Houston Boasts Natural Beauty and an Explosion of Meetings Offerings


Meet at the George R. Brown Convention Center

This vast facility includes a first floor with five exhibit halls (639,000 square feet of contiguous space); a second floor that includes a registration area, FedEx Office, Explore Houston Visitors Center, and Starbucks; and a third floor with two additional exhibit halls and 123,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

Play at Reliant Stadium

Though it won't change its signage from NRG Stadium until June, this 75,000-seat stadium was officially rebranded as Reliant Park in March. Whatever it's called, the venue is ideal for groups looking to catch a concert or Houston Texans football game.

Eat at Vic & Anthony's

This downtown steakhouse is a Houston classic, and also offers a lot of space for groups, with three private rooms on the upper floor: an intimate wine room, business-ready boardroom, and expansive ballroom.

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The fast-changing city of Houston has expanded its travel and hospitality options in recent months // © Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau; Julie Soefer

Houston is a fast-changing city. Or, as Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, puts it: "If you haven't been to Houston in the last five years, then you haven't really been to Houston."
In the past few years, the city has taken big steps in expanding its offerings to visitors, and groups in particular, with new hotels adding more than 2,300 rooms to the city's inventory, an expansion of Houston's MetroRail line, and a complete transformation of Buffalo Bayou Park.
"As the most diverse city in the country, the Bayou City offers a cosmopolitan experience rich with the arts, including opera, ballet, symphony, theater, and museums," adds Ortale. "Visitors now have easy access to a thriving downtown and to the city's vibrant arts and cultural scene, fantastic pro sports teams, and world-class restaurants."
Named as host city for the 2017 Super Bowl, Houston is moving fast to ensure its hotel inventory and infrastructure is world-class well ahead of its moment in the national spotlight. The fourth-largest city in the U.S., in the state that continues to lead the country in job growth, Houston is proving to be a vibrant destination for meetings.
Downtown Revival
There is a lot of development happening in Houston, in particular throughout the city's downtown district, which is enjoying a renaissance, with a number of new meetings-ready properties recently opened or under construction. 
Opening in the area in August is the JW Marriott Houston Downtown. Almost $81 million is being spent to gut and renovate the 102-year-old space that once housed the Samuel F. Carter building (the city's first skyscraper). The result will be a 328-room, 58-suite property with nine meeting rooms. 
Nearby, in Houston's Central Business District and connected via skywalk to the George R. Brown Convention Center, will be the new 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston. Opening in summer 2016, the property will offer 104,000 square feet of meeting space. Along with the existing Hilton Americas Houston, it will bookend Discovery Green Park, a 12-acre park that hosts numerous events and activities throughout the year, and that can be secured for meetings. The Hilton (which connects to the convention center via two skywalks) offers 91,500 square feet of meeting space in addition to its 1,200 rooms.
Other properties expected in the area are Aloft Houston Downtown, coming on board in June 2016, as well as a new 261-room Hyatt Place, expected in January 2016. Joining these properties in the downtown area will be a new complex consisting of a 168-room Hampton Inn and 132-room Homewood Suites. It will cost $50 million and is planned for completion in January 2016. Next year, meeting planners can look forward to the redevelopment of the Humble Tower Apartments into a 166-room SpringHill Suites Hotel (expected in summer 2015), and redevelopment of the Savoy Hotel into a 215-room Holiday Inn.
Adding to the city's luxury offerings is the just-announced Hotel Alessandra, which will anchor Houston's GreenStreet -- a mixed-use destination of restaurants, retail, and office space. The hotel will be 225 rooms and 25 stories and sit within walking distance of the convention center, Toyota Center, and Discovery Green Park.
Existing properties have also opened after extensive renovations. The stylish Hotel Derek recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 312 guestrooms, as well as meeting and public spaces. The 135-room Hotel Icon, located inside the historic 1912 Union National Bank building, also competed a $5-million renovation recently. 
But the bigger story may be the expanding transportation options. Southwest Airlines is investing $150 million to upgrade William P. Hobby Airport, adding a parking garage, roadway modifications, and an expanded terminal, in an effort to accommodate international flights to and from Houston. "Getting to Houston has never been easier," says Ortale. 

Questions or comments? Email alex@alexpalmerwrites.com