Plug into the South

  • The 1,014-room Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., went wireless in February. The 90,000 square feet of meeting space in this Walt Disney World Resort property have been redesigned and configured for wireless high-speed Internet service. A broadband fiber-optic network has been added to guest rooms and ultimately will be connected to the meeting space.

  • The new Austrian-themed Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando boasts the tag line: “An experience in art and music.” The 250-room property, which was scheduled to open in mid-April, promises distinctive interior design, including an Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano, one of only two in the world. Guest rooms feature three telephones, high-speed Internet access, and interactive television. There will be 9,600 square feet of meeting space.

  • The Miami Beach Convention Center completed a major communications upgrade this past fall. The center was rewired with Category 5 copper wire, fiber-optic cable, and networking equipment to support gigabit transmission speeds. SMG, a Philadelphia-based company that handles data and telecommunications at centers such as San Francisco's Moscone Center, the Hawaii Convention Center, and the Denver Convention Complex, has managed Miami's center since 1991 and its communications since April 2000. Throughout the exhibition halls, users can can expect five voice jacks, five Cat 5 data jacks, and one fiber-optic jack in each floor port, located on 30-foot centers. Meeting rooms and lobby areas have similar capacities.

  • The Georgian Terrace, a 326-suite historic hotel in downtown Atlanta, opened the Atlanta Conference Center in March. The six meeting rooms in the 6,000-square-foot center feature high-speed Internet access and high-tech “team boards” that interface with attendees' computers.

  • After a major renovation, the former Hilton Resort at Lake Lanier Islands has a new name: The Emerald Pointe Resort & Conference Center. Run by KSL Recreation (La Quinta Resort & Club, The Arizona Biltmore, Grand Wailea Resort, and others), which began the facelift nearly three years ago, the Atlanta-area property now has 216 rooms, 21,000 square feet of meeting space, and has been accepted as a member of the International Association of Conference Centers.

  • The Jekyll Island (Ga.) Club Hotel has added 23 guest rooms and 2,000 square feet of meeting space with the recent renovation of two Italian Renaissance “millionaire cottages.” The reopening of the 81-year-old Crane Cottage and 94-year-old Cherokee Cottage are part of an ongoing improvement program within the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District.

  • An elegant new 213-room, $31 million luxury inn opened on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., in March. Built to resemble a guest house that tycoon George Vanderbilt would have approved of for his friends and family when they visited the estate in the 1890s, the 165,000-square-foot Inn on Biltmore Estate includes banquet rooms, board and meeting rooms, a 150-seat restaurant, a library, an exterior swimming pool, and a fitness center. Views of Vanderbilt's 250-room chateau and the Blue Ridge Mountains form an atmospheric backdrop for small group meetings; complete meeting packages are available.

  • The historic 510-room Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, N.C., has added a modern touch to its old-style charm: a 40,000-square-foot spa that opened in February. In keeping with the rustic stonework of the hotel buildings, the spa includes a grotto-like pool and saunas while offering state-of-the-art facilities for massages and other spa treatments. The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa has 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, 10 suites, and 42 meeting rooms.

  • A 700-room Westin is going up across from the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center. The Westin Charlotte is expected to open in fall 2002 with 46,050 square feet of meeting space.

  • In New Orleans, the 110-year-old Beaux Arts Whitney Bank Building was reborn as a hotel this past fall after a $10 million renovation. The Whitney — A Wyndham Historic Hotel has 93 rooms and space for small meetings in the city's central business district.

  • In Tunica, Miss., the Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel opened a $14 million entertainment center. It features two adjacent theaters that are conveniently located under one roof.

  • Looking for a reception venue in Nashville? The new Country Music Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in May. The facility will have four theaters, numerous interactive exhibits, and catering facilities on the premises.



Asia Update

  • Built on reclaimed tidelands, Seoul's new Incheon International Airport opened at the end of March. The airport's passenger terminal, billed as the largest in the world, is nearly 5.5 million square feet. A new expressway connects the airport with downtown Seoul, which is 32 miles away.

  • Korea is now 10 percent more affordable. Visitors had been charged nearly 21 percent on top of their hotel bill, including hotel and service taxes. Service taxes, however, have been waived for visitors through 2002, cutting the tax bill in half.

  • The 500-room JW Marriott Hotel opened in Seoul, South Korea, last fall, next to the Millennium Hall conference facility. The Marriott features a ballroom that seats 800 people, four meeting rooms, and a 100,000-square-foot spa.

  • The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre launched a meeting package option at the beginning of the year aimed at overseas meeting planners. The plan spells out a per-person, per-day price for meetings. The price varies according to the number of attendees and includes lunch, breaks, and basic meeting equipment.

  • Under a licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Co., Oriental Land Co., Ltd. will open a new Disney park in Japan — Tokyo DisneySea Park — on September 4. On the same day, Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta is scheduled to open. DisneySea, Disney's first park themed to myths and legends of the sea, is on the shores of Tokyo Bay next to Tokyo Disneyland Park.



Tech Bait

In a new promotion, event managers who book more than 75 rooms before August 31 at any of the 15 Marriott or Renaissance properties in the Atlanta area will receive a Palm VIIx hand-held computer. The meetings must convene before the end of 2001.

Historic Preservation

When New Orleans' Pontchartrain Hotel set out to spruce up its cafe, a simple renovation turned into a major restoration. Below paint and plaster, they discovered the original 1927 hand-painted ceiling, black-and-gold marble floors, and Venetian glass windows. The venue has changed its name, in light of its newfound pedigree, to the Pontchartrain Bistro and Wine Bar.

Resources Around the South

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Meeting Lifeline

Regis won't be there, but you can be sure your attendees will be: Walt Disney World Resort has opened Who Wants to Be a Millionaire — Play It!, a faithful recreation of the set of the popular television show. Private events of up to 600 people can be there when attendee contestants “ask the audience,” use the 50:50 lifeline, or phone a friend.

Asia Resources