With a splash of press coverage across the country, Atlanta unveiled its new aquarium in November, and in Charleston, S.C., dust is flying at the convention center complex to build two new retail centers and two museums. Myrtle Beach (S.C.) International Airport is in the midst of a $200 million expansion that, for the first time, will land wide-bodied aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, as well as commuter jets. 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 heated race with Richmond, Va.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Daytona, Fla., for the honor of becoming the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum, a decision that NASCAR authorities are to deliver by the end of March. Contingent on that announcement is a 2 percent hotel tax increase that will go into effect in Charlotte if the city's bid succeeds.
Atlanta's downtown hotel market is seeing its first new construction in several years, which will add about 600 new rooms. Two of the new Atlanta properties are condo/hotels that have appeal for developers, because selling the condo units helps to pay for building the hotel, which, in turn, provides many of the amenities shared by condo residents and hotel guests.
Starwood plans to build a 250-room W hotel in Atlanta, along with 75 luxury condominiums, at 45 Allen Plaza, that will closely follow construction of nearby Twelve Centennial Hotel and Residences, which were on schedule to open this month as of press time. The latter project includes a tower of 380 condos and 102 hotel suites. Twelve and W are less than a block apart on the north end of Centennial Olympic Park. At the south end of the park, the 110-room Glenn boutique hotel opened in January with a conference center and a BED restaurant and rooftop lounge.
In the Raleigh, N.C., area, hoteliers have been renovating, refurbishing, and redesigning at a furious rate in the face of new upscale competition expected to arrive on their doorsteps before 2008. Newly approved projects include the 400-room Marriott Convention Center Hotel in downtown Raleigh, 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 nearby Cary.
Myrtle Beach International Airport is in the midst of a $200 million expansion that will include a new commercial airline terminal complex. The 390,000-square-foot, three-level complex will have 14 gates. Other additions include new parking and improvements to the airport's infrastructure. The project is scheduled for completion in 2008.
Starwood will build a 26-story, 150-room ST. REGIS BUCKHEAD luxury hotel with 50 residences at 100 West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead Plaza. 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 last September with 220 suites that include eating and working space, and 2,600 square feet of flexible function space with four meeting rooms and a meeting and catering staff.
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.
The KING AND PRINCE BEACH & GOLF RESORT on St. Simons Island has removed virtually all the components of its 62-year-old main building and brought in architects and designers to create 57 new guest rooms. The 187-room resort spans the oceanfront with several buildings and more than 10,000 square feet of function space, including the Lanier ballroom, which can accommodate 350 guests for a reception or 280 for a banquet; oceanfront dining rooms; a historic solarium; a retreat room; and a butler room.
OCEAN LODGE is a boutique resort on St. Simons Island overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The lodge offers 15 suites and a boardroom that can seat 20. Other rooms can hold up to 200 people for a reception. Wi-Fi hot-spot technology throughout the building provides Internet access. Near the resort are restaurants, shopping, charter boats and deep-sea fishing, golf, tennis, and crabbing.
CALLAWAY GARDENS in Pine Mountain has broken ground on The Lodge and Spa, a 150-room, four-story hotel with a 13,000-square-foot spa and health club that is expected to open next fall.
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.
The 126-room MANSION ON FORSYTH PARK opened in Savannah last April within walking distance of shopping, galleries, museums, and restaurants. The 1888 Victorian-Romanesque mansion has a restaurant with eight private dining rooms, a cooking school, a spa, and 8,000 square feet of meeting space.
Greensboro will open an $18 million, 190-room CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL and 13 luxury condominiums late this year or early in 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 be the first Ritz-Carlton in the state and will include 120 rooms and 30 suites, a restaurant, and a total of 13,600 square feet of meeting space. A health club and indoor pool will be on the roof.
The 510-room GROVE PARK INN RESORT & SPA has refurbished its rooms during the past two years. The resort has more than 40 meeting rooms.
The 275-room Great Smokies (Asheville) HOLIDAY INN SUNSPREE has been sold. The new owner plans $3 million in renovations and a rebranding. The facility includes a golf course, an indoor soccer center, and 28 villas.
In October, the HOMEWOOD SUITES BY HILTON ASHEVILLE opened with 94 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites. The hotel is less than a mile from downtown Asheville.
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 this year.
At the HILTON NORTH RALEIGH, improvements in the coming year include renovation of the lobby, the restaurant, and all 339 guest rooms. In 2007, 30,500 square feet of meeting room space will be refurbished.
The RALEIGH MARRIOTT CRABTREE VALLEY has upgraded it restaurant; more than $5 million will be spent this year to upgrade all 375 guest rooms.
The WASHINGTON DUKE INN & GOLF CLUB in 2005 added an additional 100 English country — style rooms to its original 145. It also added a grand ballroom, an executive conference center, an enclosed pool and fitness center, and a golf practice area designed by Rees Jones.
The LODGE AT OLD EDWARD INN debuted a new look in December after renovations to its 26 guest rooms, main lodge, and grounds. The property can accommodate up to 60 people for a meeting or corporate retreat.
Winston Hotels plans to build a HILTON GARDEN INN at the Mayfaire mixed-use project near Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington. Mayfaire is a planned community that will include retail, office, hotel, and residential components. Winston Hotels' most recent construction project was a 147-room Courtyard by Marriott that opened in Chapel Hill in October.
In August, AVISTA RESORT announced that it had added 185 suites, making a total of 378 one-, two-, and three-bedroom accommodations at the North Myrtle Beach resort, which opened about a year ago. The resort has convention facilities to accommodate as many as 250 people.
In October, the HARBOURVIEW INN opened 820 square feet of new meeting, boardroom, and banquet space in Charleston.
The HOLIDAY INN CHARLESTON AIRPORT & CONVENTION CENTER is North Charleston's newest hotel, a reprise of the company's 1950s hotels. It is entirely nonsmoking and has 142 guest rooms, a restaurant, a meeting room, and an outdoor heated pool. The hotel is across from the Charleston Area Convention Center.
Charleston's Grande Dame is CHARLESTON PLACE, in the heart of downtown, where the spa has recently added five new treatment rooms. This retreat now offers the best in massage, body wraps, facials, pedicures, and manicures, as well as a fitness club. Antiques are everywhere, including the 440 guest rooms and suites. The grand ballroom and 18 conference rooms can accommodate a meeting of 25 to 1,700. The Riviera at Charleston Place has an amphitheater and 9,000 square feet of space across the street.
THE SHERATON CHARLESTON has spent $4.5 million to renovate its 292 rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.
In late November, the FRANCIS MARION HOTEL in the heart of Charleston began eliminating its smaller rooms, leaving a total of 100 new, larger guest rooms that will be refurbished and receive flat-screen televisions, CD players, and wireless Internet access. In 2004, the hotel opened a 7,000-square-foot conference facility, for a total of 19,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
In Kingston Plantation's latest $2 million renovation, all 255 suites of its oceanfront EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL have been upgraded.
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.
A conference center, Sweetgrass Pavilion, will be available this fall at the WILD DUNES RESORT, on the Isle of Palms. The 10,000-square-foot meeting facility will have three rooms.
ATLANTA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
Total Hotel Tax: 14%
(800) 257-5583, (828) 258-6102
Total Hotel Tax: 9%
CHARLOTTE REGIONAL VISITORS AUTHORITY
(800) 722-1994, (704) 334-2282
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%
GREENSBORO AREA CVB
(800) 344-2282, (336) 274-2282
Total Hotel Tax: 9%
GREENVILLE-PITT COUNTY CVB
(800) 537-5564, (252) 329-4200
Total Hotel Tax: 9%
GREATER RALEIGH CVB
(800) 849-8499, (919) 834-5900
Total Hotel Tax: 10% to 12%
CHARLESTON AREA CVB
(800) 868-8118, (843) 853-8000
Total Hotel Tax: 12%
HILTON HEAD ISLAND/BLUFFTON VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU
Total Hotel Tax: 10%
MYRTLE BEACH AREA CONVENTION BUREAU
(800) 488-8998, (843) 448-1629
Total Hotel Tax: 10%
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 vulnerable to hurricanes from midsummer to late fall. Planners should map out an exit strategy up front 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 e-mail from the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau suggesting hoteliers charge more for rooms to recoup the $2 million incentive offered by the ACVB to keep the conventions in Atlanta. The bureau has investigated the matter and has taken steps to see it won't happen again, but the incident reminds us that negotiations need to be above board.
Here's a Southern alternative to a beach or golf activity. This spring, AMERICAN ORIENT EXPRESS begins taking groups on weeklong 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 (below), and Savannah's historic district. (800) 320-4206; www.AmericanOrientExpress.com
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 last September 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
Built as the House of Peace synagogue around 1907, the building now on Hampton Street in COLUMBIA (S.C.) became an African-American dance hall called the BIG APPLE in 1936. That's where the Big Apple dance craze was born; it then became a national phenomenon. Today, the Apple retains such original architectural features as the synagogue's domed ceiling, decorated with a neon moon and stars from its days as a nightclub. Natural light from two-story windows and a restaurant kitchen make it a memorable locale for groups of up to 80 for a luncheon or 150 at a reception. (803) 252-7742, ext. 22