by Lisa Grimaldi | April 01, 2004

London calling:
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 meeting rooms.
    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 green.
    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.