Transferring attendees from hotels to distant convention centers can be filled with logistical problems and added costs. Delegates can find themselves waiting for shuttles to arrive or stranded onboard until the bus is near capacity before departure.
Such scenarios are outright deal breakers for Shawn Johnston, who organizes six meetings a year for the Bethesda, Md.-based American Fisheries Society. "We have educational sessions and events at different times during the day, but not everyone wants to go to every session," he notes. "For them to travel even 10 or 15 minutes each way to grab something from their hotel room or take some time to rest is really inconvenient. Even if our attendees have to walk more than two blocks, we get complaints.
"We always book hotels as close to the convention center as possible," Johnston continues. "We spoil them, but after all, they are our backbone."
Luckily for attendees and planners alike, a host of new convention center headquarters hotels are opening in key meetings destinations around the country. Some of their paired centers recently have undergone upgrades of their own in anticipation of fresh group business.
Columbus, Ohio > Hilton
Columbus will have more to celebrate than its bicentennial in 2012: A new, as yet unnamed Hilton headquarters hotel in the Ohio city's downtown district will debut next fall. The 532-room property comes with a $140 million price tag and will be LEED-certified. Features include approximately 22,800 square feet of meeting space, a 160-seat restaurant and a 100-seat lounge. A glass sky bridge will connect the hotel with the 1.7 million-square-foot Greater Columbus Convention Center.
For its part, the center opened a new expansion, Battelle Grand, last year following a 16-month, $40 million renovation. This 50,000-square-foot ballroom features floor-to-ceiling windows, LED lights that can be configured for 65,000 color combinations, and a 24,000-square-foot mezzanine level.
Next door, the 633-room Hyatt Regency Columbus completed a $12 million renovation of its guest rooms in May. Upgrades include 42-inch TVs, granite bathroom countertops and new lighting fixtures. The property also includes 70,000 square feet of function space and the Big Bar lounge, featuring a 53-foot-long black granite bar and serving specialty cocktails and casual fare.
Dallas> Omni Dallas Hotel
Opening Nov. 11, two months ahead of schedule, in Dallas' historic district is the 1,001-room Omni Dallas Hotel. The 23-story property will have access to the Dallas Convention Center via covered sky bridge.
The hotel itself has about 110,000 square feet of function space, with 37 meeting rooms and two ballrooms. Delegates can dine at Bob's Steak & Chop House; grab a beer at the Owner's Box, a full-service sports bar with multiple HDTVs perched on the walls; relax in the Mokara Salon & Spa, or lounge in the rooftop pool. Thanks to planned energy conservation initiatives, the Omni Dallas is expected to achieve LEED Silver status.
The Dallas Convention Center, with more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space and 88 meeting rooms, received its own LEED Silver designation in April 2010.