Two years after Hurricane Katrina, the business heart of New Orleans has reopened in a big way. Always known for its fine cuisine, the city now has even more restaurants than before the storm. Airlift also is making a recovery, with a 90 percent return to pre-Katrina capacity expected by the end of 2008, and back to 100 percent by 2009. Virtually every conference hotel has been or is in the process of being renovated. In fact, “The Today Show” named the city the Second Most Beautiful Place in America on its “America the Beautiful” list in September.
“People need to know that we're back and in good shape. The perception is that we don't have enough hotel rooms, or we're flooded, or the water's not safe to drink. The part of the city visitors see is almost 100 percent back,” says Ralph Brennan, owner of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. “Associations should definitely consider New Orleans.”
While the Phase IV expansion plan for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, put on hold after the hurricane, has been scrapped, the monies have been redirected toward renovating and upgrading the existing convention center space. The center already has completed $62 million in renovations.
The Mid-South/Facilities Update
The 30-year-old Montgomery Civic Center is undergoing a $29 million transformation that will result in 70,000 square feet of exhibit space and add a 1,800-seat performing arts center. The center will be reflagged the Montgomery Convention Center. An adjacent $150 million, 12-story, 347-room Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center is being built. It and the convention center are slated to open in 2008.
The Resort Collection on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile Bay opened its seventh property, Battle House Hotel, in May. Meanwhile, Riverview Plaza Hotel is undergoing a $32 million renovation, scheduled for completion this fall. Both Battle House and Riverview Plaza will officially become Renaissance hotels after renovations are complete.
In Point Clear, where the Mobile Bay Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa took a direct hit from the flood surge caused by Katrina, the facility is back to its full glory. It completely reopened on November 1, 2006.
In Auburn/Opelika, the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National completed a $2 million renovation in January. The hotel has 114 rooms, 15 suites, and 13 meeting rooms with a total of 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail opened in August 2005 with 259 guest rooms, 11 suites, and 20,000 square feet of function space.
Birmingham's historic Tutwiler Hotel finished a complete overhaul in April. The renovation brought 162 refurbished rooms, including 68 suites, to downtown. The hotel is now affiliated with the Hampton Inn and Suites.
At the site of the former Federal Reserve Building in Birmingham, a 200-room luxury hotel is planned as part of a $70 million development. The Lexington Collection Hotel will occupy the top eight floors of the 18-story office tower. The building, likely to be fully operational by 2009, will meet the U.S. Green Building Council's standards.
Marriott's Griffin Gate Resort in Lexington opened the first full-service hotel spa in the city in May. The resort's meeting space has been increased to 21,000 square feet.
The Hyatt Regency in downtown Lexington changed hands and will begin a $16 million renovation during the fourth quarter of 2007, due for completion by 2009. The hotel will maintain normal operations during the project.
The $465 million Museum Plaza will add to Louisville's skyline, standing 62 stories along the Ohio River with 270,000 square feet of offices on 13 floors and a 250-room Westin Hotel. It is expected to be complete in 2010.
The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport recently welcomed ExpressJet Airlines to New Orleans.
With $62 million in renovations completed, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans is sporting a brand-new look and level of comfort. Renovations include new flooring and furnishings on all three levels. Morial offers a 4,000-seat auditorium, 12 exhibit halls, and 140 meeting rooms.
New hotel developments abound in New Orleans, including a new Hilton St. Charles Hotel, which began accepting reservations May 1. All major hotels in New Orleans are open, with the Hyatt reopening in April 2008.
The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans reopened in December after a 15-month, $100 million renovation and restoration. The spa was expanded to 25,000 square feet.
Iberville Suites Hotel reopened in March with 230 rooms. The hotel is part of The Ritz-Carlton Hotels of New Orleans complex.
Astor Crowne Plaza, at the gateway to New Orleans' French Quarter, unveiled several renovations last October, including 3,500 square feet of new meeting space. The hotel has 30,000 square feet of function space.
The Heidelberg Hotel and Capitol House in downtown Baton Rouge reopened last August as the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center. The historic hotel, which was constructed in 1927, has also added a spa, Atelier Rouge.
The 313-room Hilton Shreveport Hotel, which opened in June, adjoins the new 350,000-square-foot Shreveport Convention Center.
The expanded 185,000-square-foot Chattanooga Convention Center boasts 100,800 square feet of exhibit space, 21 breakout rooms, six multipurpose ballrooms, seating capacity for 8,500 people, and 40,000 square feet of pre-function space.
In September, Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville completed conversion of an exhibit hall to 18 flexible meeting rooms, a 6,033 square feet ballroom, and a pre-function area.
A 285-room InterContinental hotel will occupy the entire block of 1600 West End Avenue in Nashville. It will have nearly 18,000 square feet of meeting space and a 10,750-square-foot ballroom. The date for completion is set for late 2008.
Hotel Palomar will be built in the bottom of Nashville's Signature Tower. The 200-room hotel will include a spa, meeting facilities, and a restaurant. It is scheduled to be completed by 2009.
The 296-suite Embassy Suites Nashville Airport has just completed a renovation. The hotel has more than 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 205-room Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown has 10,000 square feet of meeting space to accommodate up to 650 guests banquet-style. The Regatta Bar & Grille, the hotel's signature restaurant, recently updated its menu to include more contemporary fare.
Baton Rouge boasts a semitropical climate with an average annual temperature of 68 degrees, making Louisiana's capital city ideal for outdoor meetings and activities.
Intel Corp. listed Baton Rouge No. 19 on its list of “Most Unwired Cities,“ ranking it among the most Wi-Fi — friendly cities in the nation.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most visited national park. The park's primary visitor center, Sugarlands, is about 20 minutes from Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
It can really heat up in the South during June through August, so keep plenty of bottled water on hand for your attendees.
Ask the CVB
Greater Birmingham Conv. & Visitors Bureau
Huntsville/Madison County CVB
(800) SPACE 4U
Montgomery Area Chamber of Comm./ CVB
Northern Kentucky CVB
Baton Rouge Area CVB
(800) LA ROUGE
New Orleans Metro CVB
Chattanooga Area CVB
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