Let’s Call Them ‘Boutique’ Cities
There’s actually been buzz around the industry for awhile to do away with the “tier” classifications.
Calling something second or third tier seems like an insult, but once you learn our own beloved Austin is considered Tier 2, you realize the criteria is just different. Meeting in a city like Austin – or other Tier 2 towns (Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon, for example) – offers planners and their associations a multitude of advantages, including ease and affordability.
Portland, Oregon: With cool, beautiful Pacific Northwest terrain and weather, this Tier 2 offers up a beautiful contrast for Texans looking for a change of scenery, along with super-diverse indie dining options for the foodies in your group. What’s more, Portland’s convention center has been a leader in green meetings since the early aughts and went LEED Platinum in 2014.
Salt Lake City, Utah: The city’s appeal extends beyond the metro area’s mass appeal (and that includes the burgeoning Silicon Slopes area, currently enjoying a tech boom!). With skiing nearby in the winter months and the state’s “Big Five” National Parks, odds are good members who come for the meeting will stay for recreation afterwards. That’s nice appeal.
Third tier hardly means “third class.” It’s just a way of denoting the metro region’s size, which often translates to its convention facilities, though look carefully and you’ll find these small “towns” offer big value and some really unique opportunities for off-site fun.
Spartanburg, South Carolina: For car buffs, this South Carolina city boasts BMW’s only North American museum and manufacturing plant (available not only for tours, but events!). There’s loads of history here, too, along with eclectic event space from historic Southern homes to outdoor options that will leave your attendees breathless.
Wichita, Kansas: Closer to home, Wichita boasts art museum, wildlife parks, cowboy history and loads more, plus it’s a super affordable trip for many Texans, with more than 8,000 hotel rooms and 200,000 square feet of space in its convention center.
What’s New Across the State
Hotel Transformation – HGTV-Style
Odessa’s historic and ornate Grand Karem Shrine Building is beginning its transformation into a boutique hotel courtesy of Chip and Joanna Gaines, famed hosts of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Plans for the circa-1928 building, vacant since 1995 with the exception of on-and-off storage and office tenants, include a rooftop terrace, street-level café and ballroom. Planned opening: 2021. Expect extensive remodeling!
Hospitality Meets Optimism
The new Hampton Inn off I-20 and Rankin Highway in Midland is intent on success. How do we know? Staffers here opted to open doors on the brand-new property just as most were closing down due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Opening this hotel is going to be an example to our community,” General Manager Daniel Segundo told local CBS affiliate KOSA. “We’re going to fight through this thing. We’re going to make it, and our economy is going to come out of it.”
When it does, Texas planners can look to this 79-room property for 1,050 square feet of meeting space, along with other amenities. Nearby features include Midland Park Mall and the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum.
The Nicolett is Next Level
Still in the works for spring, the Nicolett – a restaurant named for the first hotel in Lubbock – was headed toward its opening date. With Lubbock native, chef/owner Finn Walter at the helm, the goal is to elevate the city’s dining scene to rival those he’s worked in previously, including Austin, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Paris, France. At press time, renovations to the building were ongoing but plans call for an on-site greenhouse to transform into a private dining space. Keep an eye on it, planners!
Amarillo, slated to get its first-ever boutique hotel this year in the Barfield, has another high-end hospitality project in the works. DJ Investment Realty, the group presently at work on the Barfield, acquired another historical property and have plans to transform it into a suite hotel. The Rule Building, built in 1927 in the era’s Art Deco style, has enjoyed life in various forms since then. Its newest will see the property morphing into a 110+ hotel featuring a showroom and entertainment and conference venue.
Photo credit: iStock.com/4kodiak