What's New

In November, Atlanta unveiled its new aquarium, and in Charleston, S.C., dust is flying at the convention center complex to build two new retail centers and two museums. The Charlotte (N.C.) Regional Visitors Authority came up with $500,000 in new business development funds — $300,000 of which will be used to lure conventions — and reveled in the announcement that the first Ritz-Carlton in North Carolina is slated for Charlotte. As this issue went to press, Atlanta and Charlotte were in a race with Daytona Beach, Fla., for the honor of becoming the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum, a decision that should be made early this year. If Charlotte's bid succeeds, a 2 percent hotel tax increase will go into effect in that city.

Raleigh, N.C., is deep into cement and sawdust creating the new 510,000-square-foot convention center, projected to open in spring 2008. With 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, it will have 19 meeting rooms of varied sizes and a huge ballroom. Its neighbor, a new 400-room Marriott headquarters hotel, will synchronize its opening with the center in 2008 and have its own 15,000 square feet of function and meeting space.

In the Raleigh area, newly approved projects also include the 265-room Westin at the Soleil Center near Crabtree Valley Mall, the 229-room Renaissance Hotel at North Hills, and the 150-room Umstead Hotel in the nearby town of Cary.

Atlanta's downtown hotel market is seeing its first new construction in several years, adding about 600 new rooms.

Myrtle Beach (S.C.) International Airport is in the midst of a $200 million expansion that will enable wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 747 to land.

Facility Updates

Georgia

  • Starwood will build a 26-story, 150-room St. Regis Buckhead luxury hotel with 50 residences. Scheduled to open in the first half of 2008, the hotel will have a spa and a 9,200-square-foot ballroom.

  • SpringHill Suites Atlanta Buckhead opened in September with 220 suites and 2,600 square feet of function space.

  • The Stanbury Hotel in Atlanta's Alpharetta suburb is slated to open in late 2007 as a 144-room boutique hotel with a spa and meeting and banquet facilities.

  • At the 760-room Sheraton Atlanta, a new 33,000-square-foot conference center joins a 45,000-square-foot convention center and ballroom to accommodate up to 800 guests.

  • Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain has broken ground on The Lodge and Spa, a 150-room hotel with a spa and health club that is expected to open next fall.

  • The 126-room Mansion on Forsyth Park opened in Savannah in April 2005 with 8,000 square feet of meeting space.

North Carolina

  • Greensboro will get a 190-room Crowne Plaza Hotel and 13 luxury condos on Hornaday Road off Wendover Avenue. In 2002, the hotel on the site was to be a Holiday Inn Select, but the developer says the market has changed and there is more demand now for an upscale, full-service hotel that can cater to meetings and conventions. The $18 million hotel should open in late 2006 or early 2007.

  • Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and Bank of America will develop the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte at Bank of America's corporate headquarters. The $60 million project, to open in 2008, will include 120 rooms and 30 suites and a total 13,600 square feet of meeting space.

  • This year the Hilton North Raleigh will renovate its lobby, restaurant, and all 339 guest rooms with MP3 player plug-ins, and new furniture, fixtures, and decorations. In 2007, 30,500 square feet of meeting room space will get an update.

  • The Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley has already upgraded its restaurant with new lighting and furniture, and more than $5 million will be invested in 2006 in improvements to all 375 guest rooms.

  • In October 2005, the Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville opened with 94 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites.

  • John Q. Hammons Hotels will develop the Mooresville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center on Lake Norman. The proposed 12-story property will have more than 250 rooms, as well as 45,000 square feet of meeting space in an adjoining convention center. Construction is expected to begin late in 2006. I-77 will provide a direct connection to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and to the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro.

  • The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in 2005 added an additional 100 English Country — style rooms to its original 145. Also new: a grand ballroom, an executive conference center, and an enclosed pool and fitness center.

  • A 147-room Courtyard by Marriott opened in Chapel Hill in October 2005.

  • In the mountain town of Highlands, The Lodge at Old Edwards Inn debuted a new look in December after renovations to the 26 guest rooms, main lodge, and grounds along with other enhancements. It can accommodate up to 60 guests.

South Carolina

  • The newest addition to Myrtle Beach's Grand Strand area is the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel, which opened September 30, 2005, attached to the 249,000-square-foot Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The 402-room hotel has its own ballroom and meeting space, plus Vidalia's restaurant, a pool, and a fitness center. The hotel and convention center share an enviable location, within walking distance to the beach and Broadway at the Beach, a 350-acre area of shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife.

  • Last year, Avista Resort added 185 additional suites, making a total of 378 one-, two-, and three-bedroom accommodations at the North Myrtle Beach resort that opened its doors barely a year ago. The resort's convention facilities can accommodate as many as 250 people.

  • The Landmark Resort, on South Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, has undergone a $1.2 million upgrade and has 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • Pine Lakes International Country Club, built in 1927 and listed on the National Historic Registry, recently completed renovations and reopened its ballrooms, which have been closed since 1970.

  • A 10,000-square-foot conference center, Sweetgrass Pavilion, will be available this fall at the Wild Dunes Resort, on the Isle of Palms.

Ask the CVB

Georgia

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
(404) 521-6600
www.atlanta.net; Total Hotel Tax: 14%

Brunswick and the Golden Isles CVB
(800) 809-1790, (912) 265-0620
www.bgivb.com; www.jekyllisland.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

Savannah Area CVB
(877) 728-2662; Total Hotel Tax: 12%
www.savcvb.com; www.savannah-visit.com

North Carolina

Asheville CVB
(800) 257-5583, (828) 258-6102
www.ashevillechamber.org/convention.htm
Total Hotel Tax: 9%

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
(800) 722-1994, (704) 334-2282
www.visitcharlotte.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%

Greensboro Area CVB
(800) 344-2282, (336) 274-2282
www.visitgreensboro.com
Total Hotel Tax: 9%

Greenville-Pitt County CVB
(800) 537-5564, (252) 329-4200
www.visitgreenvillenc.com
Total Hotel Tax: 9%

Greater Raleigh CVB
(800) 849-8499, (919) 834-5900
www.visitraleigh.com
Total Hotel Tax: 10% to 12%

South Carolina

Charleston Area CVB
(800) 868-8118, (843) 853-8000
www.charlestoncvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Visitor & Convention Bureau
(843) 785-3673
www.hiltonheadisland.org
Total Hotel Tax: 10%

Myrtle Beach Area Convention Bureau
(800) 488-8998, (843) 448-1629
www.myrtlebeachmeetings.com
Total Hotel Tax: 10%

Phantom Planner

  • The coastlines of Georgia and the Carolinas are a network of shoals and barrier islands from St. Simons to Cape Hatteras. They offer sunny windswept beaches and unsurpassed golf, but are fragile and vulnerable to hurricanes from midsummer to late fall. This doesn't mean groups shouldn't go, but planners should map out an exit strategy upfront with hotel and travel partners, just in case.

  • The “New South” of gleaming office towers and modern hotels and convention centers is in place from Atlanta and Raleigh to Charlotte and Columbia. But the “Old South” of plantation homes, old-fashioned manners, and hanging Spanish moss remains in cities such as Savannah and Charleston.

  • In the past year, Atlanta lost two of its biggest conventions, reportedly canceled after an association saw an ACVB e-mail suggesting hoteliers charge more for rooms to recoup the $2 million incentive offered by the ACVB to keep the conventions in Atlanta. The ACVB brought in top-level talent to investigate the matter and took steps to see it won't happen again, but the incident reminds us that negotiations need to be aboveboard.

Special Venues

  • Here's a Southern alternative to a beach or golf incentive. This spring, American Orient Express begins taking groups on week-long Antebellum South excursions traveling between Washington, D.C., and Savannah, Ga. Onboard, vintage Pullman accommodations and fine dining combine with history and architectural lectures and commentary. Off-train, visits to Civil War — era plantation homes and sculptured gardens alternate with trips to the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Va.; and tours of Monticello, the CSS H.L. Hunley, Charleston by horse-drawn carriage (left), and Savannah's historic district. (800) 320-4206; www.AmericanOrientExpress.net

  • The View is a new loft-style event facility located at Atlanta's King Plow Arts Center in a former 1950s boiler room. With 20-foot ceilings, a contemporary look, and an upper deck for skyline-viewing, the View can host as many as 400 people. (404) 541-9060, www.Theviewatkingplow.com

  • The Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead has disappeared and in its place the Gallery emerged on September 1 as a 3,000-square-foot function space for 200 banquet-style or 300 for receptions. (404) 240.7062, www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/atlanta_buckhead

  • Drayton Hall's 1742 Georgian-Palladian architecture represents the oldest surviving example of primitive plantations in the American South. On the Ashley River outside of Charleston, the hall survived the Revolutionary and Civil wars intact. The main house, which remains in nearly original condition, and the lawn areas of this National Historic Landmark are available for group tours and events. www.draytonhall.org