Austin Excites

For events large and small, this Texas hot spot is attracting meeting planners

Austin Convention Center night exterior

Austin, Texas, is well recognized for being one of the coolest cities to hold an event, whether it's a massive cultural gathering like SXSW and Austin City Limits or a more business-focused meeting at one of the city's numerous venues. It's also a growing destination, with hundreds of new rooms and plenty of other reasons for planners to beat a path to this Texas gem.

Opened in March, the 1,048-room Fairmont Austin, located in the city's Central Business District, is now Austin's largest hotel. And it has some serious meeting space: almost 140,000 square feet, including two ballrooms measuring more than 25,000 square feet each, plus a 21,000-square-foot outdoor deck able to accommodate up to 1,800 guests. Its 33-foot-tall Red River Canopy connects directly to the Austin Convention Center, allowing visitors to move easily between the two.

The same month, the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center opened a 30,000-square-foot expansion of its meeting space, and now boasts 80,000 square feet for visiting groups, in addition to 297 guest rooms. The venue also includes the fine-dining grill Carillon and more casual sports bar Gabriel's.

This summer saw the opening of the LINE Austin a 428-room property with 108 suites, overlooking Lady Bird Lake. The property offers 20,000 square feet of space for meetings, events and private dining, including a 4,725-square-foot poolside deck. Culinary offerings are key to this property, with dining concepts including Arlo Grey, with French- and Italian-inspired dishes made from locally sourced ingredients and two additional on-property restaurant concepts coming online by the end of the year. Altogether, the city's downtown is expected to offer more than 10,700 rooms for visiting groups by the end of the year.

Of course, even when coming for a meeting in this city, visitors are unlikely to stick around the meeting room all day. The city's more than 300 parks, hard-to-beat food and craft beer options and numerous entertainment districts including Historic 6th Street, hip Rainey Street and Red River Cultural District ensure that attendees will have no shortage of activities when they are here.

To help promote these attractions, in June, the Austin City Council voted to create a tourism commission that will offer recommendations on how the council collects and spends tourism and hotel occupancy-tax revenue. This will include guidance on any plans for expanding the Austin Convention Center and marketing for the city and its attractions.

Just outside the city there is noteworthy activity happening, as well. In May, ground was broken on the Kalahari Resorts Round Rock about 20 miles north of Austin, which, when it opens in 2020, will offer a 220,000-square-foot convention center (including two ballrooms), 16 meeting rooms and 50,000 square feet of outdoor event space. The city of Austin itself, by 2020, is expected to have an inventory of 42,144 rooms citywide, with 12,144 of those in downtown.

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This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.