With nearly 500 new hotel rooms in the pipeline and a long-term strategic marketing plan in the works, Providence, R.I., is primed to raise its profile as a meeting destination.

At the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau’s annual meeting October 25, CEO Brian Whiting introduced Destination 2010, a program designed to improve the region’s appeal as a tourist and meeting destination. As the first step, the bureau is surveying CVB members, community leaders, and other key stakeholders for feedback on how to enhance the tourism infrastructure and market the destination. “It’ll be a road map for our organization’s efforts for the next five years,” said Whiting.

The marketing plan will be developed in 2006 based on input from the survey. CVB officials see the focus on tourism as the next wave in the rebirth of the city, which in the early 1990s began its transformation from a gritty, industrial city to one of the most livable cities in the country, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

As part of the revival, major changes to the infrastructure are already under way. The 374-room Westin Providence, which is connected to and serves as the headquarters hotel for the 150,000-square-foot Rhode Island Convention Center, has broken ground on a new tower that will add 200 rooms. The hotel has 21,000 square feet of meeting space, including an executive boardroom and three ballrooms.

Plans are also in progress to build a 274-room Marriott Renaissance downtown. The developers, Sage Hospitality Resources, are renovating a Masonic Temple constructed in the 1920s. The Marriott Renaissance, which is slated to open in summer 2006, will have 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

Earlier this year, two new luxury boutique hotels—the 80-room, European-style Hotel Providence and the Dolce Villa, with 14 ultra-modern suites—opened. Additionally, $10 million worth of renovations were recently completed at the historic Providence Biltmore. The building, constructed in 1922, was restored to its original glamour, with more than half of the 291 guest rooms converted to suites. It features 18 meeting and function rooms totaling 19,000 square feet.

These projects will boost the number of downtown hotel rooms to about 2,200. With an increased block of downtown rooms, CVB officials believe the city will be better positioned to attract larger meetings. The anticipated refurbishment of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, an arena adjacent to the RICC, will add another 100,000 square feet of exhibit space to accommodate larger shows.