Along the beaches of the Atlantic coast and barrier islands, owners and local CVBs have noted that some hotels and meeting facilities are in serious need of updating to meet technology and amenities needs for today's meetings. Sun, sand, and golf are all essential, but so are Wi-Fi and ergonomic chairs if beach meetings are going to compete with the facilities in big cities.
During the 1960s and '70s, Jekyll Island was Georgia's glamour destination. Bob Barker would reward game-show winners with trips to Jekyll Island and the then-luxurious Buccaneer Hotel. After 30 or 40 years, the shine wore off. Deals were made and rates dropped to save group business, but Jekyll's year-round diet of state professional associations, nonprofits, churches, and other midsize convention groups had already left.
Jekyll Island State Park Authority, responsible for preserving and improving the island, ordered the Buccaneer torn down in October and chose Linger Longer Communities, the developer of Reynolds Plantation, a Ritz-Carlton golf resort near Atlanta, to lead redevelopment. Linger Longer says the $441 million project will include three new hotels — a 125-room economy hotel, a 200-room midpriced hotel, and a 400-room convention hotel — at a total cost of $163 million. A new convention center will be built in two phases, along with a village center of shops and restaurants. Finally, 160 condo units and 227 vacation homes will be constructed. Developers hope to break ground this spring.
Meanwhile, work on a 138-room Jekyll Ocean Oaks hotel is in progress on the former site of the Holiday Inn, which has been demolished. Construction is slated to be finished in time for a June opening. The SpringHill Suites select-service hotel will have limited meeting space, but will be affiliated with the Jekyll Island Club for parties and events.
Construction crews have been busy in North Carolina on the new Raleigh Convention Center for the past two years, and the building is more than 85 percent complete. The 500,000-square-foot, $220 million project is expected to open this summer. This past August, developers topped off the adjacent 400-room Raleigh Marriott City Center.
In South Carolina, Myrtle Beach will be the site of the first Hard Rock Park, a 140-acre music-themed amusement park affiliated with Hard Rock Cafe. The $400 million project will have more than 40 attractions, a multipurpose live-music amphitheater and meeting space, roller coasters, children's play areas, restaurants, and more. The park is expected to open this year. Myrtle Beach and the Golden Strand also offer more than 100 golf courses, nearly all open to the public.
Georgia & the Carolinas/Facilities Update
The 127-room Ellis Hotel opened in October at the site of Atlanta's, and the nation's, deadliest hotel fire. The 1946 Winecoff fire killed 119 people and led officials nationwide to update fire codes for hotels.
Construction on the Hotel Palomar on West Peachtree began in August; a May 2009 opening is scheduled. The hotel will have 304 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Loews Hotels is constructing a luxury, four-block, mixed-use development in midtown Atlanta. The centerpiece is a 414-room hotel expected to open in April 2010 with more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
Ask the CVB
The JW Marriott Hotel Buckhead Atlanta has completed its new 9,000-square-foot Phoenix Ballroom, the final step in $4.5 million in renovations to 18,710 square feet of meeting space, lobby, indoor pool, and health club.
Hard Rock International will develop a hotel in Atlanta with 270 guest rooms and 30 luxury residences opposite the Georgia Aquarium as part of a mixed-use development.
Lake Lanier Islands' Emerald Pointe Resort consists of 214 renovated guest rooms and suites and two restaurants grouped with IACC-certified meeting facilities and a spa. The first six executive villas, rising next to the resort's conference center, are expected to open this spring.
Construction on the Macon Marriott City Center Hotel begins this spring, with an expected opening in late 2009.
In seaside New Bern, N.C., Sheraton New Bern Hotel & Marina is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that includes a new lobby, more meeting space, and a ballroom.
Asheville Renaissance Hotel finished renovation of its 277 rooms including the installation of 32-inch HD televisions in each room. It has 21,000 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space.
A $6.2 million renovation has added technology and amenities to the Charlotte Marriott SouthPark. The 187-room hotel sports a concierge level, 12 meeting rooms, and a 24-hour health club.
Great Wolf Resorts has begun construction on a 402-suite resort in the Charlotte suburb of Concord that will feature a 98,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, a spa, theaters, and 16,000 square feet of meeting space. Great Wolf expects to open in 2009.
Less than a year after opening the $67 million Charlotte Embassy Suites Resort & Convention Center in Concord, the developer announced plans to add about 140 rooms and enlarge meeting space from 50,000 to 70,000 square feet, a $25 to $30 million project.
The 340-room Charleston Marriott opened last July. It offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space with nine meeting rooms and six breakout rooms.
The new Hilton Columbia Center hotel, in the midst of the city's financial, entertainment, and historic districts, offers 222 guest rooms and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.
In Beaufort, a 115-room Hilton Garden Inn is expected to open in March offering marsh views, meeting space, and a host of amenities.
MARTA trains run between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and downtown Atlanta every 5 to 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Cost is $1.50. Atlanta Airport Shuttles serve downtown every 15 minutes for $8 one way, $14 round trip. (800) 842-2770
Got a little time to fill? Visit Galyan's Trading Co. in Atlanta, a sporting goods emporium that appeals to upscale jocks. There's a climbing wall, interactive batting cages, tennis courts, and putting greens. www.dickssportinggoods.com
Charles Towne Landing, about three miles from downtown Charleston, is the site of the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina. There is a state park and a 17th-century village. Group admissions are less than $5 per person depending on the size of the group. (843) 852-4200
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Brunswick and the Golden Isles CVB
Savannah Area CVB
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Greensboro Area CVB
Greenville-Pitt Co. CVB
Greater Raleigh CVB
Charleston Area CVB
Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau
Myrtle Beach Area Convention Bureau
Opened in May 2007 in downtown Atlanta next to the Georgia Aquarium, the new World of Coca-Cola is a spectacular event venue. Five areas are available to accommodate after-hours events (even a remarkable tasting space with more than 70 different samples), or the entire facility may be reserved. Groups can range from 25 to a couple of thousand; up to three separate events can be held simultaneously. Call (404) 515-9622; www.woccatlanta.com
The slowly rotating Sun Dial restaurant is 700-plus feet off terra firma at the top of the Atlanta Westin Peachtree Plaza. This is high-end dining, so enjoy the beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms or the seared North Georgia mountain trout. (404) 589-7506; www.sundialrestaurant.com
Poogan's Porch at 72 Queen St., Charleston, is a beautiful Victorian house with several private dining rooms and porches for groups looking for excellent Low Country cuisine. The restaurant seats 185, private banquet rooms for groups of 15 to 65. (843) 577-2337; www.poogansporch.com
For a special occasion, consider the Museum of Art in downtown Columbia, S.C. Contemporary architectural space is filled with natural light and sculpture. Meeting and reception areas can accommodate as few as five or as many as 1,000. (803) 343-2212; www.columbiamuseum.org
For more information on meeting venues in the U.S., click here.