Meetings professionals are always looking for the hottest locations for their events, but with so many options, choosing the perfect destination can be challenging. Are you looking for luxury above all else? Some cities have it; some don’t. What about luxury on a budget? Some cities have that, too. We’ve helped cut through the clutter for meeting professionals. Here are five North American cities ramping up their hospitality investments and emerging from the recession as influential corporate meeting industry players.
San Francisco, California
When the destination for your next meeting is first announced, attendees need to look at how much meeting space the convention center has or what kind of concessions the hotel granted. All they’re thinking about is whether they want to visit the city. They want character. They want one of the best Chinatown districts in the country. They want some of the hottest chefs running some of the best restaurants. They want a city like San Francisco.
The California bay city is coming off a banner year for hotel occupancy, and 2013 is expected to be even better if estimates hold. Analysts expect revenue per hotel room to reach $148, an uptick of 9 percent from 2012. The city is in high demand thanks to the technology boom of nearby Silicon Valley. Facebook and Apple’s headquarters are each within a 45-minute drive to San Francisco. Hotel rooms are filling up, and tourism officials expect more meetings and events as new developments are completed. Hotels are responding to the demand for renovations to high-end properties. The Grand Hyatt San Francisco is undergoing a $70 million renovation, and the W San Francisco added a new restaurant and bar. Luxury hotels are found throughout the city, highlighted by the Fairmont San Francisco. Some top eateries include the 2012 James Beard Award-winning Boulevard and best new restaurant nominee AQ.
Moscone Center, the city’s main convention venue, has almost 1 million square feet of meeting space. For something different, Yerba Buena Gardens is a 300,000-sq.-ft. The outdoor park is undergoing a redesign, adding new retail spaces and a main entrance. Treasure Island, an artificial island west of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, is adding 500 new hotel rooms, 8,000 residential units, and new retail stores and restaurants by the end of the year. The project was recently named one of the 16 founding projects of the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Climate Positive Development Program.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Just north of Seattle, Vancouver has long been one of the best skiing locations in the world, something the International Olympic Committee recognized when it awarded the city the 2010 winter games. Its reputation as a friendly, fascinating city is garnering international attention, recently being named the top Canadian destination for U.S. citizens by Travel Weekly. Reputation Institute, a Copenhagen-based organization, called it the world’s most reputable city according to traveler surveys for its transportation and communications infrastructure and public institutes. According to the institute, Vancouver was ranked the best overall destination to live and work.
The Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Pan Pacific Vancouver, and Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver highlight the luxury hotel market. Following its 2009 renovation, the Vancouver Convention Centre now has more than 465,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 70,000 sq. ft. Ballroom. Many venues constructed or renovated for the Olympic Games are available to planners for special events, including Rogers Arena and Pacific Coliseum. Delta Air Lines opened direct flights to Vancouver from New York last May, and the Port of Vancouver expects a 20 percent increase in cruise sailings in 2013.
Kansas City, Missouri
You can only have a conversation about cities with significant municipal investment in recent years if you talk about Kansas City, Mo. The Midwest city has undergone a $9 billion renovation that began in 2008 and will be completed this year, $6 billion of which has been spent downtown renovating and updating the convention center and surrounding area. About $150 million was put into a 46,000-sq.-ft., LEED Silver ballroom at the center. Another significant investment was creating and constructing the Power and Light District, a new entertainment district with more than 50 shops, restaurants, bars, and outdoor venue spaces. Another new venue, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, opened in 2011 and saw more than 475,000 people attend events there in one year. The architecturally innovative facility has 285,000 square feet of available space, which includes two separate halls seating 1,800 or 1,600.
Despite these significant infrastructure upgrades, Budget Travel named Kansas City a top 10 budget-travel destination in 2012, and Travel and Leisure named it America’s No. 1 affordable getaway. The city remains famous for one particular cuisine: barbecue. U.S. News and World Report called Kansas City the third-best city in the country for barbecue, and Arthur Bryant’s and Gates are Kansas City’s two most famous stops. If barbecue is low on your list, Kansas City has the most restaurants per capita in the country, giving attendees plenty of dining options.
Park City, Utah
Park City, helped made famous by Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival and its inclusion in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, is a luxury destination for corporate meetings and incentives. Unlike many mountain towns, Park City is a good drive from a major airport (35 minutes from Salt Lake City). Park City has more than 4,000 hotel rooms, ranging from bed and breakfast inns to luxury, five-star resorts such as Stein Eriksen Lodge, which is adding a second ballroom set to open this summer. The city has more than 30 meetings and events locations, highlighted by Stein Eriksen, the only AAA Five-Diamond hotel in the state. The resort offers ski-in and ski-out access. Another option is the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort, which uses multiple ballrooms.
Park City’s Utah Olympic Park, built for the 2002 Winter Games, can handle up to 1,000 attendees. Bobsled rides and freestyle aerialist performers are two only-in-an Olympic-town options for meeting attendees. The High West Distillery and Saloon opened in 2009 and is one of the world’s only ski-in, ski-out distilleries. Another highlight of Park City is its free, community-wide, bio-diesel transit system. The green city is also one of the largest purchasers of wind power per capita.
New York, New York
The Big Apple has long been a popular U.S. destination. Nearly 52 million visitors chose New York City in 2012, continuing a four-year tourism growth trend. More than 1 million flights come into the city daily, and the city’s subway system is among the best in the world. In 2010, more than 30 hotels opened in New York City. From 2011 through the end of next year, another 33 new hotel developments will be completed. That means high inventory and competitive rates for corporate planners who can find some of the country’s most impressive hotels in the Big Apple.
U.S. News and World Report rated the Setai Fifth Avenue as the top hotel in the city, while The Peninsula and The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park are properties worthy of hosting VIPs and leading board members. For significant events, the city’s Javits Center is easily accessible and offers 760,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 45,000 sq. ft. Galleria overlooking the Hudson River. New York is also home to some of the country’s notable landmarks, including Central Park, Grand Central Station, and Madison Square Garden, which can host unforgettable events.