a travel and hospitality writer.
Photos credit: ©iStock.com/jacoblund