MEET - Austin Convention Center
With five exhibit halls totaling more than 247,000 square feet, 54 meeting rooms, and a pair of sizable ballrooms, this LEED Gold-certified venue can handle any meeting or conference. Plus, its central location in Austin's downtown -- between the famed Sixth Street and shores of Lady Bird Lake -- means it is close to some 6,500 hotel rooms.
STAY - Sonesta Bee Cave Austin Hotel
Opened last summer, the latest addition to the Sonesta Hotel Collection -- just 20 minutes outside the center of downtown Austin, overlooking the Texas Hill Country -- offers 195 rooms, 10,000 square feet of function space, a large ballroom, and sits next to the 1.3 million-square-foot Hill Country Galleria.
PLAY - Lone Star Court
This 123-room "Americana roadside hotel" offers plenty of Texas charm (including a fire pit, dipping pool, and signature food truck), as well as a wealth of unusual meeting spaces. These include 2,000 square feet of interior meeting space, a 1,600-square-foot outdoor covered pavilion, and a lawn that provides 1,800 square feet of additional space.
With a nickname like the Live Music Capital of the World, it's no surprise that Austin is buzzing these days -- not only with music, but activity and developments sure to get meeting planners' toes tapping.
"Austin has experienced tremendous growth in new hotel inventory, which allows us to accommodate more groups," says Steve Genovesi, senior vice president of sales for Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Austin offers unique venues for meeting planners, incredible walkability, and tremendous options for live music, entertainment, and dining."
He's not kidding. This year, hotel inventory in Austin's downtown will reach more than 8,500 rooms, and by next year, it's slated to hit almost 10,400. Among the recently opened properties is the hybrid Hotel Indigo/Holiday Inn Express, which opened its doors earlier this year, offering 315 additional rooms between the two colocated properties. Last year saw the opening of the largest hotel in Austin -- the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin, with 120,000 square feet of meeting and outdoor event space -- as well as the 20-story Westin Austin Downtown, boasting a rooftop pool and the Stella San Jac restaurant.
The 16-story Hotel Van Zandt -- which is infused with the city's music scene, from record players in the suites to the daily performances at Geraldine's cocktail bar -- also opened last year in the burgeoning Rainey Street District.
The city's hotel boom is just getting started. This summer will see the opening of the 171-room, upscale Archer Austin, offering a "Texas chic" design, using materials like Texas limestone, and boasting terraces with fireplaces. In Spring 2017, the Hyatt Place Hotel will open its doors at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, offering meeting space, a fitness center, and resort-style pool, as well as 139 guest rooms.
These openings will be followed by the Fairmont Austin -- a $370 million city center hotel with 1,048 rooms and located directly east of the Austin Convention Center. It will offer more than 128,500 square feet of meeting space, including 56,500 square feet of pre-function space and a 21,000-square-foot rooftop deck.
Groups looking to explore all the city has to offer can now take advantage of Austin CVB's new Downtown Guided Walking Tours. The four distinct tours include "Capitol Area, Upper Congress Avenue" and "Downtown Sights, Old and New," as well as customized tours to suit the interests of any group.
"Austin is 'Texas Hospitality' with a twist of extra flavor -- innovation, weird, culture, art, creativity. People are happy, healthy, and passionate and you can feel it," says Jorah Anderson, director of sales at Travaasa Experiential Resorts. Speaking specifically of the Travaasa Austin, which boasts 7,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space that showcase the striking scenery of Texas Hill Country, she adds that, "in this setting, it's pretty difficult not to be inspired. We're on a nature preserve in the Texas Hill Country just outside of Austin, 25 minutes from downtown."
Those looking to hold a larger meeting or stay closer to downtown need look no further than the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. Located on the University of Texas campus, the center boasts 40,000 square feet of meeting space in 37 different spaces -- from a 300-seat amphitheater to an 800-seat ballroom.
As Austin continues to expand its offerings, it's also getting easier than ever for groups to visit. "Our airport continues to break records for traffic with new nonstop service from several markets, including international flights from Heathrow, Frankfurt, Toronto, and Guadalajara," says Genovesi.Questions or comments? Email [email protected]
This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.