by Michael J. Shapiro | June 01, 2016

Easy hotel availability: It's the impossible dream for many meeting planners. With the growth in demand for hotels in the United States outpacing supply growth for the past 69 quarters, according to data from STR, hoteliers are very selective when booking groups. Negotiations can be particularly difficult in the largest markets.

But this wild success has triggered a hotel boom, and the supply-and-demand lines are destined to meet again sometime next year, according to experts. The effects will be felt even sooner in some smaller urban markets, where development is surging.

What follows is a closer look at a handful of second-tier cities with a lot to offer groups -- and where a boost in room count helps to even the playing field.

Austin, Texas
The self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World has more than 250 music venues and 30 years under its belt as the host of the now-mammoth South by Southwest music, film and entertainment festival. This year, the town is seriously upping the ante for meetings. A lodging boom will add more than 2,000 new hotel rooms between now and 2018, giving downtown Austin a total of 10,642 rooms in its inventory, among more than 37,000 rooms citywide.

The difference already is evident: While year-over-year demand growth for the city was a healthy 4.6 percent for the first three months of this year, according to STR, supply growth jumped by a whopping 7.2 percent. And the growth is really just beginning.

Most recently opened is a downtown hybrid project, a connected 134-room Hotel Indigo and 171-room Holiday Inn Express. While not geared toward large gatherings, these properties do offer a total of 3,140 square feet of meeting space, with six out of seven meeting rooms on the Hotel Indigo side. Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University, as it's known in full, offers a pool, a business center and a fitness center. The new hotels are near the University of Texas and countless restaurants and music joints.

The northwest part of the city will welcome the boutique upscale Archer Austin late this summer, a 171-room property in The Domain, a high-end fashion and restaurant development. Archer will be outfitted with 16,525 square feet of both indoor and outdoor meeting space for groups of up to 800. Acclaimed chef David Bull, the force behind two well-loved Austin restaurants, will be executive chef at the hotel, overseeing all culinary operations.

Among a slew of properties in the pipeline is the $370 million Fairmont Austin, to offer 1,068 rooms when it opens in summer 2017. Linked by the Canopy Walk to the Austin Convention Center, the hotel will have 106,000 square feet of meeting space of its own, plus 43,300 square feet of prefunction space and a 19,000-square-foot outdoor deck that will host up to 1,800 people.


The Aloft/Element, Austin

Slated to debut around the same time next year is a downtown Starwood Aloft/Element hybrid project, offering two hotels in a 32-story tower. The 270-room Aloft and 144-room Element will share a full-service restaurant and an outdoor lounge area.


The city that won the bid to host the Republican National Convention next month has long been preparing for that spotlight: Since 2014, downtown Cleveland has seen its hotel-room inventory grow by an impressive 56 percent. More than $3.5 billion in tourism-related infrastructure development has been invested in the city since 2011.

Debuting this month is the $272 million, 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown, bringing the downtown room count up to nearly 5,000. The hotel is connected to the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and the Global Center for Health Innovation, cutting-edge facilities that debuted in 2013. The new Hilton provides more than 46,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 20,825-square-foot Superior Ballroom and the 15,908-square-foot Hope Ballroom. Bar 32, on the top floor of the contemporary hotel tower, offers dramatic views of sparkling Lake Erie.

Another recent debut, the 122-room Kimpton Schofield Hotel, opened in March. Ohio's first Kimpton, in the repurposed 1902 Schofield Building, offers the lodging company's unique take on the city, with custom-made artwork gracing the walls and local craft beers and beef jerky stocked in guest rooms. The property's attached restaurant, Parker's Downtown, is a 120-seat modern American eatery and lounge. A pair of private dining rooms is available as well. The hotel offers 3,800 square feet of meeting space.


Vault at the 9 inside Metropolitan
at the 9, Cleveland

The Metropolitan at the 9, part of the Autograph Collection, opened in 2014. Another eclectic boutique option in a historic building, the 156-room property offers a number of unique gathering spaces, such as Vault at the 9, which consists of private cocktail rooms and Prohibition-era bars accessed by walking through a 1906 bank-vault door. The hotel's 10,606 square feet of total event space also includes the 5,186-square-foot Mint Ballroom and the Alex Theater, a modern 78-seat auditorium ideal for speeches, screenings or live entertainment.


Urban Farmer
at the Westin Cleveland Downtown

The 484-room Westin Cleveland Downtown is another of the hotel class of 2014, just two blocks from the waterfront and close to the convention center, sports stadiums, the Cleveland Clinic and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. The property's 20 function rooms provide a total of 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 9,050-square-foot ballroom. The on-site Urban Farmer is a stylishly modern steak house celebrating local, organic sourcing and Midwest food traditions. The eatery offers two private dining rooms and is available for buyouts.