New England CVBs have teamed up to launch a new Internet service for corporate executives--MeetingPath, at www. meetingpath.com. Designed by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and MarketStream, LLC, and endorsed by the New England Society of Convention & Visitor Bureaus, how will MeetingPath distinguish itself from the myriad Web pages on the Internet? With interactivity.>
Corporate meeting planners will be able to access information about 2,000 suppliers in New England and send those suppliers information about their meetings. MeetingPath will allow planners to narrow down a selection of, say, hotels in a particular region by specifying the number of guest rooms, the number of meeting rooms, and/or the capacity of meeting rooms required by their groups. Planners then send RFPs to the list of hotel possibilities, and they'll get a yes-or-no response, with the date they can expect to receive a proposal via e-mail from the hotels.
Meeting executives need all the help they can get when booking Boston. Hotel occupancy is forecast to be 80 percent in 1997, with an average room rate of $146--one of the highest in the nation, according to PKF Consulting.
But now, at least, for the first time in quite a few years, new hotel construction is on the horizon. The World Trade Center Boston, unusual among convention center centers in that it targets corporate business, is building an adjacent 427-room hotel, the Seaport Hotel & Conference Center, which will serve as a headquarters property for the facility. Last year, the World Trade Center augmented its offerings by opening the 11-room Exchange Conference Center in a nearby historic building.
Further hotel development could follow the construction of a proposed convention center in South Boston, not far from the World Trade Center. Plans for that center, which would have more than 600,000 square feet of exhibit space and accommodate the conventions and trade shows that are outgrowing the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay, were being laid this spring by city and state officials. Patrick Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, says construction of the convention center could lead to 3,000 new guest rooms citywide over the next ten years.
Despite the guest room crunch, there are a variety of meeting and function spaces available in the Boston area. Groups have college and university facilities at their disposal: Northeastern University, for instance, operates a conference center in a 36-room Tudor mansion called the Henderson House. Attractions such as the New England Aquarium handle sizable receptions, dinners, and meetings. And on Beacon Hill, a mansion called the Hampshire House--with the downstairs pub that was the inspiration for the watering hole on the long-running TV series Cheers--still does a brisk group business.
Hotel News The 427-room Seaport Hotel & Conference Center, set to open in May 1998, will be connected to the World Trade Center Boston. It will have 16,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, including an 8,200-square-foot ballroom. Other features: a health club with a swimming pool, a 150-seat restaurant, a business center, and teleconferencing facilities.
* A 600-room Hilton hotel at Logan International Airport, still in the design stage, is slated for a 1999 opening. The property will be adjacent to a new parking garage now under construction at the airport and will be accessible to the terminals by climate-controlled walkways.
* The Westin Hotel, Copley Place, recently completed renovation of nine seventh-floor meeting rooms totaling 6,500 square feet. The 800-room hotel, in Boston's Back Bay, has 47,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
* The 152-room Bostonian Hotel was renamed the Regal Bostonian Hotel last year upon its affiliation with Regal Hotels International and the Winn Development Company. Located across from the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the hotel has 2,200 square feet of meeting space.
* The Hyatt Regency Cambridge just completed a $5 million renovation of nearly all of its 469 guest rooms and suites. The property's meeting room space remains about 22,000 square feet.
* As part of its $4.9 million expansion, Ocean Edge Resort and Conference Center, in Brewster on Cape Cod, added 46 one-bedroom guest units last year and added 25 more this spring, bringing its total inventory to 210 units. The property has 11,980 square feet of meeting space.
* SeaCrest Oceanfront Resort, in North Falmouth on Cape Cod, just completed renovation of its 6,500-square-foot ballroom and its main dining room and lounge, and transformed a lounge into a 2,000-square-foot meeting room. The addition gives the 262-room property more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
* Tara's Ferncroft, in Danvers, has undergone a $2 million renovation over the past two years. All 367 guest rooms have been renovated and include new amenities such as data ports and voice mail. Six long-term-stay studio suites have been added. About half of the property's 30,000 square feet of meeting space has been renovated.
* The Beachside at Nantucket has opened its first meeting room, which seats about 40 persons theater-style. Four break-out rooms are also available. The 90-unit property has also completed renovations of its lobby and exterior.
* The Embassy Suites Hotel-Marlborough, about 30 miles west of Boston, is expanding from 100 to 238 guest units and quadrupling meeting space to 3,500 square feet, with completion set for July.
* Holiday Inn Boxborough Woods, 35 miles northwest of Boston in Boxborough, renovated its 143 guest rooms last year. The property has 28,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 13,200-square-foot exhibit hall.
* The Hastings Hotel & Conference Center, Hartford, CT, has built a new circular driveway, a new lobby, and refurbished its guest rooms. It also has a new banquet hall, the Mount Laurel Room, which seats up to 500 persons. The property has 270 guest rooms and 50 meeting rooms
* The Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, Cromwell, CT, plans on remodeling in the near future. The property offers 212 guest rooms and 27,000 square feet of meeting space.
Venue Menu In Cambridge's Harvard Square, Cybersmith, a cybercafe, features 55 commodious computer stations offering all manner of high-tech experiences, including virtual reality. The 5,800-square-foot attraction can arrange complete catering for receptions of up to 180.
The Computer Museum occupies the top two floors of a century-old brick warehouse on Congress Street in Boston. (The Children's Museum is on the first three floors.) The highlight of its seven exhibit galleries is a walk-through, two-story personal computer. An organization can have its name, message, or logo displayed on the 9-by-12-foot screen. The Computer Museum accommodates 850 persons for a reception; in conjunction with The Children's Museum, planners can hold receptions for 2,500. The Computer Museum also has a special-events room that holds 300 for seated dinners and presentations.
The Exchange Conference Center opened last year in the historic Exchange Building on Boston's waterfront, adjacent to the World Trade Center. Developed by the firm that manages the World Trade Center, it has 11 conference rooms seating up to 15 persons, and a larger room with a capacity of 100. The facility has videoconferencing capability and a separate sound system for the hearing impaired. It offers full catering and airport transportation via water shuttle.
The USS Constitution Museum has doubled its size by annexing a neighboring circa-1850 structure. The new wing's second floor is a 3,000-foot gallery lined with seven-foot-tall windows overlooking Boston Harbor. With the expansion, the USS Constitution Museum accommodates seated dinners for up to 190 persons and after-hours receptions for up to 350.
The New England Aquarium is constructing a new wing that will house a changing exhibit gallery; completion is expected in 1998. The aquarium also is creating a space for meetings; it will hold about 100 persons and open later this year. The entire aquarium accommodates evening receptions for up to 1,200.
Getting There Boston's Logan International Airport, which is served by all major domestic carriers and 16 foreign carriers, is three miles from downtown Boston. Limousines cost $7.50; cabs $10 to $15. A water shuttle between the airport and Rowes Wharf in Boston offers regular service, and costs $8 one way. A bus that travels between South Station Transportation Center in downtown Boston (site of the city's major Amtrak terminal) and the airport costs $6 one way, and makes the trip in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Cabs to Cambridge, which is about five miles from Logan, cost at least $15.
Construction projects at the airport include the consolidation of parking spaces in the new West Garage and the recently completed modernization of Terminal E, the international terminal.
Worcester Regional Airport is served by Continental Express and US Airways Express. Worcester is about 40 miles west of Logan International Airport; Worcester Airport Limo charges $30 one way, $52 round-trip to Boston.
Air travelers bound for Cape Cod have several options. They can fly into Logan International Airport, which is about 75 miles from Hyannis. From Logan, they can fly Cape Air to Hyannis, or take a bus. Plymouth and Brockton Bus Line provides service between Logan and 17 towns on the Cape; the fare to Hyannis is $15 one way or $27 round-trip. Bonanza Bus Lines provides service between Logan and Bourne, Falmouth, and Woods Hole; the one-way fare is $17, round-trip is $30.
An alternative is to fly into T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI. The airport, which is slightly closer than Logan to the Cape, opened a new terminal in 1996. T.F. Green is serviced by US Airways and US Airways Express, Continental, United and United Express, Northwest and Northwest Airlink, American and American Eagle, Southwest, and Delta. From there, attendees can board Plymouth and Brockton Bus Line for service to Hyannis; the fare is $21 one way, $38 round-trip.
Travelers can also fly into Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis. Colgan Air flies to Hyannis from the New York area's LaGuardia Newark airports.
How's the Weather? Boston-area winters are snowy and cold, with average high temperatures in the 30s. Warm, occasionally humid conditions are the norm in summer, with temperatures reaching the 80s. Spring is unpredictable, while autumn, with its brilliant foliage and crisp temperatures, is, for many, the most enjoyable season.
Tax and Money Matters Hotel guests in Massachusetts will pay a total of 9.7 percent tax, including the 4.7 percent state sales tax.
Living in Boston, independent meeting planner JoAnn Dowling has an advantage when scouting for off-site venues for her meeting clients, many of which are small corporate groups.
"People love Beacon Hill house tours," Dowling says, citing one of her favorites. Some owners of the 19th-century mansions open up their homes to groups of about 20 persons. "As you can imagine, these tours are done with much caution," she says. "But the owners are very gracious about visitors coming in." Because large groups are not able to traipse through the mansions, Dowling will often schedule small groups of attendees in shifts during the course of the meeting. The house tours are best arranged through a destination management company.
Dowling also suggests tapping into Boston's sports teams. Bad news for sports fans is good news for planners: Because both the basketball Celtics and hockey Bruins had a terrible season, tickets can be acquired, Dowling says. As for baseball's Red Sox, who play in Fenway Park, tickets are hard to come by, but the organization will work with planners to make tickets available, Dowling says. She adds that Fenway Park's 600 Club is a popular setting for meetings, as well as meal and cocktail functions, and can be used even when the Red Sox aren't playing. Corporate executives can arrange to have a tailored message flashed on Fenway's electronic scoreboard.
Another Dowling recommendation, albeit a seasonal one: the Frog Pond skating rink, which opened earlier this year in the Boston Common. "It has group rates and will do corporate skating in the evenings," Dowling said. "When you're skating, you can look at all those Beacon Hill mansions in the distance. It's a wonderful atmosphere that you can't replicate anywhere."
Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau Richard Green, vice president of sales
(617) 536-4100, (800) 888-5515
Fax (617) 424-7664
North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau Michelle Hatem Meehan
(800) 742-5306; Fax (508) 921-4956
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Arthur Ratsy
assistant executive director
(508) 362-3225; Fax (508) 362-3698
Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau Scott Dresser, vice president, sales
(860) 728-6789, (800) 446-7811
Fax (860) 293-2365
Marlborough Convention & Visitors Bureau Susan Phaneuf, executive director
(508) 460-3747; Fax (508) 624-6504
Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce Tracy O'Reilly, public relations
(508) 228-0659; Fax: (508) 325-4925
Worcester County Convention and Visitors Bureau Marion Smith, Eleanor J. Vadenais
directors of convention sales
(508) 753-2920; Fax (508) 754-8560