New meeting venues
are in the city’s future.
London is a sophisticated, popular destination
for meetings, trade shows and incentives. But its business tourism
community has been pulling for a new, permanent, large-scale
convention venue for more than a decade.
At long last, there is some movement on that front: A mayoral
commission is to determine a site and funding sources for a new
convention center in the British capital this year.
But that’s not the city’s only meeting venue news: An old city
landmark, the Battersea Power Station, will be converted into a
conference center and two hotels. Construction is set to begin in
2005 for completion in 2008.
At the same time, the owners of the Olympia Exhibition Centre,
one of the city’s main trade show stalwarts, have entered into a
joint venture with Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage that could lead to
the development of a Las Vegas-style casino in the city. Through
the agreement, about 300,000 square feet of the center will be
transformed into a complex of restaurants, retail outlets and bars,
as well as the casino. The plan is contingent on the U.K.
government’s pending proposal to deregulate gaming.
On the hotel front
Marriott International is now operating the landmark
Grosvenor House, formerly the flagship of Le
Méridien Hotels and Resorts. Following a three-year renovation, the
498-room property will be reflagged as a JW Marriott. The
restoration will include the addition of a new spa facility and
refurbishment of the ballroom and 32 meeting rooms.
The Marriott chain has another property, the 301-room
Marriott London West India Quay, opening in the
city’s rapidly developing Docklands area. The property, near
ExCel, a large exhibition venue, will have 14
Riverbank Park Plaza, a new 462-room property
on the Albert Embankment, is scheduled to open its doors next year.
The hotel will have 14 meeting rooms; the largest, the Thames Room,
will have a wall of windows overlooking the storied namesake river
and will seat 450 people.
Crowne Plaza LondonThe City opened in December
2003 opposite Blackfriars Station. The property has 203 guest rooms
and five meeting rooms.
The Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch closed in
October, pending the completion of a head-to-toe facelift. The
1,000-room property, which has 29 meeting rooms, is slated to
reopen this summer.
Created from three historic townhouses, the Royal
Park hotel opened in December. The 48-room luxury boutique
property is right on Hyde Park, the city’s largest stretch of
Hilton International has taken over management of the London
Waldorf Hotel. At the same time, the 303-room property has been
renamed the Waldorf Hilton. A refurbishment of all
guest rooms, public areas and five meeting rooms is scheduled to be
completed this spring.
Hyatt International will take over management of London’s
Churchill Hotel from InterContinental Hotels on May 1. The 445-room
property, on Portman Square near Marble Arch, will be reflagged as
the Churchill Hyatt Regency London and will
undergo an 18-month renovation.