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“Our Event Coordinator is always on top

Come on down to Austin to see why a staggering 99% of our clients said they would schedule another event at the Austin Convention Center*!

*Percentage based on all completed client surveys for events held during fiscal year 2019 (Data compiled by Verint Americas, Inc.)

of any situation before we are even aware. His attention to detail is phenomenal. Always a flawlessly executed event and great coordinators to rely upon. Customer service is always beyond exceptional and something for other venues to aspire towards, and in-house accommodations and services make this venue exceptional and accommodating in comparison to other venues.” Meaghan L. Rhame, CMP, M. Ed. TCEA Events and Programs Coordinator

Texas Computer Education Association 2020 TCEA Annual Convention Austin Convention Center February 3 – 7, 2020





CAESARSFORUM.com | 855-633-8238

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ecent statistics confirm the deep and widespread impact that COVID-19 is having on our industry. Event cancellations in the exhibition industry alone are very telling: Of the approximately 2,500 B2B events held annually between March 1 and May 15, about 50 percent to 80 percent have already canceled or will likely cancel in the coming weeks, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) estimates. Reassuringly, CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., describes this profound effect as “a one-off retraction of the industry’s size,” adding that “we expect a full recovery for the exhibition industry in 2021.” Keeping in mind the transitory nature of the crisis is essential to staying levelheaded as we navigate the situation. Toward that end, Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO, Destination DC, suggests that “the word postpone is much better than cancel.” When it can be accurately said that an event will be postponed, the use of that word is recommended as it implies positivity about the future. Indeed, while Washington, DC’s meetings business is currently being challenged along with the rest of the industry, Ferguson reports that long-term bookings remain “consistent,” which is evidence of a positive outlook among associations, corporations and their event planners. But positivity must be paired with a responsible handling of the crisis. As Ferguson puts it, “You want to err on the side of responsibility.” Accordingly, our nation’s capital (profiled in our Mid-Atlantic feature, page 44) is setting an example by adhering to all the official guidelines for pandemic control. Destination DC is certainly doing its part for the local hospitality industry by disseminating key best practices to its more than 1,000 member organizations. “We’re making sure they know what should be done, [such as] increasing the amount of sanitizing in the hotels and large venues,” says Ferguson. Fortunately, hotels and public assembly facilities are generally well versed in contagion-prevention practices (see our feature on the topic, page 29), and simply need to escalate them. Ferguson advises planners and attendees to be cognizant of the data and recommendations coming from the official organizations (e.g., World Health Organization), as opposed to any “hyperbole coming from the media.” That official guidance has recently motivated the postponement of one of our industry’s iconic events, Global Meetings Industry Day, which had been scheduled for April 14. As part of the announcement, the Meetings Mean Business Coalition added the following note of optimism: “When the day comes to reunite as an industry, we are confident that the world will exhibit a renewed appreciation for human connectivity and the power face-to-face meetings bring to people, businesses and communities.” If there is any silver lining to the crisis our industry is facing, it is that eventual renewed appreciation. Our ability to meet face to face, and the professional and personal rewards it brings, should never be taken for granted. – George Seli Editorial Director, Facilities Media Group gseli@facilitiesonline.com


In Brief...........................................................................................................................................4 FORUM Mark Tester, Executive Director, Orange County Convention Center....................................14 Perspectives Hotel Contracts: What’s Trending, by Katie Muck..................................................................54 Tailoring Technology, by Danielle Puceta...............................................................................55 Accomodating International Exhibitors, by Stephanie Selesnick...........................................56


Planner Roundtable: Digital Marketing for Conventions............................................................16 Collaborating for the Customer..................................................................................................22 Venue Review: Oregon Convention Center................................................................................26 Just a Cough and a Sneeze? You Might Get Legal Fees............................................................29 Destinations California.................................................................................................................................31 Florida.....................................................................................................................................36 Mid-Atlantic.............................................................................................................................44 Site & City Profiles................................................................................................................. 48-53 Advertiser Index......................................................................................................................... C3


FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS spring For Association & Corporate Meeting Planners & Tradeshow Professionals


Volume 27 No. 1

Chief Operating Officer David Korn Associate Publisher Michael Caffin Editorial Director George Seli Contributing Editors Anthony Bilden Laura Janelle Downey Philip Blass Debi Lander Deborah Shapiro Creative Direction & Design AR Design Business Operations David Mermelstein © Copyright 2020 by Bedrock Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Opinions expressed in by-lined articles and advertising copy are not necessarily those of the publisher. Advertisers are responsible for all costs, damages and claims regarding advertising insertions. Facilities & Destinations is published four times a year by Bedrock Communications, Inc., 55 East 59th Street, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022. Telephone: (212) 532-4150. Fax: (212) 213-6382. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Facilities, 55 East 59th Street, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022. Printed in U.S.A. Cover ad space is available by contacting a Facilities advertising account executive at (212) 532-4150.

ON THE COVER Due to the ongoing COVID-19 countermeasures, most collaboration has unfortunately become virtual. But however teamwork is manifested, its results can be impressive. Visit Austin and the Austin Convention Center present a model CVB/convention center partnership, whose efficiency is part of the reason for the city’s popularity in the meetings industry. Our cover story provides an inside look at how this team has perfected the art of customer service. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING


CHICAGO, IL — PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat recently announced changes to the organization’s leadership structure that will support its goal of becoming a global leader in the business events industry. “For the past two years I have worked with our leadership and partners to activate our strategic plan and bring our vision of economic and social transformation through business events to life,” said Karamat. “Our results to-date demonstrate that our strategy is working. Our opportunity now is to build on our momentum to the benefit of our stakeholders everywhere.” The organizational changes include the following: •B  ruce MacMillan, Chief Marketing Officer, will now oversee the EMEA and APAC teams. •P  CMA formally launches PCMA Insights, a consulting division that will report to MacMillan. •M  arcia Mawe joins PCMA as Vice President, Marketing and Communications. •M  eredith Rollins, Chief

Community Officer, will assume responsibility for Business Development and Client Services. •S  tacey Shafer has been promoted to Vice President, Community Engagement and will lead PCMA’s membership engagement efforts as part of Rollins’ team. •M  ona Cotton, Chief Business Officer, will now focus on developing PCMA’s educational products.


LOUISVILLE, KY — Louisville Tourism has named Elizabeth Yienger its fourth National Sales Manager. Yienger’s responsibilities include promoting and selling Louisville as a convention, meeting and trade show destination to Northeastbased national associations, government organizations and corporations from

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort recently appointed Kathleen Bernesby as Director of Sales for the entire complex. She will lead the sales team in conjunction with the director

Elizabeth Yienger

Kathleen Bernesby

Bruce MacMillan

from 1998-2008 and positions with Earl Enterprises, Westin Diplomat Resort and Loews Miami Beach. (For more Miami Beach meeting industry updates, see the feature on page 36.)

of sales and marketing for the 2,270-room resort, including its upcoming expansion, The Cove at the Walt Disney World Swan, a 349-room tower scheduled to open in 2021. Bernesby brings over 30 years of experience in hospitality sales and marketing, including a previous tenure at the resort

Maryland to Maine. She is based in New York. Yienger has held regional director roles with Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels, handling large accounts throughout the Northeast. She has also held regional roles for both Visit Baltimore and Visit Orlando, focused on Northeast corporate and association customers for each of those organizations. PHILADELPHIA, PA — The ASM Global-managed Pennsylvania Convention Center recently announced that Director of Business Analysis Mary Ann Torres received her Certification in Meeting Management

Mary Anne Torres

(CMM) after completing the 15-week course hosted by MPI Academy and taught by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. The CMM program focuses on developing strategic thinking needed to assume a leadership role. “It was a great opportunity to continue to learn and grow professionally,” Torres said. “My role is so customer focused that I really wanted to use this opportunity to further understand the needs and goals of the meeting planners that we service.” SAN FRANCISCO, CA — CadmiumCD, EXPOCAD, Freeman, GES, Map Your Show and Personify A2Z Events are collaborating to establish unified exhibitor data elements intended to streamline operations and improve the customer experience. “As a result of establishing industry standards for exhibitor data, we are able to better serve our clients by providing a seamless process to share exhibitor data,” said GES Chief Information Officer Rick Britton. “Going forward, the quality of data all parties receive will dramatically improve, providing clarity and increased productivity. GES is honored to take a Continued on page 6



When a team of San Francisco-based


Continued from page 4

leading role in this industry initiative.” Danielle Puceta, Senior Vice President of Digital at Freeman, commented, “Collaborating on a set of standards has the potential to revolutionize how we work and grow as an industry to meet customer demands. These standards will alleviate ambiguity, guarantee quality of work and boost productivity.” (See Puceta’s column on attendee engagement through digital technology, p. 55.) SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) shared its plans for 2020 during a press conference at PCMA’s Convening Leaders. “2019 was a year of record success for the coalition,” said Trina Camacho-London, MMBC Co-chair and Vice President of Global Group Sales at Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “Our work helped to strengthen the meetings economy, which surpassed $1 trillion globally and continued to grow yearover-year across all major metrics.” Camacho-London cited the following five objectives for 2020: 1. L  everaging the 2020 elections to engage policymakers around the industry’s value and remind them that they too leverage face-to-face meetings to do their jobs effectively; 2. C  elebrating the fifth Global Meetings Industry Day, which resulted in 275 events across more than 50 countries in 2019;

soft ware gurus shared their holiday 3. R  enewing MMBC’s focus on economic data, as other industries carefully watch market trends and indicators of what could be another global recession; 4. S  trengthening MMBC’s efforts to reach external leaders online; and 5. I dentifying strategic partnerships to grow the coalition’s reach globally.

wish for a winter wonderland, we had a vision: welcome part y guests to a 372,000-cubic-foot, real-life indoor snow globe scene, complete with fresh-cut, moonlit pines. Then add falling snow.

Fred Dixon

“We are doubling down on external outreach to ensure the value of meetings is better understood by those who make decisions, policies and protocols that impact our industry,” said Fred Dixon, MMBC Co-chair and President and CEO of NYC & Company. “Our Worth Meeting About campaign will focus on educating and recruiting mayors, city council members and local chambers of commerce. These groups are incredibly important champions for our industry and see firsthand how meetings support businesses and the economy.”

Let us orchestrate your incredible. Connect with us at MononaTerrace.com

Madison, WI

© 2020 Monona Terrace


FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING 20264 2020 MT Zendesk Holiday Facilities and Destinations 3.5x10.indd 1

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WORLD CLASS CITY When it comes to planning your next meeting, Miami has it all. Breathtaking landscapes and diverse neighborhoods set the perfect stage for innovative art, world-class entertainment, family-friendly attractions and a stunning array of meeting options, including the Miami Beach Convention Center, which visitors never forget. Plan your next meeting today.


800-933-8448 ext. 3071 Meetings@MiamiMeetings.com Š Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau — The Official Destination Sales & Marketing Organization for Greater Miami and the Beaches



ARLINGTON, TX — The  Arlington City Council  recently approved a $550 million addition to the city’s Entertainment District. Expected to be completed in 2023, the project includes the new 888-room Loews Arlington, a new convention center and a parking facility for 1,500 vehicles. Groups will have 150,000 sq. ft. of indoor convention space and 66,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space at their disposal, as well as a future expo hall that will connect via a skybridge to the new 300room Live! by Loews Hotel. ATLANTA, GA — The Exhibit Hall BC project, a 100,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), has been completed. The project has created more than one million sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space and brings the GWCC’s total exhibit hall space to more than 1.4 million sq. ft.

The Exhibit Hall BC project was part of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s 2020 Vision plan that also included recently completed, $27 million capital improvements at Centennial Olympic Park and the addition of a headquarters hotel, Signia by Hilton, set to break ground this spring. FORT MYERS, FL — Following renovations, the Harborside Event Center will reopen later this year as the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater. Located in downtown Fort Myers, the facility will feature 40,000 sq. ft. of function space, including a riverfront terrace. An additional 8,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function space will be available at 243room Luminary Hotel & Co., a Marriott Autograph Collection property expected to open August 2020.

Minneapolis Convention Center Celebrates 30th Anniversary

In recognition of its 30th anniversary, the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) is presenting commemorative bottles of Mill City Cellars wine — the private label of in-house caterer Kelber Catering — to clients who have held their events at the facility for each of the past 30 years. On Feb. 27, MCC staff presented bottles to members of the Minneapolis Home + Garden Show. Pictured (l-r): Jody Geiselhart (MCC), Lori Rausch (MCC), Autumn Pennington, Kristin Nelson, Danielle Maki, Kim Shipman, Lauren Wallerius (Show Manager), Jeff Johnson (MCC Executive Director), Jennifer Sorensen, Katie Smith (MCC) and Jill Kottke. 8

LAS VEGAS, NV — Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Caesars Entertainment has postponed the grand opening for CAESARS FORUM, originally scheduled for March 18. The venue’s 300,000 sq. ft. of flexible space includes the two largest pillarless ballrooms in the world. In addition, groups have a 100,000-sq.-ft. outdoor plaza at their disposal. (For more details on CAESARS FORUM, see the feature in the F&D 2019 Fall issue, page 29.) NASHVILLE, TN — Music City Center received the Overall Highest Score Award and the Carbon Emissions Reduction Award during the 2020 USGBC Tennessee’s IMPACT Conference and Awards, held on Jan. 30. Music City Center recorded the highest scores in energy, water, waste and transportation improvements within the state using the Arc performance platform over a 12-month period, as well as the highest reduction in carbon emissions. “We have an amazing team that is committed to prioritizing sustainable practices in our day-to-day operations,” said Charles Starks, President/ CEO of Music City Center. “We are honored to have received these awards from the USGBC [U.S. Green Building Council] and greatly value our partnership.” UNCASVILLE, CT — In June 2018, Mohegan Sun introduced its $80 million, 125,000-sq.-ft. Earth Expo & Convention Center. Since then, the property has continued to enhance its offerings with several new venues, including Comix Roadhouse, a country bar and restaurant; GAME ON, an 18,000-sq.-ft. restaurant and bar located on

A major Northeast realty company recently utilized Mohegan Sun’s new Expo Center to create a “learning village.” The column-free, naturally lit venue was equipped with learning labs, breakout rooms, a networking lounge, relaxation areas and more.

the lower level of the Earth Expo & Convention Center; and novelle, an ultra lounge. Group gatherings can be held in all these venues. GAME ON, featuring bowling, ping pong, shuffleboard, arcade games and many more teambuilding opportunities, was “specifically designed with groups in mind,” says John Washko, Vice President of Exhibitions & Convention Sales. In addition, the famed TAO Restaurant opens at Mohegan Sun this year. The 300-seat Pan-Asian restaurant will be the brand’s first outside of a major metropolis. But perhaps most significantly, the Earth Expo & Convention Center has demonstrated ROI in paving the way for new business (e.g., the Connecticut Marine Trades Association Hartford Boat Show) and allowing some existing clients to expand their footprint at Mohegan Sun (e.g., the World Baseball Coaches’ Convention). “We have two convention centers on two sides of the property, so that allows us to run two very large conventions simultaneously,” says Washko. “For example, we recently had a large mortgage banking event in the Uncas Ballroom with over 800 attendees utilizing all breakouts in our Sky Convention Center. And we did that simultaneously with the boat show in the Earth Expo & Convention Center.”







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BOSTON, MA — Mandarin Oriental, Boston is undergoing a $15 million renovation of all 136 guestrooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of event space, scheduled for completion in April. The Spa is also being enhanced with the addition of three new treatment rooms and refreshed wellness amenities. DALLAS, TX — Scheduled to open in November, Marriott Uptown will be a 14-story, 255-room hotel featuring 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a restaurant, pool deck and more. The trendy Uptown neighborhood is near Katy Trail and other attractions.

Pot Coffee Shop, Draft Sports Bar and Lounge, The Parlor cocktail lounge and Open Mkt. Additional new features include art installations and a rooftop garden featuring murals by local artist Falk Houben. LAS VEGAS, NV — Resorts World Las Vegas is scheduled to open in summer 2021.

ORLANDO, FL — In June, Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate commences a renovation that will transform all 720 guestrooms and 49 villas, as well as update public spaces and meeting rooms. The project is slated for completion in early fall. By the end of January 2020, new carpet will be installed throughout the ballrooms, foyers and breakout spaces. (For more Orlando hotel updates, see the feature on page 36.)

Rendering of the lobby at Conrad Las Vegas

DALLAS, TX — The Sheraton Dallas Hotel recently completed the final phase of a multimillion-dollar renovation that included all 1,840 guestrooms, public areas, food and beverage outlets, and its 230,000 sq. ft. of function space. Five F&B outlets debuted as part of the project: Open Palette, Moka

The 3,500-room resort will comprise three Hilton premium brands: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, LXR and Conrad. The property will offer 350,000 sq. ft. of function space, a 5,000-capacity theater, 220,000-sq.-ft. pool complex, a spa and fitness center, as well as a variety of casual and fine-dining restaurants.  

The renovated Sheraton Dallas’ 37th-floor Majestic Conference Center 10

MIAMI BEACH, FL — The Shelborne South Beach has completed a $500,000 renovation of its 4,3880-sq.-ft. Grand El Dorado Ballroom, which now accommodates up to 360 guests. The 200-room property offers over 30,000 sq. ft. of function space. (For more Miami Beach hotel updates, see the feature on page 36.)

PHOENIX, AZ — Hyatt Regency Phoenix has completed a multi-million-dollar property-wide renovation including the front desk and lobby, guestrooms, function spaces and rooftop pool area. The closest hotel to the Phoenix Convention Center, the 693room property now offers four new meeting rooms among its 50,000 sq. ft. of function space. Guestrooms now feature new flooring, digital artwork, lighting, upgraded furnishings and more. The newly relocated lobby area and front desk pods were designed to mimic elements of desert landscaping and are illuminated by large, custom-made chandeliers. In addition, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix now includes two new venues: Barrel & Bushel, a casual American eatery, and B&B Market, offering freshly made hot and cold grab-andgo options. 

SAN DIEGO, CA — Pebblebrook Hotel Trust recently announced that The Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter will open next year. The 235room property will be the result of a rebranding and $20 million renovation of the existing Solamar Hotel. It will complement The Margaritaville Island Resort San Diego, a 462room property with 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space that is expected to open this year. (For more California hotel updates, see the feature on page 31.) SANTA CLARA, CA — The Santa Clara Marriott has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that remodeled guestrooms and corridors, redesigned public spaces and the lobby, updated meeting spaces, expanded the fitness center, and introduced Bosc + Bartlett, serving dishes influenced by Californian and Asian cuisines. The 766room property offers 29,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function space. SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Caesars Entertainment and real estate development company HCW have broken ground on the first Caesars Republic non-gaming U.S. hotel. The 265-room Caesars Republic Scottsdale will be located at Scottsdale Fashion Square in the heart of the city’s dining district. The hotel will offer groups a 7,000-sq.-ft. column-free ballroom that is divisible by four. Sliding glass doors will open onto an event lawn accommodating up to 600 attendees. Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis will open two onsite restaurants, Luna by Giada and Pronto by Giada.


Boise’s Best. At its Centre. Centrally located in the heart of vibrant downtown Boise, the newly expanded Boise Centre has a variety of customizable meeting spaces, modern amenities, exceptional culinary services and a friendly and dedicated staff ready to make your next event an unforgettable experience. Explore Idaho’s premier convention center for yourself.

• Centralized, downtown location • Only seven minutes from Boise airport • Over 20 direct flights from major U.S. cities • Surrounded by more than 100 restaurants and breweries • Over 1,200 hotel rooms within walking distance • Close to outdoor recreation, including the Boise Greenbelt

LEARN MORE: boisecentre.com


CHARLESTON, SC — Wild Dunes Resort extends its Association Destination offer to groups booking 50 room nights or more by June 30, 2020 and actualizing by June 30, 2021. Planners can choose from one of the following: complimentary Oyster Roast or Lowcountry Boil, $500 transportation credit for off-property events or 5 percent rebate back to the master account. Call (877) 624-4959 to book.

NAPLES, FL — LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort’s Meet at the Beach Package awards perks for meetings held June through December 2020. With a minimum of 25 room nights and a two-night minimum stay, planners can choose up to five of the following: one complimentary upgrade to a One Bedroom Beachfront Hotel Suite at the group rate; two VIP welcome amenities of the Chef’s choice; daily resort fee reduced to $15; beachfront upgrades; complimentary indoor function space provid-




ORLANDO, FL — Margaritaville Hotel Orlando invites planners to hold a meeting this year at the property and receive a $500 American Express gift card, plus extra incentives including: one complimentary guestroom

SUNRIVER, OR — Sunriver Resort’s Special Offer for Groups includes several incentives for meetings held between Nov. 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, including: rates starting at $109/night, waived resort fee, waived meeting room rental, 10 percent off banquet food, $25 spa discount at Sage Springs Club & Spa, 1:40 suite upgrade and 20 percent attrition. For more information or to book, call (855) 279-1366 or email meetings@destinationhotels.com.

2020 Prime Site Meeting Hotel Awards Ballot Fill Out Form & Mail, Email or Fax Your Vote: Facilities & Destinations, PO Box 1807, New York, NY 10150 Fax: (435) 578-8193 • Email: ballots@facilitiesonline.com

VOTE for the top hotels, resorts and conference centers your group has used for its meetings in the last three years. Please base your vote(s) on the following criteria: •A  ttractiveness and functionality •T  echnological capabilities •Q  uality of staff and conference planner • Teambuilding •F  ood & beverage/ catering • Lighting • Acoustics • Climate control

ed F&B minimum is attained; 50 percent off valet parking; one complimentary 50-minute spa treatment for every 10-50 minute treatments paid for; two complimentary rooms for two nights for site visit; one gift certificate for a three-night/four-day stay. Call (239) 598-5700 or email sales@laplayaresort. com.

per 50 actualized and complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access in meeting room and all guestrooms. Blackout dates may apply. For more information or to book, call (407) 479-0961 or email events@margaritavilleresortorlando.com.

•P  roximity to airport & other transportation • Onsite or offsite lodging • Other support services • Front-desk operations • Setups and breakdowns • Room décor • Quality/size of ballroom • Special packages • Spa • Nearby attractions

Name of nominee__________________________________________ Name of nominee__________________________________________ Name of nominee__________________________________________ Check the award you want to nominate the above for: Meeting Hotel/Resort

Conference Center

Your name and title_________________________________________ Organization_______________________________________________ Phone_____________________________________________________ Email______________________________________________________ Additional comments_______________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ May we contact you? Yes___ No___ FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING





ast month, Mark Tester began serving as the new Executive Director of the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). He joins the OCCC at an exciting time, as the facility breaks ground on a major expansion this fall that is expected to be complete by the end of 2023. Since January 2008, Tester had held the position of the Director of the Austin Convention Center. In addition to managing the Austin Convention Center Department, he served on the Executive Committee of Visit Austin and was the President of Austin Convention Enterprises, the board that oversees the City-financed Hilton Austin. Prior to Austin, he spent 13 years working in Chicago’s convention industry, holding senior positions at the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (now Choose Chicago) as well as the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

organization; it’s about planning for the future and moving the organization forward. Q. How do your previous positions with Austin and Chicago, respectively, prepare you to lead the OCCC? Are their any parallels between the convention industries of those cities and Orlando’s? A. The fact that [the OCCC] is a government-run facility is something I’m very familiar with coming from Austin, which is also a publicly run facility, although city instead of county. And there are a lot of similarities to Chicago, not necessarily in the way the facilities are owned and operated, but [in regards to] the customers and the mega shows that come in and dictate how you need to operate. A huge influx of 50,000 to 70,000 people needs to be accommodated, and feeding that many people in a two or two-and-a-half-hour period during lunch would be a very similar issue in Chicago and Orlando. Q. What is your perspective on the utility of the OCCC’s new expansion project?

“They’ve got beautiful facilities here in Orange County, but I always say a facility in and of itself can only be good, and it’s the people that own and operate it that make it great.” Q. What enthuses you most about assuming a leadership role in Orange County’s convention industry? A. I always had admiration for the Orange County Convention Center. I felt that it was a well-run facility in a top-tier destination. They’ve got beautiful facilities here in Orange County, but I always say a facility in and of itself can only be good, and it’s the people that own and operate it that make it great. So I always felt like Orange County had a great working culture with a commitment to taking care of customers’ needs. They are already running a great 14

A. The North/South Building needed a bigger ballroom and some additional meeting space to complement the large exhibit floor. [Events] that may have been a few meeting rooms shy can now fit into that facility. The [new] Multipurpose Venue not only has additional exhibit space, but also gives the opportunity [to host] huge general sessions of 10,000 to 12,000 people. Being a large columnfree space, it’s going to be very flexible for corporate groups that want to come in and create their own environment. The grand concourse that connects the two sides of the building not only improves the circulation, but also gives additional public space to be utilized for casual events and networking. Q. How will you partner with Visit Orlando to drive business development? A. I will be on the Visit Orlando board and working very closely together on bringing customers in for the new building and bringing the message out to our industry. We certainly want to expose all the great things happening in Orange County that can correlate to any business that comes in. [We want to] make sure that it’s not just bricks and mortar, space and chairs, but that we help them truly be successful in drawing their attendees and maximizing their time in Orlando and Orange County.

Continued on page 20


Orlando ‘s

Orange County Convention Center





EXPERIENCE THE CENTER OF HOSPITALITY The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) located in the heart of the Convention District and only fifteen minutes from the Orlando International Airport provides a multitude of event options in two beautiful buildings – the West Building and North-South Building. Connectivity is enhanced by five covered pedestrian bridges to nearby hotels and provides easy walkability to events. The OCCC is consistently rated a top-tier convention center with incredible flex spaces, hosting nearly 200 meetings, conferences, banquets, conventions and tradeshows that attract more than 1.5 million attendees to the region annually. The OCCC is the second-largest convention facility in North America and provides approximately $3 billion in economic impact to Central Florida annually. For more information, visit www.occc.net.


sales@occc.net occc.net 15


Meeting and marketing professionals discuss effective strategies Linda Jones, Marketing Director, Educational Events, American Society on Aging Andy Tompkins, Director of Marketing & Communications, National Association of Music Merchants Megan Saad, Director, Marketing, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions


By George Seli

hile print-based marketing is far from extinct, digital channels have been gaining ground as a way to reach potential attendees. But what are the most effective ways to exploit these channels? How can one engender a social media buzz around the upcoming convention? How often should promotional emails be sent, and what kinds of content draw the most attention and interest? In the following discussion, three meeting and marketing specialists address these questions and others concerning the evolving practice of digital marketing.


Jones: It’s definitely moving more in [the digital] direction. We used to print a 48-page announcement; now that is digital. We will still print our program book, which we will continue to do until we are 100 percent confident that all attendees can access our app and it behaves the way it’s supposed to. Tompkins: We employ a mix of print and digital communications to inform a variety of product communities about opportunities at NAMM Shows and our membership programs. Since our audience still consumes information

in many formats, we try to include our messages across channels as well. Direct mail is still an effective way to promote opportunities. We also believe a vibrant media landscape is positive for the growth of our industry and for the success of our members, and for that reason we try to support as many media organizations as possible. Saad: Every year, we work to improve our digital advertising to reach more prospects in the attractions industry and outside our database. We want to be nimbler in our marketing approach for IAAPA Expo, and digital tactics and strategies allow us to react more quickly to market shifts. But maintaining a multi-channel campaign has been highly

“The most effective social media site for IAAPA’s marketing purposes has been Twitter, and video is the best-performing content across all social sites.” —Megan Saad Continued on page 18



Greater Akron, Ohio, is home to the region’s most convenient and affordable facilities for conventions, banquets and special events. Easily

Defiantly Different Greater Akron Ohio

accessible from the interstate, turnpike and two airports, Summit County features 13 full-service hotels with more than 5,500 guest rooms, plus a remarkable range of impressive gathering spaces, including the John S. Knight

Convention Center. Call 800.245.4254 today to plan your next event with a member of our destination sales team. For more information, visit akron.travel.


/ S U M M I T

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800.245.4254 / akron.travel playeatshop.org / summitbrewpath.com

Continued from page 16

effective. Traditional tactics such as print ads and direct mail simply work for us. Direct mail in particular is a huge investment of both time and money, so we ensure they are smart, effective and well-timed mailings.


Jones: We primarily utilize the top three: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But we do more tweets than posts on the other two because it’s more fluid and we have four times the followers. Saad: The most effective social media site for IAAPA’s marketing purposes has been Twitter, and video is the bestperforming content across all social sites. Twitter allows us to really connect with both our exhibitors and attendees and build interest for the event early. It has extremely high engagement rates during all phases of the event: from exhibitor booth selection in the spring, throughout the sixmonth attendee acquisition campaign, and live coverage at the live event. We also run a social lead generation-focused campaign on Facebook and LinkedIn to promote IAAPA Expo and to encourage people to sign up for updates so we can continue to market to them in the future.

Tompkins: To build a social media buzz around a convention, I would strongly suggest crafting these three things: (1) If you’re running a marketing campaign, make sure you have a planned social campaign which integrates with your efforts but also allows creativity and flexibility in how the brand is expressed — sticking to the “rules” eliminates the social aspect of social media, which is conversational. (2) Use real photos and videos, animations, etc. Stock photos, tiles with copy, etc., are not authentic expressions of a convention experience, yet the playful and expressive nature of animations, collage videos, etc., gives attendees a reason to pause their feed and engage. (3) While you may not be “hanging out” in a Google Hangout, encourage your team to try new things: IGTV, TikTok, Reddit Q&A, FB Live, etc. With so many ways to deliver to your audience the information that they need before the show starts and to build excitement, continued experimentation is important.


Tompkins: We communicate to a number of membership segments, for instance to our exhibiting and retail members, with very different messages, given the way these communities utilize our programs. We also welcome professionals outside of our membership to NAMM Tompkins: Social media is in Shows through exhibitor, a constant state of evolution, “It’s a balance of creating media and association not only by platform but also energy through multiple collaborations. For example, with the emergence of new posts without getting too we work with ESTA technologies and media-rich (Entertainment Technology methods of communication. carried away to the point Services Association) to I suspect that like most show where no one wants to see customize discussions with organizers, NAMM meets our your posts.” the entertainment technology members and audience where —Linda Jones community, AES (Audio they are actively participating, Engineering Society) to while still watching for where reach more professionals in the next wave of activity sound production, and groups like Christian Musician and will come from, and for the next big social platform. For us, CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) to reach that’s split among the big three, if you will: Twitter, Facebook the worship community. Through all our efforts, we try to and Instagram. We understand that the audience on each highlight the product, education and community experiences platform responds and engages in their own ways, while unique to each segment that we offer at our show and supporting their show experience before the show through our membership programs. even opens.


Saad: Utilize your participants who are excited to be part of the experience. We create templates for attendees, speakers and exhibitors to push out on their own channels, which allows us to control the branding and expand our reach. And make it both fun and relevant. We have a social monitoring tool so we can pay close attention to online trends to join the conversation. Jones: It’s a balance of creating energy through multiple posts without getting too carried away to the point where no one wants to see your posts. We will change up the messages and focus on different aspects of the conference. We also request that our leadership and others post on our behalf using the same hashtag.

Saad: We spend a lot of time segmenting by attendance history, professional level, job function, business type and region. The highest response rate we currently receive is when we segment by job function. With such vast programming and an expansive trade show floor, attendees appreciate being shown the specific value they’ll find in being there. Jones: At this point it’s segmented by members, those who have attended, those who have expressed interest, and those who have participated in other events but never attended the conference. We just started working with a new marketing automation platform, Higher Logic’s Real Magnet, and we will be segmenting more as we learn more about how it functions. Continued on page 20



Continued from page 18


We try to keep [subject lines] short and attention grabbing, but what that means depends on the topic. We also include a mention of the conference in our weekly e-newsletter.

Saad: E-mail remains a powerful tool in the marketing mix. We incorporate a variety of message formats, including HTMLS, static e-cards, translated messages and more, to Tompkins: We conduct a great deal of A/B and split testing target our audience appropriately. Testing subject lines to try to arrive at the stickiest email subjects. It isn’t an exact is an ongoing process and as marketers, we are always science but we try to be benefit focused, so when readers see challenged with cutting something they need, they are through the clutter. For the most apt to respond. Since “Video follows one of 2019 campaign, we found our global community is very our core strategies of that both personalization and busy, we tend to re-target asking questions worked well messages around registration influencer marketing, and exhibit needs, to make for subject lines. Also, less so we tend to focus on accessing our shows and is more. Instead of trying to testimonials about the association as convenient as get all our messaging across benefits of NAMM Shows possible. We manage multiple in one e-mail, we are more and member programs.” interest lists, so the frequency focused on driving traffic to of communication varies by the website. We also learned —Andy Tompkins user preference, but we strive that 62 percent of our e-mails to communicate with our are opened on a mobile device, global community at least once per month through targeted and we ensure the design and content is optimized for that, newsletters. keeping the copy clean and scannable. We try to follow the rule of deploying a maximum of 10 e-mails per prospect, per six-month campaign cycle. The more we can cut that down, VIDEOS AS A MARKETING TOOL the better. It’s a work in progress. Tompkins: We are fortunate to have a very talented, in-house video team, so we include video whenever possible. Video Jones: We typically send one [e-blast] a week during the two follows one of our core strategies of influencer marketing, so months the call for proposals is open and the six months we tend to focus on testimonials about the benefits of NAMM leading up to the conference after registration opens. In the Shows and member programs. two months leading up to the conference we may send more. Saad: Video continues to grow as a valuable marketing tool. Prospects expect to see a glimpse of the show before they get onsite so they can know what to expect and get a feel for what the show is about. In 2019, we did a series of videos that highlighted individuals including an exhibitor, speaker and first-time attendee. All IAAPA attendees and exhibitors have a powerful story to tell about why they attend and what they Continued from page 14 experience at the show. With a show that brings in 40,000 Q. In your experience, what are some of the latest features people, it’s important to highlight the faces in the crowd, and and services planners are looking for in convention prospects were very receptive to that. centers?


A. Certainly the sustainability: Are you carbon neutral? Are you LEED certified? Obviously technology: You need to have the bandwidth for whatever the customer would look to do. You need to have a Wi-Fi program that can support two devices per attendee. There are times when people have three devices simultaneously, and then you need to make sure that you’re handling that specifically. I also think that the days of the traditional meeting room set, where it’s classroom or theater style, is changing. Planners are making them more comfortable, and there is research into what type of meeting room sets promote the most networking and education. A meeting room that used to have just tables and chairs maybe now has some couches or highboys. So I think planners set up the room much more intentionally to meet the needs of the particular type of meeting. 20


Jones: We’re always exploring alternative [convention marketing] methods. But learning our new AMS system and our new marketing automation system is keeping us busy for now, so it won’t be immediate. Tompkins: We strive to stay on the forefront of digital marketing techniques and utilization of new tools that will help us communicate a myriad of opportunities to a global marketplace, so we are always open to ideas. In particular, we are working to automate more of our messaging to help us better serve unique communities. Saad: The digital landscape is ever changing, so it’s important to take time each year to evaluate proven attendee marketing strategies and refocus our efforts for the next year on those strategies that deliver real results. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Plan your 2020 vision. Our pulses are racing already. We’re thrilled because in September, IMEX America returns to Sands Expo for the milestone 10th edition of our ever-evolving industry showcase. Save the dates now, so we can share this incredible chance to blaze new trails, create and deepen bonds, and savor all of our successes. Registration opens in early April — imexamerica.com

The heartbeat of the global business events community


Austin Convention Center



By George Seli

he spirit of cooperation has long been a force in Texas’ capital. From the government officials, financiers, architects and contractors behind the construction of the iconic Capitol Building in the late 1800s to the research labs and think tanks established in the 1950s, Austin’s leaders know that collaboration is key to achievement, whether architectural or intellectual. The city’s vibrant convention industry is another major achievement, and behind it lies the cooperation between two organizations: Visit Austin and the Austin Convention Center Department. Their synergy is not unlike that of the many great bands that call Austin home, and the result is music to a planner’s ears. “The Austin Convention Center Department [ACCD] takes a team approach and communicates daily with Visit Austin,” asserts Paul Barnes, Deputy Director – Chief 22

Operating Officer, ACCD. “This is done in a joint effort to discuss our clients’ needs and how to best provide for a successful experience in our city and at our facilities.

“Working in tandem with Visit Austin ensures that we can execute, down to the last detail, what clients want on the convention and services side.” —Paul Barnes, Deputy Director – Chief Operating Officer, Austin Convention Center Department FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

We must understand our clients’ overall convention or meeting strategies so that we can best assist them. Working in tandem with Visit Austin ensures that we can execute, down to the last detail, what clients want on the convention and services side.” But the partnership between the two organizations begins well before the client service stage. The ACCD and Visit Austin “When a group also collaborate at the business has booked the development stage. Their teams building, our “do joint sales calls and site visits with clients,” notes Steve Genovesi, convention Executive Vice President, Visit service teams Austin. “We regularly review our work closely sales prospects and work together throughout to place as many programs as the planning possible into the building while maximizing the hotel rooms that process to can be occupied as a result. When ensure high a group has booked the building, customer our convention service teams work satisfaction in closely throughout the planning the city.” process to ensure high customer satisfaction in the city.” —Steve Genovesi, That satisfaction is at an Executive Vice all-time high, with nearly all President, convention center clients wanting Visit Austin to schedule another event at the facility, the ACCD reports. “We ask our clients to be honest and open as part of our post-event survey: ‘Would you schedule another event at an ACCD facility?’ They have responded with an overwhelming yes, with a 99 percent rating for 2019, and a 98 percent rating for 2018 and in 2017,” relates Barnes. “This motivates us to keep the astonishing return survey rating and to dive deeper with the 1-2 percent. We want to make them a better fit and have a better experience.” Robust repeat business accounts for part of Austin’s year-over-year growth in group business, which primarily includes large corporate tech, financial/insurance, medical and educational association meetings. “We enjoy hosting several repeat Texas association and Austin-based corporate meetings,” says Tom Noonan, President and CEO, Visit Austin. “These customers continue to be vital to our success as a meetings destination. These accounts find our city’s location (being in the center of the state) as a huge plus for their attendees to travel. The vibrancy and popularity of Austin as a getaway vacation within the state is also a factor, along with the convenience of a walkable hotel-to-convention center package.” FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING


Most clients, particularly those that are new to the city, want a locally flavored experience. Both Visit Austin and the Austin Convention Center are versed in delivering that experience, which is also an ingredient in customer satisfaction. “Many of our clients say there is a built-up excitement from attendees about coming to Austin — many have heard good things and are now visiting for the first time,” Genovesi relates. “So we’re asked a lot to provide ideas for an authentic Austin experience.” An example is the 2017 America’s Health Insurance Plans Institute & Expo. “We tried to incorporate music and local food specialties into our program. We really tried to infuse the Austin vibe into everything we created for our event,” says Elaine Powell, CMP, Director of Professional Education with AHIP. “We also met with Visit Austin to get their insight and assistance on booking local area musicians, and how to incorporate other ideas to infuse the Austin vibe into our event.” The CVB provided links to about 25-30 acts, from which AHIP selected six. Acoustic musicians complemented the exhibit hall during lunches and receptions, and a four-piece rock band performed at the closing General Session Luncheon. “We had the South Austin Moonlighters perform during our luncheon. They were terrific,” says Powell. “I also selected as much Austin-inspired/styled food and beverage options that the Center’s menus provided into all our functions.”


The Austin Convention Center is connected via overhead walkways to two hotels: the 800-room Hilton Austin and the 1,048-room Fairmont Austin. Across from the convention center, the Marriott Downtown hotel opens later this year with over 600 guestrooms. The Hilton and Fairmont room

Historic Sixth Street mural

counts are part of more than 11,000 downtown guestrooms, the result of an over 100 percent increase in rooms from 2013-2020. Just as Austin’s lodging infrastructure has greatly expanded, civic leaders aim to expand the convention center itself. The ACCD is working with the Mayor, City Council and City Management on the next steps. “The main goal of 23

Texas associations “find our city’s location (being in the center of the state) as a huge plus for their attendees to travel.” —Tom Noonan, President and CEO, Visit Austin

expansion will be to provide the necessary space to meet the demands of our clients, which is larger exhibit halls, more continuous and column-free space, and additional meeting room space,” says Trisha Tatro, Interim Director, ACCD. “We also want the expansion to be reflective of Austin’s culture, integrate advanced technological features, incorporate local businesses and restaurants, and appeal to the downtown and Austin-area community.” Currently, the ACC offers 374,278 sq. ft. of function space, including five column-free exhibit halls totaling 247,052 sq. ft., seven ballrooms ranging from 3,896 sq. ft. to 43,400 sq. ft., and 54 meeting rooms and show offices totaling over 63,000 sq. ft.


[divisions], each of them were extremely accommodating and personable,” Eastman adds. “Many of the staff knew my name and would say hi each day, which is a tribute to how well [ACC] staff connect with people in the facility.” Pre- and post-event service are also strong suits of the ACC staff. “Our team engagement does not start when they arrive. We manage almost every aspect and facet of operations, so our relationship with our clients starts months and years in advance,” says Barnes. “After each event, we meet with clients to discuss successes and how we can make their event even better, especially if it is specifically tied to the building and our staff. If the client had some concerns, this allows us to problem solve and potentially make changes before their next visit, or for future events similar in size and scope. It allows us to know what we did right, what is working well and what might work even better in the future. We also take the positives from our clients, along with feedback from the Visit Austin team and the Austin hotel community, who are always working to make the visitor experience the very best. We take this part of the event process extremely seriously as it ties directly back to our servant leadership system and ideology.”


The catering staff, managed by Levy Restaurants, is a cornerstone of client service at both the ACC and nearby Palmer Events Center. Exceptional client feedback led to the 85-member staff receiving Levy’s Spirit of Hospitality Award. “Making creative culinary concepts come true with superb

When it comes to the service at the ACC, no upgrades are needed. Clients are already enjoying the benefits of the “service first” culture that has been created at the facility, as Barnes describes it. “We do not outsource as many services as others,” he notes. “We are fortunate to manage 90 percent of our services, such as housekeeping, security, IT and exhibitor services. Much of our operation and services are provided by our in-house trained staff.” Importantly, the staff is empowered not only to serve, but also to lead and take ownership in clients’ experiences. They are proactive in resolving any issues onsite, as opposed to merely carrying out requests. “One of our main philosophies is servant leadership,” says Tatro. “By being servant leaders, we not only meet the needs of our clients and attendees, but it also helps us to better develop staff, which inspires them to perform at a high level.” Staff performance is based on skill as well as knowledge of the particular client’s Built in 1886, The Driskill is a landmark of Texas hospitality in downtown Austin needs. At the ACC, that information is disseminated staff-wide. “Our event went seamlessly, and it is service, menu and setup offerings really supports our desire largely due to the center and the knowledge each department to make the convention experience in Austin extraordinary,” had of our program specifications,” remarks Abby Eastman, Barnes comments. former Senior Meeting Planner at the National Association Creativity is based on inspiration, and the ACC team takes of College & University Business Officers. The NACUBO inspiration from its Southwest environment and culinary Annual Meeting was held at the ACC in July of last year. traditions. They work with more than 30 area vendors to Yet another aspect of the staff’s high performance is their procure local ingredients as a basis for popular items such as demeanor. “From the janitorial staff to the directors of the street-style tacos, smoked meats and Tex-Mex dishes. 24


familiarity with the convention center building, campus and immediate downtown area. In addition, the current City of Austin police staff has an strong presence downtown, a practice that helped Austin achieve a No. 8 ranking on Safewise’s 2019 Top 10 Safest Cities in America.


PCMA’s 2017 Convening Leaders saw record attendance in Austin

Sustainability and CSR are also ingrained into the F&B operations. Last year, 242,145 pounds of food was composted and 30,938 pounds of food was donated to homeless shelters. In addition, all services, except for plated meals, use sustainable disposable ware. That’s a significant reduction in environmental impact, given that the ACC hosts meal functions for up to 3,000 attendees in its Grand Ballroom.


Austin is a hotbed for tech startups, and so it’s no surprise that its convention center is technologically state-of-the-art. The gigabit-rated facility offers complimentary high-density Wi-Fi, redundant high-speed Internet II access (capable of bursting to 10 Gbps bandwidth), plug-and-play capabilities and free digital signage throughout. The ACC’s in-house tech staff, recognized with several state awards in technology, provides 24-hour service monitoring and service customization. Clients have a variety of different tech needs and challenges, so individualized service is critical. Consider a challenge faced by organizers of the Austin Boat Show in 2019. “We added bands this year and didn’t really know what we were doing when it came to the equipment we’d rented for sound,” relates Jennifer McKinney, Event Manager for the show. The ACC’s IT support analyst “was extremely helpful and available to make sure things went right. We couldn’t have done it without him.”

Austin also holds a very “We want the respectable No. 13 ranking on Cvent’s 2019 Top 50 Meeting [convention Destinations in the U.S., and center] extraordinary client satisfaction expansion to is part of the story behind the be reflective of booking numbers that secured Austin’s culture, that ranking. In tandem, Visit Austin and integrate the ACCD deliver a level of advanced client service that has been technological perfected over many years. features, [and] But the organizations are by incorporate no means complacent in this regard. The initiative to expand local the convention center is a case businesses and in point, but so is the drive to restaurants.” improve upon a given client’s —Trisha Tatro, experience year over year. Interim Director, “We never take our repeat Austin Convention business for granted,” Genovesi Center Department assures. “It’s why we’ve become so successful as a destination. After every event, we look to see how we can constantly improve and ‘up the bar’ for next year.” 


Matching the tech staff’s level of expertise is the proficiency of ACC’s security staff, a vital service especially in this day and age. The security team members are former City of Austin police officers with over 100 years of combined experience, and each has a deep FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

An aerial view of the renowned Austin City Limits music festival, held every fall in Zilker Park 25


The Oregon Convention Center, situated across from the new Hyatt Regency Portland



n October, the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) completed a $40 million renovation that upgraded and reimagined the center’s public spaces and ballrooms. The project also included a reconstruction of the exterior plaza on the northeast corner, and improved the accessibility and sustainability of the venue. The overhaul reflects Portland’s rising star in the hospitality industry, according to Craig Stroud, Executive Director of the OCC. “Portland has changed since the OCC was originally built in 1990,” he observes. “As a growing city, and a dynamic place of interest for visitors and meeting attendees from around the globe, the need for a



comprehensive venue refresh of Portland’s convention center became apparent several years ago. Official conversations between key Portland travel and tourism leaders and elected officials began in 2013, pointing to the need for a renovated convention center paired with a new convention center hotel. These discussions resulted in the 600-room Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center, located directly across the street from OCC, as well as the completion of OCC’s momentous renovation.” More recently, Hyatt has debuted the 220-room Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. The Hyatt Centric will help to accommodate overflow from the headquarters hotel, which FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

view a spectator experiences looking up through a forest canopy.”


The OCC’s new design elements not only serve an aesthetic purpose, but they also work in tandem with the center’s AV technology. “We’ve found that attendees and planners want technological flexibility from their meetings (flexible projection capabilities, various lighting formations and colors, etc.), but they don’t want to have to view the equipment itself,” Stroud explains. Accordingly, the facility’s AV, projection and lighting equipment can be hidden behind the ceiling installations. “OCC has also created hidden wall panels, adorned with upholstered wallpaper picturing a forest grove, that are able to open. The unsightly equipment can then be hidden behind the panels until needed, out of sight and out of mind,” he adds.


has been drawing more group business to Portland. “The number of convention bookings is trending upward with the completion of our renovation and the addition of the Hyatt Regency Portland,” Stroud asserts. “In the first year of the booking window for the new hotel, the Travel Portland and OCC sales teams saw a 43 percent increase in OCC group room nights booked across all Portland hotels over the previous year.”


Convention centers are increasingly seeking to visually express their home cities and states, lending character and uniqueness to the attendee experience. The OCC renovation is a fine example of this trend, featuring a design that evokes Oregon’s natural environment. “The OCC identifies as Oregon’s convention center, so it was vital for us to bring elements of the region and Oregon’s open, welcoming spirit into our space by creating a ‘sense of place’ for our visitors,” Stroud explains. “To integrate creative, Pacific Northwest-themed design aspects throughout our building, OCC drew inspiration from the beauty of Oregon’s natural landscape, implementing unique design touches such as lichen-inspired carpets.” The OCC’s 25,200-sq.-ft. Oregon Ballroom, including its pre-function and lobby spaces, was a focal point of the renovation. Environmentally inspired design elements now grace the ballroom as well. “Our reverse topographical map of the Cascade mountain range, as well as separately hung honeycomb-shaped installation pieces in the Oregon Ballroom, create a stunning and unique effect,” says Stroud. “The ceiling installation in the ballroom was inspired by the FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Apart from the décor and technology elements, the renovation enhanced the building’s sustainability, which was already at a high level. Stroud describes some of the eco-conscious aspects of the project: “We opted to build with environmental materials whenever possible. The renovation also used all low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials, and particular focus was placed on recycling construction waste, including metals, gypsum and 110 tons of carpet.” To conserve more energy, “we installed all LED lighting that is automatically controlled to brighten or dim depending on the amount of natural light in the space at a given time, saving energy.” In addition, “a hallway was created to make it possible for event attendees to forego using OCC’s elevators, stairs or escalators while crossing the building’s first level. This change not only improved OCC’s accessibility, but it also made it so fewer people use the building’s escalators and elevators on a daily basis.” These new features add to the OCC’s many existing distinctions in the area of sustainability. For example, the facility is • t he first convention center to receive the LEED for Existing Buildings certification (awarded in 2004); • LEED Platinum certified since 2014; • t he only convention center in the nation that has earned a LEED Platinum certification for Operations and Maintenance; • t he only convention center in the country to have reached the highest of four levels of certification as a green venue through APEX/ASTM; and •S  almonSafe certified, which demonstrates dedication to watershed conservation and water use reduction.


Conventioneers deserve a bit of reinvigorating fresh air, and the OCC delivers with an outdoor plaza that has also been upgraded as part of the renovation. Suitable as a function space, the plaza is accented with Pacific Northwest-themed gardens showcasing native plants, water features and outdoor seating. 27

“We’ve received some great feedback on how the plaza connects the OCC both with the adjacent hotel, and with our greater community,” says Stroud. “I’m predicting we will receive even more positive client feedback this summer, as we will be able to use the plaza more as a connecting event area linking the hotel with the OCC.”


“It was vital for us to bring elements of the region and Oregon’s open, welcoming spirit into our space by creating a ‘sense of place’ for our visitors.”

Group clients will benefit from the development of Portland’s hospitality infrastructure, beginning with a greatly increased airlift. “Travel and tourism is a $5 billion economic generator for the Portland region, which is why our jurisdictional partner, Port of Portland, has embarked on a $2 billion expansion of the beloved Portland International Airport, which will nearly double the airport’s capacity in the coming years,” Stroud notes. And the OCC is not finished making upgrades. There are “plans for continued refresh projects scheduled through 2025,” he says. “Our intent is to maintain a unique, modern look and feel in our space, while implementing continuous improvements to further enhance the guest experience.” Given that “2022 and beyond are ahead of pace in terms of OCC event bookings,” a great variety of groups — including many first-time clients — will thrive in an enhanced OCC.

— Craig Stroud, Executive Director, Oregon Convention Center

The Oregon Ballroom now evokes its home state with “honeycomb” ceiling installations and lichen-patterned carpet. 28


Just a cough and a sneeze? You might get legal fees. Diseases that spread in public assembly venues can create a legal nightmare. What liability do event industry professionals have?


By Philip Blass

afeguarding guests from disease may not be the first thing event industry professionals think of in their daily work, but it is especially worth considering these days. Over the last year, Legionnaires Disease has been spreading and making the news, from an Atlanta Sheraton to a North Carolina state fair to an apartment complex in the Bronx borough of New York City. But it’s not just Legionnaires: Measles resurfaced in the California State University Library and made an appearance in Pittsburgh International Airport, and the flu made its rounds on a Norwegian cruise to the Panama Canal — just to name a few incidents. How safe are public assembly venues from these diseases? After all, arenas, convention centers and hotels bring thousands of people into physical contact with their facilities. Charles Starks, President and CEO “Sanitation begins of Music City Center in with a good defense, Nashville, TN, maintains that and we block and such venues are generally tackle really good.” safe, thanks to effective sanitation practices. “Sanitation —Charles Starks, begins with a good defense,” President and CEO, he says, “and we block and Music City Center tackle really good.” Among


“The duty of people who operate public accommodations is to make those accommodations reasonably safe for their reasonably foreseeable business invitees.” —Steve Adelman, attorney and Vice President, Event Safety Alliance other things, the constant upkeep of air vents, continual water systems cleanings, consistent sanitization of surfaces, and the two basic rules of washing hands and coughing in one’s sleeve already “eliminate a lot of your concerns to begin with,” according to Starks.


Arguably, the venue is legally responsible for disease prevention efforts, not the event organizer. “I don’t believe event planners are responsible or have legal liability for diseases. It’s the venue’s responsibility to maintain a healthy environment for its attendees and exhibitors,” claims Bill Lemmon, Meeting Solutions Consultant at MCI-USA in Chicago, IL. Maintaining that healthy environment is considered reasonable behavior, and thus expected under the law. “The most foundational legal premise is: Everyone has a duty to behave reasonably under their circumstances,” explains Steve Adelman, attorney and Vice President of the Event Safety Alliance. “The duty of people who operate public accommodations is to make those accommodations reasonably safe for their reasonably foreseeable business invitees.” According to John Siehl, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of VenuWorks in Englewood, OH, the more controllable 29

“How many times have you heard of ‘rubber chicken’ or dry steaks? The reason is the food is being cooked to ensure there are no [contamination] problems overall.” —Bill Lemmon, Meeting Solutions Consultant, MCI-USA

I’m aware of,” says Starks. “What you see on TV in the airports where they screen in-bound passengers — all they’re doing is looking for the most visible signs of disease. That’s all it is. If there was technology that existed, I would be aware of it.” In addition, there is no real way to penalize people who are sick and thus discourage them from entering for fear of penalty, Adelman notes. The original sick person who caused all the issues cannot be held legally responsible to pay for everyone else. “You could put fine print on a ticket, or on a website or smartphone app” urging people not to enter the venue if they have a contagious illness, but that’s not legally binding like many contracts are, Adelman explains. Such policies “are not strictly enforced, but are [instead] used to provide notice of what someone ought to do.” And if someone violates the ticket’s fine print, the person cannot be fined for causing people to become ill. Venue managers are thus limited to simply removing the transgressor from the campus.

a disease is, the more responsibility a venue has for taking steps to prevent it. “Legionnaires seems to be born from a mechanical situation where something has not been properly INSURANCE AND SETTLEMENTS cleaned or maintained,” describes Siehl. The disease spreads What does happen if disease spreads in an entertainment through uncleaned water systems. It’s certainly foreseeable venue, convention center or hotel, due to the negligence of the and reasonably preventable, and therefore a facility’s responvenue? sibility to do so. But when it comes to the There are general insurance policies common cold, fever and even flu — it’s that convention centers can buy, says beyond a facility’s control. “People might Starks. There is no specific amount of sneeze on the back of a banquet chair and money a sick customer is owed, and often someone might get the cold or flu. That’s the amount of money owed to sick virtually not a very controllable situation. customers depends on the state and But E-coli for lack of proper preparation, municipality. Government subsidies play a or food poisoning because it’s not held role in issuing payments, as well. at the right temperature” are the center’s Adelman presents a different path to responsibility, reasons Siehl. “Legionnaires seems to be reconciliation. There are two issues, he Fortunately, venues are taking that born from a mechanical explains. First, “how many dollars will it responsibility quite seriously. Lemmon take so that this individual victim will not points out that rarely has he encountered situation where something file a lawsuit?” And second, “what does the poor sanitation or undercooked food. has not been properly venue operator need to do to avoid reputa“Most venues have very harsh food restriccleaned or maintained.” tional damage, like a blackeye on social tions and often err on overcooking food,” —John Siehl, Vice President media and loss of ticket sales for upcomhe says. “How many times have you heard and Chief Operating Officer, ing events?” of ‘rubber chicken’ or dry steaks? The reaVenuWorks Siehl adds that “I’ve never heard son is the food is being cooked to ensure of anyone coming back [to sue] after there are no [contamination] problems getting a flu or the cold, because there are so many other overall.” Other key preventative measures include regularly cleaning places that it could be contracted also. It’s got to be a provable situation.” air ducts, which can get bacteria buildup and become a haven for rodents and insects; and sanitizing the water system, in PREPARING FOR AN UNLIKELY OUTCOME order to prevent vomiting, salmonella and even Legionnaires. Rest assured, it’s rare that disease spreads en masse in convention Staff training is also essential. “You can’t skimp on your centers, hotels and arenas. Starks notes that he has never janitorial staff,” Starks says. “They have to be trained and up personally seen a spread of disease specifically from a convento speed on their daily operations. But at the end of the day, tion center or hotel. The most he claims to have ever seen is be sure to wash your hands and make sure you don’t openly a loss in business productivity during a general disease or cough. The basics of what we’ve told people can still work in epidemic scare. People are less willing to put on public shows almost every case to some degree.” He adds, “There’s a reason and potential customers are less willing to attend. we have sick days. If you’re sick, don’t be here.” Despite the improbability of this eventuality, venue managers are legally obligated to make a reasonable effort to prevent IMPRACTICABLE MEASURES Can venues begin screening guests seeking entrance to events it, and by and large they do. In turn, event organizers, booking agents and guests can partner with and enter public assembly for diseases? facilities with “reasonable” confidence. “There’s no technology to screen people for diseases that 30



The San Francisco skyline and its iconic Transamerica Pyramid




By Anthony Bilden

alifornia is a state of diversity, from multicultural cities like Los Angeles to the stark differences in climate that can be found in the northern and southern regions of the state. In turn, a great variety of experiences can complement a California meeting. This overview of the Golden State’s meeting destinations covers just some of the inviting options for planners, including cosmopolitan cities like San Francisco along with smaller but characterful cities like Long Beach. While San Francisco has been occupying the spotlight with the recently completed Moscone Center expansion, an ongoing project that is making news is the renaming and expansion of Sacramento’s convention center. Together, these two enhanced centers will be a boon to Northern California’s meeting industry

attendees, including the de Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, Botanical Gardens and a nine-hole golf course. To mark the occasion, an illuminated 150-foot observation wheel will be installed in the park for one year beginning April 4, the actual 150th birthday. The park is among the bastions of the city’s tourism industry, as well as being a treasure for residents. Last year


This year marks the 150th anniversary of a San Francisco icon, Golden Gate Park. The park is home to a variety of venues and attractions that may pique the interest of FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden 31


to Sacramento; one is was a milestone for San the Future Farmers of Francisco tourism. According “The attention we were to the San Francisco Travel America, a group that will getting based on our food Association, approximately utilize not only the new scene, building a downtown 26.2 million people visited convention center but also arena and a new hotel the city in 2019, up 1.4 the Golden 1 Center,” says product really warranted a percent from the 25.8 million Mike Testa, President and in 2018. “This is the 10th CEO, Visit Sacramento. different convention center.” consecutive year that we are “So we’ve been able to —Mike Testa, President and CEO, able to report record-breaking attract some larger groups Visit Sacramento outcomes for San Francisco’s because of the facility. The tourism industry,” said Joe Unified Wine & Grape D’Alessandro, President and CEO of San Francisco Travel. Symposium is probably the largest group Sacramento hosts, He added that “Room nights booked and consumed at the and they will be able to grow their event in the new facility.” Moscone Center exceeded one million in 2019. This is only Sacramento’s SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, the second year this has ever happened, 2014 being the first.” renamed last August, has not been enhanced in about 20 The City by the Bay’s convention center is poised to years. “We’ve had some annual groups in town that were welcome even more delegates in future years with the $551 looking to grow and just based on the restrictions of the million expansion completed on Jan. 3, following a four-year building, they weren’t able to do that,” Testa explains. “And construction period. After the addition of 157,000 sq. ft. of this city has dramatically changed over the last five to 10 usable space, the Moscone Center now offers 504,914 sq. ft. of years; we offer a lot more than we ever did. So the attention contiguous space (before expansion, the largest contiguous we were getting based on our food scene, building a space was 260,000 sq. ft.) and a new, 49,776-sq.-ft., columndowntown arena [Golden 1 Center, opened in 2016] and a free ballroom. The convention center’s new total number of new hotel product really warranted a different convention meeting rooms is 114, including 82 in Moscone North and center.” South. The project also added 107,000 sq. ft. of prefunction Scheduled to be completed late this year, the project lobbies with views of the city and surrounding Yerba Buena includes the following elements: Gardens, along with 25,000 sq. ft. of outdoor terraces. • A 160,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall (previously 137,305 sq. ft.); San Francisco is known for its eco-consciousness, and that • 79,100 sq. ft. of meeting space (previously 45,949); value is certainly evident at Moscone Center, which has the • 37 breakout rooms (previously 31); highest LEED Platinum score of any new-build convention • A new, 40,000-sq.-ft. ballroom and a new, 15,300-sq.-ft. center in the world. Among its many distinctions, the center outdoor plaza; and has the largest solar array on a municipal building in San • A renovation of the neighboring Community Center Theater and historic Memorial Auditorium. Francisco, and the lowest carbon emissions per delegate of any major convention center in North America. Two major-brand hotels are on the horizon: The 171-room Waldorf Astoria San Francisco, opening in 2022, and the 250-room Marriott SOMA Mission Bay, opening this summer. A recent opening that will appeal to many groups for its logistical convenience is the Grand Hyatt at SFO. The 351-room property, completed in September 2019, features more than 14,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, a 70-seat restaurant, a Hyatt StayFit Gym and other amenities. Two major reopenings are also of note: the former Courtyard San Francisco Downtown reopens in April as The Clancy San Francisco, following a rebranding and $30 million renovation. Located in the South of Market (SoMa) district, the 410-room hotel houses 16 meeting rooms totaling 10,000 sq. ft. And in January, the Clift Royal Sonesta reopened after a renovation of the historic property’s 372 guestrooms. The Union Square hotel offers over 12,500 sq. ft. of function space, redesigned to afford more natural light. Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center


The state capital’s meetings business has been on an upswing over the last five years, and the current expansion and renovation of its convention center will help that trend continue. “We have booked a couple groups that are new 32

“The walkability of the building is also different,” Testa adds. “A challenge in the previous incarnation [of the convention center] is if you had a meeting on one side of the building and had to get to the other, you’d better be in good physical shape because it was quite a hike. Now we’ve FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

cut through some of that by allowing folks to go through the building in the middle rather than just along the perimeter.” Part of Sacramento’s burgeoning hospitality industry is the new hotel product coming online. Currently the city offers 2,000 hotel rooms walkable from the convention center, and “we have about 800 rooms coming to downtown and a couple more [hotels] on the drawing board, so we hope over the next three years or so to add about 1,200 rooms downtown,” Testa explains. A couple of small hotels will debut in the city this year. A 172-room Hyatt Centric property, a transformation of the 105-year-old Hotel Marshall and nearby Jade apartments, opens adjacent to the Golden 1 Center in late 2020. In addition, a 105-room Fort Sutter Hotel, a Tapestry by Hilton property, will open in Midtown near the B Street Theater. In addition, the culinary scene is gaining recognition, with over 300 restaurants near the convention center and 1.5 million acres of surrounding active farmland. “We had our first Michelin Guide come out last year. That’s a pretty good illustration of the caliber of restaurants we have in the city,” Testa says. “It’s been a huge selling point for Sacramento.”


In the areas of sports, entertainment and the arts, L.A. is already among the most prominent cities in the nation. But its renown will increase on these fronts with the opening of two major venues in the near future: SoFi Stadium and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Both promise meeting attendees new sources of free-time diversion and group experiences. Opening this summer, the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park will be home to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams. Scheduled highlights include an opening concert by Taylor Swift on July 25 and 26, Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics. The largest stadium in the NFL, SoFi Stadium includes more than 260 luxury suites and more than

13,000 premium seats. Adjacent to the stadium is the 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza and a 6,000-seat performance venue. The $1 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, expected to open in Exposition Park late next year, is a 275,000-sq.-ft. facility housing George Lucas’ personal collection of art, consisting of approximately 10,000 paintings and illustrations along with Hollywood memorabilia from landmark films such as Star Wars and The Ten Commandments. Designed by famed architect Ma Yansong, the museum will feature two state-of-the-art cinematic theaters, digital classrooms, 11 acres of green space, a restaurant and special event spaces. Downtown L.A. is not only replete with points of interest such as the Los Angeles Conservancy, North Grand Avenue and Little Tokyo, but it’s also “meetings central.” The ASM Global-managed the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) offers 720,000 sq. ft. of exhibit hall space, 147,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 64 column-free meeting rooms and a newly renovated 299-seat theater. The LACC is also on the leading edge of both technology and sustainability, with LEED Gold certification and 5G network capability. The quality of the LACC is matched by that of Los Angeles’ hotel portfolio, which has recently undergone upgrades. One of the most significant projects is the $50 million, property-wide renovation of the 984-room Los Angeles Airport Marriott, completed at the end of 2018.

Los Angeles’ Chinatown

Echo Park, with Downtown Los Angeles in the background FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

The project refreshed the hotel’s 27 meeting rooms, totaling 54,640 sq. ft. of space. New restaurants include the Social Market & Eatery, JW’s Steakhouse, and Hangar 18 Bar & Kitchen. A more recent upgrade is the 297-suite W Los Angeles - West Beverly Hills’ $4 million function space renovation, completed in December 2019. The hotel’s 5,000 sq. ft. of function space now has a modernized design and state-of-the-art audiovisual with cascading projection screens as well as smart screens featuring the latest Bluetooth technology. Each space has a dedicated sound system and a media wall in the prefunction space. Several boutique hotels are also making news in L.A., including the 220-room Godfrey Hotel Hollywood, featuring the 6,000-sq.-ft. Rooftop Pool & Bar; the 174-room The Hoxton, LA, located 33


Griffith Observatory affords panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign

in a transformed 1925 building; the 156-room The Wayfarer DTLA, in the historic Broadway Corridor; and the 148-room Downtown LA Proper, a Fashion District hotel with 14,000 sq. ft. of function space and restaurants led by James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin. Speaking of new dining options, M.Georgina by Michelin-starred chef Melissa Perello opened in November. The 4,300-sq.-ft. establishment offers a private dining room can be booked for up to 20 guests for a seated dinner and up to 30 for a standing reception. A full restaurant buyout is also possible.



Last year, the Pasadena Convention Center welcomed ServiceTitan’s growing user conference, known as Pantheon. The Glendale, CA-based company, which develops software for commercial and residential service providers, has held the conference in California since launching it in 2017, first in Hollywood and then in Downtown Los Angeles. By the time the group met in Pasadena in 2019, the number of attendees had grown from 200 to 1,500. This year, the company expects about 2,000 attendees, and the Pasadena

Convention Center will accommodate that Old Pasadena number comfortably. The facility’s 55,000-sq.-ft. Exhibition Hall can be combined with its adjacent 25,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom. Other spaces include a recently renovated, 17,000-sq.-ft. historic ballroom and a 28,000-sq.-ft. Conference Center with 18 meeting rooms on two levels. In addition, the 3,000-seat Pasadena Civic Auditorium is ideal for general sessions, and its Gold Room accommodates 250 for a banquet. The convention center “feels at the same time modern and historic,” observes Lindsey Keefner, Director, Events with ServiceTitan. “The auditorium is absolutely beautiful inside: It’s very ornate and adds a level of gravitas to the

The Pasadena Civic Auditorium “is absolutely beautiful inside: It’s very ornate and adds a level of gravitas to the proceedings.” —Lindsey Keefner, Director, Events, ServiceTitan

ServiceTitan’s user conference at the Pasadena Convention Center 34

proceedings. But then the rest of the facility feels very clean and modern. It’s all on the same campus, so everyone has a chance to enjoy the California weather walking between the buildings, but at the same time it’s all really close. We had the exhibit hall, ballroom, theater and the conference center all going with different activities.” Keefner compliments both Visit Pasadena and the catering staff at the convention center as great partners in staging the user conference. Both were very receptive to her ideas, she relates. ServiceTitan utilized six hotels in the area, primarily the FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING


Pasadena Convention Center

of the recently renovated Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center and the adjacent 528-room Hyatt Regency Long Beach, along with the 469-room Westin Long Beach, which sits across from the Center. The convention center complex offers over 400,000 sq. ft. of exhibit and meeting space, including the 45,000-sq.-ft. Pacific Room with built-in AV, 34 high-tech meeting rooms, two theaters and a 13,000-seat arena. Those facilities are supplemented by 10,000 sq. ft. of function space at the Hyatt and 34,000 sq. ft. at the Westin. Another notable lodging choice is the 299-room Hilton Long Beach, located one mile from Center and offering 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. An “only in Long Beach experience” can be had at the 347-stateroom Queen Mary Hotel, which offers more than 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space in 14 Art Deco salons. Launched on May 27, 1936, the Queen Mary has welcomed an estimated 50 million visitors since “retiring” in Long Beach on December 9, 1967. Another icon of the city’s nautical culture is the Aquarium of the Pacific, which can host private events. Reportedly the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation, it displays about 12,000 animals and more than 100 exhibits. The Pacific Visions wing, which includes a state-of-the-art theater, an art gallery, game tables and live animal exhibits, opened last year. Long Beach’s art museums present a variety of offsite event options for groups. They include the Museum of Latin American Art; Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum; University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach; Long Beach Historical Society Museum; and the Long Beach Museum of Art. The latter institution is housed in the historic 1911 Elizabeth Milbank Anderson House and offers event catering by Claire’s, the museum’s upscale oceanfront restaurant.

Queen Mary , a fixture of Long Beach’s tourism industry since 1967

311-room Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, which lies adjacent to the convention center, and the 296-room Hilton Pasadena. The hotels offer 11,708 sq. ft. and 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, respectively. All the hotels are in walking distance to the convention center campus, and “it’s absolutely a neighborhood people feel comfortable walking around in,” Keefner says. “There are different food options and a mall right across the street.” The group’s only offsite event was held at Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, located 20 minutes away via busses. “We’re going back this year because we had such an amazing experience,” she says. “They have every kind of set you can imagine; we’re going to be on the Midwest set this year.”


The hub of Long Beach’s meetings industry is comprised FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Attendees can escape to Catalina Island via the Catalina Express. 35


Orange County Convention Center



By Anthony Bilden


he Sunshine State has always shone brightly in the national meetings market. The strongest draws for convention groups continue to be Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and their massive, state-ofthe-art convention centers are a major part of the cities’ value proposition. But a convention center cannot remain “state of the art,” nor realize its growing business potential, without periodic investment in its facilities. Both the Orange County Convention Center and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center are set to complete expansions in 2023, opening up new possibilities for their existing clients and helping to accommodate new clients. The Miami Beach Convention Center’s recently increased exhibit and ballroom space brings the same advantages. Whether a group partners with Florida’s first-tier convention centers or its second-tier ones, such as the Palm Beach County Convention Center or Daytona Beach’s Ocean Center, the state’s familiar virtues are always present: affordability, outdoor recreational opportunities, a laidback yet business-ready ambiance, and, of course, plenty of sunshine.



It might be said that Orlando is always in a development stage, with new hotels, theme park attractions and even airport enhancements, the latest of which is the new South Terminal Complex opening in 2021. But from a meetings standpoint, undoubtedly the most significant development is the Orange County Convention Center’s $605 million expansion, which will bring the total exhibit space to 2.3 million sq. ft. by 2023. As always, Walt Disney World Resort is a major player in Orlando’s development. During last year’s IMEX Las Vegas exhibition, F&D staff attended an event at which Disney’s artists and “imagineers” described the detail they put into their work so as to create unique experiences for guests. In designing the world of Batuu, part of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disney resorts, for example, Middle Eastern souks were visited in order to add a realistic feel to the outer space marketplaces in the fictional world. The Disney Meetings & Events teams display a similar attention to detail when utilizing the theme parks’ resources to craft unique events for groups. In addition to artists and imagineers, actors, singers, culinary teams, florists and others FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

can be called upon toward that goal. With that prowess in mind, it came as no surprise that the team behind Disney Riviera Resort impressed when we attended the hotel’s opening in December. The property incorporates themes of the Riviera in its interior artwork, designed to echo styles of regional artists; exterior architecture, with similarities to seaside hotels found along the French and Italian coasts; as well as its cuisine. Dining options also bring the region to light with French pastries at Café Rivas, and upscale Italian dining at its rooftop restaurant Topolino’s (Mickey Mouse is called Topolino in Italian). Available for private group functions, the restaurant affords views of the evening fireworks displays at nearby Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Riviera resort is Disney’s first new Vacation Club property inaugurated since 2004. Most rooms are suites, very much like those of extended-stay properties, with full kitchens and living areas. As such, the modern property is ideal for attendees who are seeking to spend additional days before and/or after their meeting enjoying Disney’s attractions. Disney properties provide early parks admission, and during the latter half of 2019, Disney launched a gondola service transporting guests inside a character-themed tramcar — a unique trip that allows guests to maximize their time at the park. The Riviera houses one of the tramway stations with direct access between the resort properties and Epcot and Disney Studios. With no shortage of creativity, the team at Disney concluded 2019 with a number of new properties and products, including Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which opened in December as the second attraction in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This year saw the debut of the first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, featured at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In addition, Drawn to Life, a new Cirque du Soleil show, opened at Disney Springs in March. This summer, attendees can experience two new attractions at Epcot: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and HarmonioUS, the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park. This year will also see attractions debut at Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and International Drive. The Bourne Spectacular at Universal is a new, live-action stunt show based on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Bourne films, which opens this spring at Universal Studios Florida. Also this spring, SeaWorld introduces Ice Breaker, a ride that features the steepest vertical drop in Florida, while Riptide Race, the state’s first-ever dueling water slide, opens later this year. Meanwhile, two thrill rides will open on International Drive: The Orlando Slingshot and The Orlando Gyro Drop Tower. Orlando’s lodging industry, which currently includes more than 450 properties, is growing along with its entertainment industry. The most sizable new meeting hotel is the 516-room JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa, which opened this February with more than 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 22,000-sq.-ft. ballroom. Planners can look ahead to another meetings-focused hotel, The Cove at The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, in 2021. The 349-room property will offer 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 16,700 sq. ft. of flexible outdoor space. Two smaller new properties of note are the 259-room Tru Hotel by Hilton Orlando Convention Center, opening this summer, and the 106-room Cambria Hotel Orlando International Airport, opening in 2021 less than two miles from the airport.  Planners looking for an offsite venue for large group functions, particularly keynotes, can now book the new 1,700-seat Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, in downtown Orlando. The venue opens in September 2020 and will feature fully customizable stage, walls and floor.


Still relatively new to the Palm Beach County meetings industry is the Hilton West Palm Beach, opened in 2016. The AAA Four Diamond, 400-room hotel is attached to the Palm Beach County Convention Center, and houses its own 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, plus two outdoor event lawns. Located across from the popular Rosemary Square (formerly CityPlace) dining, shopping and entertainment center, the Hilton is well positioned for attendees looking for free-time activities. Situated just three miles from the Palm Beach International Airport, the Convention Center offers a 100,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall, 22,000-sq.-ft. ballroom and 21,000 sq. ft. of flexible breakout space divisible into 19 rooms. A new nearby lodging option came online in February: the 150-room Canopy West Palm Beach Downtown. The hotel features a 3,060-sq.-ft. ballroom and two restaurants, including one on the 13th floor rooftop. Continued on page 39


DAYTONA BEACH’S OCEAN CENTER ENJOYS WAVES OF BUSINESS IN 2020 One of the Sunshine State’s most dynamic second-tier convention centers, the Ocean Center continues to perform well in the association, corporate and religious meeting sectors. The facility has renewed contracts with the Florida Trucking Association, Amway, the W.S. Badcock Corporation and The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, among other organizations. New religious events at the Ocean Center this year include Going Beyond Live 2020 in April, and InsideOut Beach Camp, sponsored by North Point Ministries, in June. Both events will draw upwards of 6,000 attendees. Indeed, the Ocean Center is versed in accommodating citywide meetings. Passion Camp and Student Life Youth Conferences, for example, have each brought about 13,000 attendees to Daytona Beach. expectations, whether they are a carnivore, vegetarian The 200,000-sq.-ft., multiuse facility offers 94,000 sq. or vegan,” commented Ocean Center Deputy Director ft. of exhibit space, a divisible 14,000-sq.-ft. ballroom, Tim Riddle. 32 meeting rooms and a 9,300-seat arena. Convenient White-sand beaches are nearby for groups meeting shopping and dining is available at the Ocean Walk at the aptly named Ocean Center, but Daytona is Shoppes, located just equally well known for 400 feet from the Ocean its motorsports. The city A new hotel ideally situated for attendees Center. The convention is home to the Daytona who wish to explore the famed speedway is center’s own dining International Speedway The Daytona, Autograph Collection. service is provided by and Motorsports Hall Spectra Food Services of Fame of America, & Hospitality, which is up to date on the latest culinary as well as iconic events such as the Daytona 500, Bike trends. Plant-based eating is one example. Last Week and Biketoberfest. A new hotel ideally situated November, the Ocean Center, Spectra and the Humane for attendees who wish to explore the famed speedway Society of the United States partnered on a workshop is The Daytona, Autograph Collection. The 144-room designed to provide Spectra’s culinary leaders with all property offers 2,400 sq. ft. of meeting space and more the tools they need to deliver plant-strong foods to their than 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor event space. clients. “We recognize that more and more individuals Other recent openings include the 200-room Hard are choosing plant-based meals, and this [workshop] Rock Hotel Daytona Beach featuring 20,000 sq. ft. of allows us to meet and exceed every attendee’s meeting space, and the 133-room Delta by Marriott Daytona Beach. Providing lodging for many of the Ocean Center’s clients is the 744-room Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, located adjacent to the complex and offering its own 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. American Airlines is making it even more convenient for delegates flying into Daytona Beach International Airport from Charlotte, NC, and New York City. This January, the carrier expanded service to Daytona Beach with a larger plane for one of its daily flights from Charlotte, and increased the number of daily flights from Charlotte from five to six. American also added seasonal, nonstop service between Daytona Beach and LaGuardia Airport in New York. —A.B. Ocean Walk Shoppes 38


Continued from page 37

Also opened in February is the 208-room Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel “The Ben” — named in honor of hospitality pioneers Byrd and Fred Dewey’s original Palm Beach County estate named Ben Trovato. The Ben features downtown West Palm Beach’s only waterfront ballroom with panoramic Intracoastal views. The Blue Heron Ballroom is part of more than 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space. Other notable new properties include the 150-room Banyan Cay Resort & Golf, opening in early 2021 in West Palm Beach; the 158-room Mandarin Oriental, opening in late 2021 in Downtown Boca Raton; and the 277-room Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa, completing a property-wide transformation by early 2021 that will include its 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Palm Beach County Convention Center

One of Palm Beach County’s most iconic cultural institutions, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts features a diverse 2019-2020 season that includes acts such as Jim Gaffigan, Incubus and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Orchestra. The Center can also serve as an offsite event space with its rentable Theater and Cohen Pavilion. A $50 million expansion of the Center, slated for completion by summer 2020, will increase the size of the lobby by 6,000 sq. ft., create a new pedestrian-friendly plaza and add a new valet parking garage. Palm Beach County’s transportation logistics are also being enhanced. As of June 2019, Phase Two of Brightline, an express inter-city passenger rail service, is underway and will connect West Palm Beach directly to the Orlando International Airport in just two hours. Construction is expected to take approximately 36 months to complete. In addition, Palm Beach International Airport has added new year-round and seasonal flights, including Allegiant, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Indianapolis; Frontier, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Newark; and United, Washington, DC.

is becoming even more viable for large meetings with a $1 billion expansion of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center District. Scheduled for completion in 2023, the enhanced center will offer 350,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 65,000-sq.-ft. waterfront ballroom, new restaurants, improved Water Taxi access and a new waterfront plaza. Also part of the project is an 800-room Omni headquarters hotel. The new property will add to the city’s 3,000-plus guest rooms, located within a 1.5-mile radius of the Convention Center District (14,000 within Broward County). An additional 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space is available at the BB&T Center, home to major concerts and NHL hockey. Among Fort Lauderdale’s many other entertainment resources are The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Parker Playhouse (currently undergoing a $25 million restoration) and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. The latter property, a popular concert venue, debuted the 638-room “Guitar Hotel” in October. For attendees who have been to Fort Lauderdale before, there are plenty of new free-time diversions to explore, including a variety of new restaurants. Among the standouts are Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant & Winery in The Galleria Mall; Talento on Las Olas Boulevard; and Rivertail and The Wharf, both located in the Las Olas Riverfront district. Under development is a major expansion of Dania Pointe, bringing an additional 370,000 sq. ft. of retail, dining and entertainment options, along with two Marriott hotels offering 350 rooms combined. And the $49 million Las Olas Beach Park project will introduce two new waterfront parks to Fort Lauderdale beach. Planners looking for offsite event venues unique to Fort Lauderdale may wish to consider the Gallery of Amazing Things and Bamboo Gallery. The former opened in 2012 and doubles as a cultural center for the arts and event space accommodating up to 800 guests. The latter accommodates up to 400 guests, surrounded by 2.5 acres of lush tropical landscape with tikki huts, waterfalls, fire pits and more. In addition to the Seminole Hard Rock expansion,


Already a popular Floridian destination among convention groups, Fort Lauderdale FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

A boat charter is an ideal way for groups to experience Fort Lauderdale’s waterways. 39

A bird’s-eye view of Las Olas Boulevard

the Fort Lauderdale hotel scene is rich with smaller-scale developments, including the following: •T  he 136-room Hotel Maren Fort Lauderdale Beach, a Curio Collection by Hilton, opened in January; •T  he 238-room Hyatt Centric Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale, opening this spring; •A  dual-branded Tru by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton, expected to open summer 2020 in Flagler Village; and •A  174-room AC Hotel by Marriott, scheduled to open at the Sawgrass Mills Mall by spring 2021. In addition, Le Méridien Dania Beach at Fort Lauderdale Airport has undergone a $30 million renovation. The property features 245 guestrooms, 20,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and two redesigned restaurants. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport offers more than 350 average daily flights, including nonstop service to more than 85 U.S. cities and more than 62 international destinations in 33 countries. New service introduced in 2019 includes: Spirit Airlines, Nashville; Frontier Airlines, Cleveland and Cincinnati; and Southwest Airlines, Cleveland, Louisville, Boston.

project introduced a new 60,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom and increased exhibit space to almost 500,000 sq. ft. Other features include an expanded Grand Lobby, naturally lit pre-function areas, up to 84 breakout rooms and $7.1 million worth of art curated by the City of Miami Beach Art in Public Places program. Additionally, the Spectra-managed MBCC has been


The Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) has reinvigorated Miami’s meetings industry with a recently completed $620 million renovation and expansion. The 40

Rendering of the Grand Hyatt opening next to the Miami Beach Convention Center


making key staff appointments. In November, the facility added two members: Sabrina Anico as Director of Marketing and External Relations, and Chuck Holl as Director of Public Safety. Anico has more than 20 years of venue marketing and communications experience, including positions with SMG, Faena Hotels and a variety of major theaters. Holl brings over 25 years of safety and security experience in the hospitality and gaming industries, including his most recent role as Executive Director of Security and Surveillance at The Aquarius Casino. In January, the MBCC welcomed Micah Allen as the new Director of Sales. She has held leadership sales roles with several hotels and venues, including the JW Marriott Hotel New Orleans and the Jackson Convention Complex. “I am Micah Allen, thrilled by the opportunity to cultivate Miami Beach a pool of new technology, medical Convention Center and corporate events to take place at the MBCC,” Allen commented. “Following the $620 million expansion and renovation of the MBCC, the venue is poised to generate new, exciting business that will positively impact the destination.”

Convention & Visitors Bureau has appointed a new Vice President of Convention Sales. Longtime staff member Sonia Fong has been promoted to the position and is currently overseeing the GMCVB Washington, D.C. Regional Office. Her recent accomplishments include booking Cisco, American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Zendesk, RealComm Sonia Fong, and CruiseWorld. Fong also serves as Greater Miami CVB Chair of the GMCVB Medical Tourism Liaison and the Miami Beach Hotels Task Force. Speaking of hotels, major news was announced in February by the MBCC hotel development team: An 800-room Grand Hyatt will open in 2023 adjacent to the convention center. The 17-story hotel will be situated in walking distance to attractions such as the beachfront, Lincoln Road Mall, The Bass Museum and The Fillmore Miami Beach. The property will include two floors of meeting spaces and ballrooms, a resort-style pool deck, and an elevated skybridge with a climate-controlled, art-filled corridor connecting to the MBCC. Meanwhile, MDM Development Group is finalizing the financing for the Marriott Marquis Miami Worldcenter Hotel & Expo Center. With 1,723 guestrooms and 500,000 sq. ft. of convention space, the $800 million hotel would be a game-changer in the Miami meetings industry. One of Florida’s most culturally rich cities, Miami is home to many institutions that planners can partner with to stage offsite events. An intriguing possibility is the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, whose scenic rental venues include the Japanese Garden, Butterfly Room and Banyan Room. Miami’s natural environment is something the transformed MBCC both respects and celebrates: It is a LEED-certified facility that is now surrounded by a 5.8-acre public park with open lawn spaces, shaded areas and a pavilion. — David Korn contributed to this story.

The Miami Beach Convention Center’s new Grand Ballroom

The MBCC has also recently appointed South Floridabased production company Everlast Productions as its preferred audiovisual and rigging provider. Everlast Productions has serviced live events for over 20 years, from corporate events to to large-scale concerts and social gatherings. “It is very exciting to partner with a local company that has a great reputation in the event industry and will bring exceptional, high-quality audiovisual and rigging services to the Miami Beach Convention Center, dovetailing with our commitment to providing excellence in customer service,” said Freddie Peterson, General Manager, MBCC. While the MBCC welcomes new staff, the Greater Miami FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami’s Coconut Grove 41

The Diplomat Beach Resort


Renowned South Florida convention hotel is even better after a major renovation


By Laura Janelle Downey

eeting groups flock to sunny Hollywood, FL, for its balmy weather and alluring beaches. And with The Diplomat Beach Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton, located 15-30 minutes from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and 30-45 minutes from Miami International Airport, groups of all sizes have a convenient site in the region. The property, which underwent a $100 million renovation in 2017, offers 1,000 guestrooms including 96 suites, 209,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space, two beachfront pools, award-winning restaurants, a refreshed wellness facility and much more. For the past five years, software company SAP International has chosen The Diplomat to host its Field Kick-Off meeting. “We keep choosing The Diplomat for the ease of having a convention center attached to a magnificent hotel,” says Angela Almaguer, Head of Latin America & Caribbean Regional Events for SAP. “But above all, we choose The Diplomat because of the people and staff who go the extra mile to execute a flawless event.” The Diplomat has four ballrooms (including the 20,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom), 39 breakout rooms, and outdoor space to accommodate more than 1,000 attendees. “We contract the entire hotel and convention center,” Almaguer says. Angela Almaguer “The Field Kick-Off event ranges SAP International from 1,200 to 1,600 attendees. Our needs vary from special meals to welcoming one of our board members. The Diplomat team — from the administration to housekeeping, engineering, security and valet — all work with our SAP team to make a memorable experience for each of our attendees. Their service is admirable, and we feel extremely grateful to them for making us feel at home.” 42

The service excellence extends to The Diplomat’s eight dining outlets. Notable chefs such as Michael Schulson of the Japanese-inspired Monkitail and Executive Chef Rashaad Abdool of Diplomat Prime create delectable masterpieces such as the Wagyu Tartare and the 16-ounce, 45-day dry-aged NY Strip, respectively. And should attendees want to order from any of the other restaurants on property, the Diplomat Restaurant Delivery program is another option. All they have to do is text the front desk staff and the food will be delivered to their accommodations. During their free time, attendees can revitalize at the 14,000-sq.-ft. Diplomat Spa + Wellness, which offers 10 treatment rooms, an aromatherapy sauna, halo therapy salt steam room, vichy shower, and new services such as the 50- or 80-minute Holistic Healing Massage and the organic Holistic Hydration Facial. Groups can also sign up for hands-on cooking classes, yoga on the beach, or take to the 3,200-sq.-ft. gym with Core Fitness Training experts. Plus, The Diplomat offers teambuilding activities such as its Beach Break, which ends with “boozy popsicles” for attendees to savor. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

The Palms Hotel & Spa


A peaceful retreat for groups in the midst of Miami Beach


By Laura Janelle Downey

onference attendees can be right in the middle delivers remarkable service, always ensuring that the guest of all the action Miami Beach has to offer and yet experience is at the top of their list of priorities … where it benot be affected by the hustle and bustle. This is longs! Upon entering this beachfront property, one can’t help because tranquility is found at the 251-room The but feel the warmth and notice the attentive service.” In adPalms Hotel & Spa on Collins Avenue. Located dition, the event service team “is outstanding from planning just 20 minutes from Miami International Airport to execution of the event and reacts constructively to our and only 10 minutes from the Miami Beach Convention needs and requirements.” She also cites the hotel’s “intimate, Center, the nature-inspired property offers boutique-like atmosphere, large pool area guests a tropical paradise complete with and lush garden.” HiPoint Events’ clients 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a robust use the garden for their programs, along wellness program. with “the area with the tiki-covered huts, the This perfect setting is why destination veranda, meeting spaces, restaurant, bar, management companies such as HiPoint spa, etc.,” says Vanleuven. Events turn to The Palms Hotel & Spa. While at The Palms Hotel & Spa, groups “We organized many events here — upcan partake in a variety of teambuilding scale incentives from Europe and interexercises. The Chef For A Day option national meetings for participants with includes creating a flavorful three-course very high expectations,” says Conference farm-to-table meal or grilling by the garden. & Incentive Manager Dominique Vanleuven. There’s even a two-hour Mixologist Class Dominique Vanleuven “What makes The Palms Hotel & Spa and Competition, which invites a spirit of HiPoint Events stand out is the fact that the hotel team creativity and cohesiveness. Other activities include everything from Beach Olympics and Digital Detox Yoga to a guided tour of the 2.6-acre Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The property even offers quarterly Beach Cleanups where groups can do their part to give back to the community and the environment as a whole. During downtime, attendees can take to the AVEDA Lifestyle Spa for the Perfecting Plant Peel facial, the Aveda Aroma Massage, and other treatments. The hotel’s spa customizes its treatments based on the needs of the individual. And for an off-property after-spa treat, renowned chef Bradley Kilgore’s Ember in the Design District Shops offers a natural wood aesthetic complemented by delicious wood-fired dishes such as Fire-Roasted Lasagna and The Palms Hotel & Spa’s garden is an idyllic, informal gathering spot. Josper Roasted Stuffed Dates. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING




Lincoln Memorial

Metropolitan, harbor and beach environments await meeting groups in this diverse region By George Seli


he nation’s capital may get the lion’s share of MidAtlantic meetings business, but it’s certainly not the only compelling option for planners considering the region. A diversity of settings beyond DC’s landmarks and cosmopolitan atmosphere can be found in the Mid-Atlantic, including Baltimore’s vibrant Inner Harbor and Virginia Beach’s scenic shores and beachside resorts. Following is an overview of some of the latest developments in the MidAtlantic meetings industry, beginning with a new initiative in DC that enables planners to take full advantage of the city’s trove of offsite venues.


Meetings are increasingly expanding their footprint beyond convention centers, taking advantage of nearby venues to give attendees a more varied and memorable impression of the host city. Destination DC, Washington’s official DMO, is facilitating that approach with the “Connected Campus” initiative, introduced at PCMA Convening Leaders in January. Seven participating venues surrounding the Walter E. Washington Convention Center are offering 20 bookable 44

function spaces. The current venue list includes Capital One Arena, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, Long View Gallery, Touchstone Gallery, Association of American Medical Colleges, AJAX and Present Company Public House. “As we continue to focus on selling DC differently, the Connected Campus positioning allows meeting planners to understand how their meeting can better succeed in DC by looking at meetings beyond just four walls,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO, Destination DC. “We hope the initiative can help bring unique meeting and event visions to life as we continue to add more venues to the campus mix.” Melissa A. Riley, Vice President, Convention Sales and Services, added, “We are thrilled to display how versatile and flexible the convention center is and how authentic its surrounding spaces can be for planners looking to expand their reach beyond the ordinary.” Of course, the expansive Walter E. Washington Convention Center is more than ready to accommodate the entirety of an event if needed. The facility offers 703,000 total sq. ft. of exhibit space, including a 473,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall that can FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

—Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO, Destination DC

be subdivided into three rooms; and 198,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 52,000-sq.-ft. ballroom and 77 breakout rooms. But the center is not only distinguished by its sheer size; it is also an architecturally impressive structure with a soaring staircase, towering glass walls and granite floors. A $4 million public art collection, including sculpture, paintings and photography, is sure to spark conversations among attendees. What is more, Events DC completed an interior redesign of the center last spring, adding more flexible seating, interactive kiosks and communal spaces. In December 2019, a $41 million streetscape project broke ground outside the facility. Expected to be complete by the end of 2021, the project will add lighting, art, new retail kiosks, a new rooftop terrace, planters and furnishings, and more digital signage. The Destination DC sales team is keeping the convention center quite busy this year with 20 citywides and special events generating 466,713 total room nights. Helping to accommodate the influx of attendees is a growing hotel infrastructure that includes 15 new hotels with more than 3,100 rooms in the pipeline. Highlights include the 225-room Thompson Washington D.C., which opened in January with 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting and rooftop space, and the 181-room Riggs Washington D.C., which opened in February with a 4,000-sq.ft. indoor/outdoor rooftop suitable for events.

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Washington’s primary meeting hotel remains the 1,175room Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, which is connected via underground concourse to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The LEED Silver-certified hotel offers over 100,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 80 function rooms, a maximum of 54 breakout rooms and a rooftop terrace. Attendees can find CityCenterDC’s shopping, dining and nightlife a short walk from the hotel, as well as classic DC attractions such as the National Mall. Washington is one of those first-tier U.S. cities with international renown, and it has an airport that can serve conventions with widespread international attendance. Dulles International Airport provides daily nonstop service from more than 50 international destinations, including recently added air service from Tel Aviv on United Airlines, Rome on Alitalia, Cairo on EgyptAir and Lisbon on TAP Air. The Metro’s silver line will extend to Dulles International Airport this year, providing a convenient, economical connection between the airport and the city.


World-class attractions bolster a city’s meetings industry by providing intriguing options for attendees’ free time as well as offsite group events. But they can also draw groups with ties to the industries those attractions represent. Such is the case in Baltimore, where the renowned National Aquarium and Maryland Zoo were a major factor in drawing the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. AZA will hold its 2021 Annual Conference in Charm City, welcoming an estimated 2,500 attendees. Dan Ashe, President and CEO, AZA, noted that both the National Aquarium and The Maryland Zoo “are longstanding AZA members, so we are proud to bring our annual conference to a city that’s engrained in our profession. The teams at the National Aquarium and The Maryland Zoo have established a stellar local planning committee we know will help organize one of our best annual conferences yet.” The Baltimore Convention Center, site of the AZA 2021 Annual Conference, offers 300,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, about 85,000 sq. ft. of meeting space across 50 meeting rooms, and a 36,672-sq.-ft. ballroom. The facility is connected to three upscale hotels: the 757-


“As we continue to focus on selling DC differently, the Connected Campus positioning allows meeting planners to understand how their meeting can better succeed in DC by looking at meetings beyond just four walls.”

Walter E. Washington Convention Center


Baltimore’s dynamic Inner Harbor

room Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor (housing 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting space), 488-room Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor and 338-room Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. Other major properties include the 750-room Baltimore Marriott Waterfront and Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.

Street. Groups have 1,200 sq. ft. of function space at their disposal. Guests have convenient access to several Baltimore sports venues and points of interest, including Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Fort McHenry and the Baltimore Cruise Port. While Baltimore is perhaps most known for its Inner Harbor and sports culture, several art and history museums also present options for offsite groups activities and events. The Baltimore Museum of Art’s rentable spaces include the neoclassical Majestic Fox Court, Antioch Court and Meyerhoff Auditorium. Planners might also consider scheduling a visit to The Walters Art Museum or Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which tells the story of African American Marylanders using documents, artworks and photographs dating from 1784 up to the present day.

VIRGINIA BEACH Baltimore Museum of Art

Last August, the Renaissance completed a multimilliondollar renovation that redesigned its 622 guestrooms and suites. New wall coverings, carpeting, beddings and furnishings were added, as well as a new entertainment package with phone-to-TV Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, the hotel’s Club Lounge was expanded by 700 sq. ft., making it one of the largest lounges in Baltimore. The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace offers 27,548 sq. ft. of meeting space across 21 function rooms. Last November, the 126-room Courtyard by Marriott Baltimore Downtown/McHenry Row opened on Porter 46

Situated where the Atlantic Ocean meets Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s signature coastal experiences. But there is much more than the beach for attendees to enjoy during their free time. Educational and cultural experiences await at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and Virginia Military Aviation Museum. Attendees looking for a top-notch sports facility in the city will soon have one when the Virginia Beach Sports Center, a 285,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art venue, opens in November. The Center will offer a 200-meter indoor hydraulically banked track and 117,000 sq. ft. of multi-sport programmable space. Golf enthusiasts will surely enjoy a special event at Topgolf Virginia Beach, which has various rentable function spaces. Also offering group rentals is the Sandler Center for the FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

Performing Arts, a world-class facility that is home to institutions such as Ballet Virginia and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Touring shows include musicals, comedians and even rock bands. The Sandler Center can host groups in its 1,308-capacity Performance Hall, 200-capacity Miller Studio Theatre as well as the elegant, 900-sq.-ft. Bill and Anne Wood Founders Room, which includes a private terrace overlooking Town Center, Virginia Beach’s shopping and dining hub. Just a short drive from the Norfolk International Airport is the centerpiece of the city’s meetings industry, the Virginia Beach Convention Center (VBCC). A standout in sustainability, the facility is the nation’s first convention center to earn LEED Gold Certification for Existing Buildings. The staff partners with Virginia Green and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star

Sandler Center for the Performing Arts

the largest properties are the 307-room Holiday Inn Virginia Beach-Norfolk Hotel & Conference Center and 292-room DoubleTree by Hilton Virginia Beach (located in walking distance to the convention center). The 240-room Founders Inn and Spa, a Tapestry Collection by Hilton offers particularly extensive meeting facilities at 40,125 sq. ft., including 18 meeting rooms, the 1,400-capacity Virginia Ballroom and a 78-seat amphitheater. Marriott is expanding its footprint in Virginia Beach with two new openings this year. Debuting in April, the 305-room Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront offers more than 25,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, including an 11,000-sq.-ft. ballroom overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And in June, the 295-room Delta Hotel by Marriott Bayfront Suites, formerly the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel and Conference Center, opens on Chesapeake Bay. The hotel features 13,000 sq. ft. of function space.

Virginia Beach’s Town Center

to help planners green their events. The VBCC houses a 150,000-sq.-ft. column-free exhibit hall, a 31,029-sq.-ft. column-free ballroom, 30,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and naturally lit prefunction space. Its distinctive, 147-ft. glass Tower includes the Tower Board Room, VIP Lounge and Observation Deck. More than 7,000 hotel rooms lie within 2.5 miles of the VBCC; the city’s overall total is 10,000. Among FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

A sit-down dinner at the Virginia Beach Convention Center 47





his city on the rise offers meeting planners an expanded convention center, new hotels, a lively downtown and adventurous recreation all within a compact urban area. With nonstop air service from 20 major cities in the United States, getting to Boise is a breeze.


Located in the heart of downtown is Boise Centre, Idaho’s premier convention center. Following a recent expansion, Boise Centre offers 86,000 sq. ft. of modern and versatile event space that accommodates groups of up to 2,000 people. Within the convention center, you will find 31 flexible meeting rooms, the latest in wireless technology and beautiful views of the Boise Foothills. The facility features exceptional catering services with fresh, locally inspired menus, in-house audiovisual and event production services. Boise Centre’s team of event professionals are highly experienced at hosting conferences, conventions, corporate meetings and special events.


In the past two years, several new hotels have opened near Boise Centre, and another property is expected to open in late 2020. Groups and conventions have over 1,200 sleeping rooms near the convention center with convenient access to dining, nightlife, shopping and entertainment.


Boise’s energetic, friendly and walkable downtown invites visitors to discover one-of-a-kind eateries, more than 100 shops, live music venues and a growing number of breweries and wine-tasting rooms within a 10-block radius. The city’s 8th Street is a lively hub of activity, with outdoor dining options, nightlife and weekly farmer’s market (seasonal) all centered here. The historic Basque Block offers a museum and cultural center, restaurants and annual festival held in late July. Numerous art galleries, opera, philharmonic orchestra and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival outdoor amphitheater add to Boise’s urban appeal.

Just four blocks from downtown is the Boise Greenbelt, a 25-mile walking and biking path that follows the Boise River through the city. The nearby Boise Foothills boast hundreds of miles of hiking trails with options for all abilities. Golf, skiing, whitewater rafting and wineries can all be reached within an hour.


FACILITY Location: Downtown Boise Total Sq. Ft.: 86,000 Meeting Space: 31 meeting rooms including an Executive Boardroom with videoconferencing Largest Room: 24,426 sq. ft., seats 2,400 Technology: Complimentary shared Wi-Fi throughout with dedicated Internet bandwidth up to 500 mbps available to purchase and plug-and-play capabilities BOISE Hotels: 1,200 downtown hotel rooms and thousands more within a short shuttle ride Airport: Boise Airport, seven minutes from the facility Nearby Attractions: State Capitol, Historic Basque Block, Boise State University, over 100 shops, 80 restaurants and 20 breweries, live music venues, 25-mile Boise Greenbelt walking and biking path along the Boise River, many museums, whitewater rafting, nearby hiking and golf CONTACT INFORMATION Pat Rice, Executive Director Phone (208) 336-8900 or pat_rice@boisecentre.com Ali Ribordy, Director of Sales Phone (208) 489-3608 or aribordy@boisecentre.com

850 West Front Street, Boise, ID 83702 • (208) 336-8900; Fax: (208) 336-8803 • boisecentre.com 48




LONG BEACH — California Fresh, Urban Coast Long Beach is an innovative leader in creating “a new essence of meeting style” with its $50 million renovation of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. Using many of the concepts pioneered by the revolutionary TED conference, which Long Beach hosted for five years, the city created an open, collaborative and comfortable, all-inclusive environment where people can easily connect. A campus atmosphere in downtown Long Beach encourages the development and sharing of ideas. This campus includes newly renovated hotels just steps from the convention center and the surrounding waterfront entertainment district, which includes shopping venues, entertainment and nightlife. More than 125 quality restaurants, many with spectacular oceanfront views, are within a compact, very walkable eight-block area surrounding the Convention Center. WalkScore.com rates Long Beach among its top “Most Walkable Cities in America.” Spacious palm-lined pedestrian promenades and bike paths are well-lit at night with colorful LED light displays. The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, with more than 400,000 sq. ft. of modern, versatile exhibit and meeting space, is located in the center of the downtown waterfront with sweeping harbor views and is designed to give guests a warm, stylish and welcoming social experience offering flexible and multiple event options. Recent renovations and upgrades at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center bring new and versatile special event options such as Bogart & Co. (a sophisticated and stylish space to relax and recharge), plus outdoor tropical plazas and patios, highlighting the best in innovative “plein air” event space decor. The newly revamped Pacific Lounge includes chic pod seating with customized lighting.

The Pacific Room, one of the region’s premier venues, revolutionized the platform design for event spaces. The “loft-style” ballroom utilizes the 45,000-sq.-ft. floor space of the Long Beach Arena. This completely customizable event space uses a floating tension grid ceiling and moveable, floor-to-ceiling curtain walls to create the perfect environment for any group. The adaptable, electronic walls are able to accommodate groups of all types, from an intimate gathering to a grand and lavish 5,500-person reception. A built-in, $1.6 million state-of-the-art sound, light and video system is included in the rental of the Pacific Room, providing substantial cost savings. The Pacific Room’s catchphrase is “Your Canvas! Your Show!” Long Beach is LA’s “Urban Waterfront Playground,” located in the center of Southern California. All of the attractions of Los Angeles and Orange County are just minutes from the downtown waterfront. But Long Beach has its own world-class attractions: The Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Pike Outlets at Rainbow Harbor, Shoreline Village, harbor cruises, whale watching tours, every type of boating and on-the-water activity imaginable, plus four distinctive museums and two historic ranchos. Getting to Long Beach is a breeze thanks to the newly modernized Long Beach Airport, which offers a resort feel while welcoming daily nationwide commercial flights. A 2013 renovation and major building project created a modern gateway to better accommodate the airport’s three million annual passengers, who can enjoy a relaxed, resort-like atmosphere as they walk through an open courtyard with fire pits, lounge-style seating, a wine bar and a garden walkway with California native vegetation. A new Food Marché provides travelers a taste of Long Beach, offering local eateries at street prices. Guests can order and have meals delivered gate-side through the iPad Bar. Long Beach is guaranteed to please visitors looking for those special experiences that create lasting memories.

301 E. Ocean Blvd., Suite 1900, Long Beach, CA 90802 • (562) 436-3645 • visitlongbeach.com FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING




n October 2020, the $200 million modernization of the Renasant Convention Center in Memphis will debut, creating a state-of-the-art facility in a one-ofa-kind location. Expect a 118,000-sq.-ft., column-free exhibit hall — the largest in the region — with flexible space, natural light and mighty Mississippi River views. The hall, which can be configured as one or up to three spaces, is just one example. Based on meeting planner feedback, flexibility was built into every feature of the modernization: • On Level 1, a glassed-in lobby overlooking the public concourse and Memphis’ Main Street can double as registration and breakout space. • On Level 2, in addition to the main exhibit hall, a 28,000-sq.ft. ballroom can be configured as one or up to five spaces. • On the Lower Level, the secondary hall/ballroom can be used in its entire 18,000-sq.-ft. layout or be divided into 10 breakout rooms. • Forty-six breakout rooms and a connected 2,100-seat theater round out the 300,000-sq.-ft. facility. Recently, the staff of the Renasant Convention Center invited meeting and event planners on hard-hat tours to glimpse the modernization in progress. “It’s very much an active construction site, but you can see major pieces taking shape, from logistics improvements around our loading and storage facilities to the ‘wow’ factors, such as hotel-quality finishes and the amount of natural light we’re bringing in with floor-to-ceiling windows,” reports Dean Dennis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Memphis Management Group, which manages the facility. Dennis is equally excited about the modernization plan’s emphasis on creating networking spaces for delegates. “It’s more than just offering free Wi-Fi in public areas. We’ll have grab-and-go food options, portable coffee bars, an outdoor terrace overlooking the Mississippi and seating nooks throughout the convention



Beale Street


Riverfront Views



center where delegates can recharge their devices, themselves and their business relationships,” he explains. In fact, connectivity is a theme of the modernization. Renderings envision a public concourse to better connect the Renasant Convention Center with Memphis’ walkable downtown. The connected convention center hotel (the 600-room Sheraton Memphis Downtown) is planning to add 300 new rooms, while a second convention center hotel, in partnership with Loews, plans to add 500 new rooms. These and additional commitments by other developers will add 2,000 new hotel rooms to Memphis’ current inventory of 4,000 rooms over the next five years. Simultaneously, a $245 million modernization is underway at Memphis International Airport (MEM). This wave of development suggests that Memphis — the legendary home of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll on the mighty Mississippi — is a river city on the rise. It is, to be sure. Yet it’s still a city where airport transfers to downtown cost as little as $18 via popular rideshare services and take less than 20 minutes. It’s a destination where the average daily rate remains reasonable ($139-$189 for downtown hotels) and food and beverage rates run lower than in other convention cities. And for delegates, who place increasing value on the meeting experience, it’s an ideal destination for mixing business with pleasure — the only place where you can hold a breakout session on world-famous Beale Street, treat delegates to an after-hours tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion and meet, teambuild and stay overnight in one of the largest pyramids in the world.

255 N. Main Street, Memphis TN 38103 • (901) 576-1200 • renasantconventioncenter.com 50




The additional certification at the Gold Level affirms the facility’s commitment to the environment. The facility actively uses sustainable practices such as purchasing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Monona Terrace is a symbol of sustainability for the community and an inspiration to all those who choose to visit the city.


More than 8,000 hotel rooms are available to groups in Madison, with 1,000 rooms within walking distance of Monona Terrace. Accommodation styles run the gamut from first-class convention hotels, such as the 240-room Hilton Madison (the headquarters hotel for the convention center), to limited-service hotels and budget-conscious lodging. Bed and breakfasts are another attractive choice in Madison, and several provide services and amenities appropriate for executive attendees.

Convention Facilities

Let Us Orchestrate Your Incredible at Monona Terrace Monona Terrace, you have the freedom to imagine your dream Abringtevent. Then, our detail-obsessed staff will work with you to it to life. Book your next meeting or convention to experience our top-notch technology and concierge-caliber service, all with a lakeside view. So go ahead and dream big. We’ll see you at Monona Terrace. Monona Terrace®, a crown jewel of Madison’s isthmus, earned the prestigious Gold Level LEED status. In 2007, Monona Terrace became the first convention center in the nation to be LEED-EBcertified at the Silver Level by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace Convention Center is a touchstone for both the Madison community and groups coming to the city. Sweeping lines and vast, arched windows typify the structure, which offers dramatic surroundings for groups. In total, Monona Terrace Convention Center offers 85,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibition space. Highlights of the center include: • 3 7,200-sq.-ft. Exhibition Hall that accommodates 212, 10 ft.-by-10 ft. booths • 13,524-sq.-ft. Madison Ballroom, divisible by four • 7,000-sq.-ft. Grand Terrace • 6 8,000 sq. ft. of rooftop gardens that may also be reserved for events

One John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53703 (608) 261-4000 • mononaterrace.com



Please consider the following criteria when voting:

•A  ttractiveness & Functionality of Meeting Venue • Size & Quality of Meeting Space • Technological Capabilities • Quality of Staff • Food & Beverage Options •L  ighting, Acoustics, & Internet Access •O  ther Meeting/Event Support Services • Amenities • Recreational Activities • Dining & Entertainment Options • Lodging Quality • Accessibility to Airport • Ease of Travel within Destination

Fill Out Form & Mail, Email or Fax Your Vote: Facilities & Destinations 152 Madison Avenue, Suite 802 New York, NY 10016 Fax: (212) 213-6382 Email: ballots@facilitiesonline.com FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING

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he award-winning Montego Bay Convention Centre (MBCC), the largest convention facility of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, has won the World Travel Award for the Caribbean’s Leading Meeting and Conference Centre for the last 10 consecutive years, from 2011 to 2020. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the MBCC hosted some of the largest events in its history, including the following international events: the 39th Heads of Government Conference, the International Sport Kickboxing Association World Championship, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Caribbean Travel Marketplace, Outsource 2 Jamaica and the Jamaica Classic Basketball Tournament. Opened in 2011, the ASM Global-managed facility is one of a select few in the Caribbean to offer both comprehensive meeting spaces and modern amenities. The center’s more than 139,000 sq. ft. of space has been designed to accommodate exhibitions, conventions and galas. With built-in technology features such as projectors and projection screens, there are few details of convenience the facility does not offer. Bedsides its intelligent design, the MBCC is also visually striking. Attendees have views of both the coast and the mountains, and the center’s plantation-style shutters and cut stonework recall Jamaica’s classic Georgian style of architecture. The open-air layout of the facility — the meeting, exhibition and ballroom spaces are all housed in three separate buildings, and connect via outdoor walkways — gives attendees the chance to get outside more than the typical convention center might allow. Many of the MBCC’s indoor spaces feature plenty of natural light, and the property offers a number of outdoor event spaces, such as the 17,000-sq.-ft. Ocean View Terrace (accommodating up to 1,500 guests for banquet-style functions) and the MBCC’S 25,000-sq.-ft. courtyard (accommodating up to 2,600 guests for receptions). The MBCC’s largest space, the 57,525-sq.-ft. Exhibition Hall, spans two buildings and offers room for 282 booths as well as

4,700 guests seated banquet style, or 6,200 seated theater style. For special events, the 18,684-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom can seat up to 1,580 for banquets. And for meetings, nine meeting rooms offer 10,161 sq. ft., with the largest accommodating up to 600 attendees. The center’s entire prefunction lobby areas come outfitted with built-in reception desks and comfortable seating. Supporting these spaces are the MBCC’s well-equipped catering facilities. A 15,000-sq.-ft. kitchen, along with additional prep spaces, means that everything from tea breaks to five-course banquets run seamlessly. Ample parking, coach bays and freight access in the Exhibition Hall offer added convenience for larger events. As for onsite technology, all of the MBCC’s meeting, exhibit, and ballroom spaces come equipped with videoconferencing capabilities and high-speed Internet. A full-service business center, a fully integrated broadcast and teleconference system and an onsite team of audiovisual technicians all help ensure that meetings and events run smoothly while groups are in house. Sangster International Airport, the Caribbean’s leading airport, is just 15 minutes away, and surrounding the center are more than 6,000 hotel rooms, including the world-renowned Half Moon, A Rock Resort and Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Hotels. Restaurants, bars, shopping centers and three championship 18-hole golf courses are also nearby. Montego Bay, the tourism capital and second-largest city in Jamaica, offers groups conveniences such as duty-free shopping, as well as plenty to do and see. Groups can cruise the bioluminescent Luminous Lagoon, snorkel or swim in the pale aqua waters of Doctor’s Cave Beach, visit working plantations that grow pineapple and sugarcane, shop the craft markets, take a horseback ride on the beach or hit the nightclubs that line the Hip Strip. Also popular is the 18th-century Rose Hall Plantation and Great House, for which the area is named. In addition, meeting-related expenses incurred in Jamaica by U.S.-based groups qualify as tax deductible.

Half Moon P.O. Box 4058, Rose Hall, St. James, Jamaica, West Indies (876) 622-9330 • Fax: (876) 622-9360 • mbconventioncentre.com 52





ew Orleans is an award-winning city steeped in culture, culinary excellence and centuries-old architecture, and its meeting facilities are no exception. Events held at New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center are unlike any other, and its exquisite and unique venues as well as unmatched Southern hospitality are just a few of the reasons. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is the sixth largest and one of the most technologically advanced convention facilities in the country. With over 1.1 million sq. ft. of prime contiguous exhibit space, 140 meetings rooms, two multipurpose ballrooms and a 4,000-seat divisible performing arts theater, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has been tested by the most demanding clients from all event segments. The Great Hall boasts 60,000 column-free sq. ft. with 25,000 sq. ft. of prefunction space, interior and exterior balconies, a large outdoor pedestrian plaza and grand entrance. The grand entrance is overlooked by a high-definition, video display board promoting the event. The impressive three million-sq.-ft. New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which so perfectly complements the city’s walkable hotel packages, has embarked on a $557 million improvement plan including interior modernizations, renovations to its 140 meeting rooms, restroom renovations and a complete makeover of its exterior experience. In the spring of 2019, new digital signs were installed for each meeting room. In the fall of 2019, the Center debuted a brand new, centrally located Transportation Center to allow shuttles, taxis and ride-shares to more efficiently move attendees to and from the Center. The Shuttle Hub is equipped with digital signage to help attendees easily identify their shuttles. Later this year, wayfinding kiosks will be implemented throughout the lobbies. Plans for the exciting transformation of Convention Center Boulevard in New Orleans, which will connect the bustling Warehouse/Arts District with the historic French Quarter and

dramatically transform the guest experience at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, are becoming a reality. Set to open in late 2020, a new $65 million linear park will update the urban environment with a lushly landscaped, 7.5-acre, tree-lined pedestrian plaza spanning the length of the facility, with covered porches, outdoor event spaces, water features, green walls, water walls, public art and shaded communal areas. A 1,200-room hotel attached to the Center and an adjacent 40-acre mixed-use development will begin to take shape on the upriver end in the coming years. One of New Orleans’ most enticing attributes is its unique dining experiences, and the Center lives up to that expectation through its food and beverage partner, Centerplate. Centerplate serves the essence of the New Orleans culinary experience through three onsite restaurants featuring live local music, and menus of iconic Louisiana dishes. In addition to the customary service on the exhibit floor, several exclusive dining options are available, including the elegant Ma Maison VIP dining suite. As a consistent Top 10 host of the largest number of conventions and trade shows annually, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is an expert in hosting groups of all sizes and industries. The Crescent City, The Big Easy, a sportsman’s paradise — whatever you call New Orleans, call it your next meeting destination.

900 Convention Center Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 19107 • (504) 582-3023 • mccno.com FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 SPRING


HOTEL CONTRACTS: WHAT’S TRENDING Be ready to negotiate ancillary fees, tech support and meeting room usage By Katie Muck


n the ongoing seller’s market, getting to the point of requesting a contract can be half the struggle for meeting planners. As planners, we need to present an RFP that will leverage the value of the meeting to hoteliers throughout the RFP and contracting processes. In addition, we must be prepared with negotiation strategies that help us secure an agreement that provides mutual value, shares risk, and meets the needs and demands of our stakeholders. While each and every contract clause is important, current industry trends demonstrate an increased need to focus negotiating skills on three areas in particular: ancillary fees, tech support and the usage of specific meeting rooms.

It is a good idea to inquire about other business the hotel has already confirmed before or after your event to see if any [technology] costs can be shared with another group. One major trend that we are seeing in the marketplace is the rise in ancillary hotel fees. There are several different types of service fees, surcharges, etc., that hotels are incorporating into their contracts. Besides being aware of them, it is important to include language that will not allow the hotel to add on fees beyond what is disclosed in the agreement. Note that these fees are negotiable, and ultimately it is the responsibility of the planner to request that the additional cost centers be reduced or eliminated if possible. Demonstrating the overall value of your meeting to the hotel makes it more likely to achieve this cost reduction. Another key consideration in contracting is the cost of technology support for meetings. Because of the inconsistency of tech support fees, this line item can cause a meeting to quickly go over budget. While technology is complicated, all of the costs need to be discussed, evaluated and ultimately negotiated. These include hardware, set up/ tear down, Internet, and bandwidth fees, among others. Pricing should always be documented as part of the AV agreement. In addition, it’s a good idea to inquire about other 54

business the hotel has already confirmed before or after your event to see if any of these costs can be shared with another group, assuming that group will be using the same meeting rooms and has similar tech requirements. This cost sharing can be easily accomplished when using the in-house provider and may be a bit trickier when partnering with an outside tech company, but can be done. Hoteliers are also asking more frequently when contracting to have the ability to move the meeting space around in their hotel, which enables them to maximize their function space and potentially book more meetings. Accordingly, the contract will only guarantee a certain amount of function space, but not specific meeting rooms. This can affect the ROI of the event and even prove disastrous for a meeting. For example, if a hotel guarantees you will have a minimum of 1,200 sq. ft. for your meeting, that could be in any room that is at least 1,200 sq. ft. Keep in mind that certain setups will not fit into all meeting rooms of a certain size successfully. Thus, it is important in the contract to address function space by name, guaranteeing the space for 24 hours if necessary, and stipulate that the function space may not be changed unless it is agreed to by both parties. Again, as the planner, be prepared to present your meeting history, including information on past function space usage, to support you when negotiating this aspect of the contract. Meetings are major investments, and planners need to clearly understand and be aware of all components of the hotel contract. With the rising expectation for each meeting to deliver a robust ROI, being strategic and knowledgeable at the contractual phase has never been more important. Katie Muck is Senior Director, Global Meeting Services at Meeting Sites Resource. She is responsible for strategically partnering with customers on all facets of global site research, custom hotel contract negotiations and meeting support services. Muck’s 16-year hospitality career began in operations with Hyatt Hotels World Wide. She then transitioned to a sales and customer service role at the Hyatt National Sales Office, becoming a multiyear recipient of the Hyatt Masters Sales and Outstanding Production Achievement Awards. Muck also served as President of the MPI Heartland Chapter from 2015-2016.


TAILORING TECHNOLOGY For optimum engagement, let event goals and audience inform your choice of digital solutions By Danielle Puceta


oday’s attendees have high expectations. They crave connection, inspiration, learning and the sense of community that’s truly unique to a live experience — and those desires don’t stop at the show floor. Instead of a single instance, the event experience is a cyclical journey that carries attendees through one event and engages them until the next. And it’s our job to craft the kind of meaningful moments that entice them to slow down, stop, and truly engage along that journey.

It’s vital to know not just who your attendees are and what they need, but also where they stand when it comes to digital adoption. Being armed with this information helps you select the right technology and craft your message accordingly. But finding those moments can be hard. You often have only a brief opportunity to grab attention, whether that’s in an email, at an onsite experience or on social media. So what can get attendees to slow down and join in? As you combine digital solutions with your broader strategy, it’s critical to tie everything back to your overall marketing and event goals. When you look at digital solutions through this lens, it’s easier to ensure the technology works for you: It isn’t something you do on the side, but rather helps evolve your event and engage your audience in more personal and creative ways.


Using technology for technology’s sake won’t get you the engagement you seek. Instead, choose tech that works alongside your existing event strategy. This smarter approach helps achieve objectives while also enriching the attendee experience. A few things to consider: •R  emember to ask why. This essential question often gets

overlooked. Tying your purpose to your business and marketing goals helps narrow the focus and determine the best tech for the job. •U  nderstand the impact. Think through what you really want to accomplish, and let the connection to your goals help make the business case. Also, consider what you’ll learn from the data and how those insights can be applied. •M  ake it meaningful. It’s not about the latest tech, it’s about what connects with your audience. Make sure the takeaway message stays true to your goals and helps create memorable moments. For example, a product expo client of Freeman sought to elevate the onsite attendee experience and connect them closer to the brand through a virtual reality game. Multiple sponsors branded various parts of the game, and attendees received a digital takeaway that they could share on social media to extend the reach of the event.


Technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your audience segments are likely to be diverse, with multiple generations represented. That’s why it’s vital to know not just who your attendees are and what they need, but also where they stand when it comes to digital adoption. Being armed with this information helps you select the right technology and craft your message accordingly. Finding solutions that meet your attendees where they are — and not where you wish they were — will determine the right strategic approach and net the best results.


For engagement that truly extends the experience, use technology to create a path that engages attendees from registration to follow-up, all the way to the next event. At each stage, different solutions can be used to engage attendees more deeply. For example, you could use an AI-driven chatbot experience to answer attendee questions and generate new curiosity about the event. One B2B trade show client of Freeman used a custom chatbot to engage pre-event and onsite, answering FAQs to free up time for staff to focus on other tasks. The chatbot answered more than 7,000 questions with a 90 percent success rate and generated Continued on page 57



ACCOMODATING INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITORS 8 tips for their care and retention By Stephanie Selesnick


our organization’s sales team has closed the deal with Lyft) along with the time the commute should take (rush hour/ an international client for the upcoming convention. non-rush hour). Provide the same information with regard to Congratulations! If you plan on retaining the exhibiting the hotels and the meeting venue. If you will have shuttles company for year two and beyond, the real work has just going to the airport the last day, share that information as well begun. The list below will give you a good start on the path to as the times they run. success. 4. International page on your show website: This page 1. Invoicing and payments: A number of developing should include more than “get your visa letter here.” Far more! countries (typically their governments) require that a certain Think about what kinds of things you would want to see on format with certain information be used to process invoices. the international page of a show if you were going abroad. Ask Additionally, if a country has soft currency (not easily traded your team for their ideas and incorporate them. on the open market), then Some basics include: the exhibitors have to go to the location of nearby Office country bank and order dollars Depots and FedEx Offices, Have a reasonable policy to be transferred to pay for Loews or Home Depots in place in case exhibiting booth space, displays, utilities, (for basic booth supplies), personnel are denied visas. etc. This also requires the convenience stores, grocery paperwork to be in a specified stores, restaurants (feature Will you roll over their format. If your system can’t different cuisines and price booth to the next show? be modified to conform to points), shopping malls and Find a digital alternative? these requirements, create the sightseeing attractions, along Be prepared. invoices in MS Word or Excel. with any discount coupon As a side note, verify that all codes if available. of your exhibition’s suppliers Develop an international take wire transfers. FAQ sheet based on the most-asked questions (it may 2. Visa letters: Make these easy to obtain several months change from show to show, year to year) and update it before your event. There may be a long wait (three months frequently. or more) for U.S. State Department visa appointments. If you 5. Ordering booth décor, utilities, catering: Exhibitions have a lot of exhibitors coming from one country, contact in the United States are different than anywhere else in the the visa officers in that country’s U.S. embassy or consulate world. For example, pipe and drape is used in nearly all U.S. to see if you can help move the process along. Sometimes trade shows, but eschewed in favor of shell scheme by shows the answer may be to send an Excel file naming those who outside the United States. There are many rules and systems have received letters. Sometimes it’s sharing your show’s visa no one outside of the United States has ever heard of. Display letter containing a typo — on purpose. Counterfeiters will rules (space is cubic), union jurisdictions and drayage are all automatically correct mistakes. Sometimes it will work, other unfamiliar. Have an easy to read cheat-sheet. Pictures convey times not. It’s always worth a try. far more than words. For many of your international exhibitors, Have a reasonable policy in place in case exhibiting English is a second language. personnel are denied visas. Will you roll over their booth to the Offer packages with flooring and furniture, in both pipe next show? Find a digital alternative? Be prepared. and drape and shell scheme. International clients may opt 3. Hotels and transportation: Assume some people have for pipe and drape since shell scheme is overpriced in the never been to the city your event is in. Share official hotels with United States. your exhibitors as early as possible, emphasizing the benefits 6. Free Wi-Fi: Share where free Wi-Fi may be found of booking within the block. Some show organizers allow only throughout the building or campus. In greater Asia, most exhibitors and visitors booked within the hotel block to ride convention centers think of Wi-Fi the same as restrooms — it’s shuttles between the hotels and venues for free. They charge a free and works everywhere. Additionally, U.S. data plans can fee for all others wishing to ride. be expensive and international exhibitors may not want to pay List transportation costs from the airport (taxi and Uber/ those fees. 56




7. Miscellaneous: Offer marketing packages for first-timers at a low price point. Those deliverables should help drive traffic to their booths. 8. Exhibitor etiquette: In many countries, it’s acceptable and normal to pass out literature and other promotional materials in the aisles outside of booths. Sometimes they will bring an extra staff person along for that express purpose. Let them know that is not permitted before they book airline tickets and hotel rooms. Make your international exhibitors feel welcome. Communicate clearly and often and you will be well on the way to retaining those first-time international exhibitors into year two and beyond.

additional follow-up. Using a chatbot can help generate rich data throughout the event that can be used to drive more engagement, or even adjust strategy on the fly. Thinking about solutions that extend the lifecycle of the event content and messaging helps tie everything back to your goals in a smart, actionable way.

Stephanie Selesnick, President of International Trade Information, Inc. (ITI), works with U.S.-based exhibition organizers to internationalize their shows by recruiting exhibitors and visitors as well as taking shows offshore. A former show organizer, Selesnick blogs for UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry; is a co-founder of #Expochat, a weekly Tweet chat; is a podcaster on The Exhibitionists with journalist Antony Reeve-Crook; and is a frequent speaker on the subject of internationalizing exhibitions all over the world.



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One of the best things about digital technology is the data it generates, allowing us to see how attendees are truly engaging. When used correctly, this data can fuel future strategies and refine your approach at events. But the data can often be overwhelming and presented in different formats. Or you may struggle with finding the right insights across the varied sources and datasets. Because of these challenges, industry leaders are working together in an unprecedented way to set formalized standards for event data. This approach stands to improve how technology solutions exchange information behind the scenes so that we can constantly evolve the engagement experience for attendees. (For details on this initiative, see In Brief, p. 4.)


Digital has transformed all of our personal lives, and it can just as easily transform your event when used effectively. Applying a custom mix of solutions can help differentiate your event in a crowded market. As long as your approach aligns with your goals, objectives and audience, there’s no limit to the engagement you can achieve. Danielle Puceta is Senior Vice President, Digital at Freeman, where she leads Digital Product Management and Partnerships. She previously held leadership positions with American Express Meetings & Events in the Asia-Pacific region and DoubleDutch, an event tech company. In both these roles, she built out the full infrastructure needed for not only driving and managing significant revenue growth, but also creating scalable teams and businesses..

ADVERTISER INDEX Akron/Summit CVB............... 16 Austin Convention Center....C2 Boise Centre........................... 11 Caesars Entertainment............ 1 Greater Miami CVB.................. 7 IMEX America......................... 21 Long Beach CVB...................... 9 Memphis Tourism..................C4 Monona Terrace Convention Center.............. 6

Montego Bay Convention Center................................. 19 New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center................................... 5 Ocean Center......................... 13 Orange County Convention Center................................. 15 Oregon Convention Center... 3




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