In Georgia, 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 polishing and considerable updating to stay current with technology and the amenities needed to host 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 available in big cities.
During the 1960s and '70s, Jekyll Island was Georgia's glamour destination. Bob Barker would triumphantly 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 mid-sized convention groups had already left the island. Jekyll Island State Park Authority, responsible for preserving and improving the island, ordered the Buccaneer torn down in October 2007 and chose Linger Longer Communities, the developer of Reynolds Plantation, a Ritz-Carlton golf resort near Atlanta, to lead redevelopment of a large tract where the Buccaneer used to stand. The developer says the $441 million project will include construction of three new hotels — a 125-room economy hotel, a 200-room mid-priced 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 with the necessary roads, parking, and infrastructure. Finally, 160 condo units and 227 vacation homes will be constructed. Permitting and public input are underway and 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 2008 beachfront 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.
MARTA trains run from the Hartsfield International airport to downtown Atlanta daily every 5 to 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. The trip takes about 15 minutes and costs $1.50 each way. Tell attendees to follow the signs to “Ground Transportation.” Atlanta Airport Shuttles serve downtown Atlanta every 15 minutes for a fare of $8 one way, $14 round trip. Call (800) 842-2770
Got a group with a little time to fill? Take them to Galyan's Trading Company in Atlanta, a sporting goods emporium that appeals to upscale weekend jocks. Galyan's encourages playing with the equipment; there's a climbing wall, interactive batting cages, tennis courts, and putting greens where you can test-drive the merchandise for hours. www.dickssportinggoods.com
Ask the CVB
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (800) Atlanta
Savannah Area CVB
The 127-room Ellis Hotel opened in October 2007 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, including sprinklers and multiple exits.
Construction on the Hotel Palomar on West Peachtree began in August; a May 2009 opening is scheduled. The 21-story hotel will have 304 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Loews Hotels is kicking off construction on a luxury mixed-use development spanning four city blocks 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.
The JW Marriott Hotel Buckhead Atlanta has completed work on its new 9,000 square-foot Phoenix Ballroom, the final step in $4.5 million in hotel renovations to 18,710 square feet of meeting space, lobby, indoor pool, and health club.
Lake Lanier Islands has as its centerpiece, the Emerald Pointe Resort, which consists of 214 newly renovated guest rooms and suites and two restaurants grouped with IACC-certified meeting facilities and a spa. Both the Bullfrogs and the Windows restaurants are being updated and Executive Villas are rising next to the resort's Conference Center. The Villas will each have six rooms and the first six are expected to open in the spring.
Opened this past May in downtown Atlanta next to the Georgia Aquarium, the new World of Coca-Cola is a spectacular event venue. There are five areas 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 and 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