Palm Beach Welcomes Convention Groups

Hilton West Palm Beach poolside

The Palm Beach County Convention Center (PBCCC) stepped up its game recently with the opening of the Hilton West Palm Beach, the first attached convention center hotel south of Tampa. The 400-room hotel's 24,000 square feet of function space is not just attached to the convention center -- it is practically part of it. From the hotel's function space, the convention center is through a hallway about 10 paces long. If not for signs, it wouldn't be obvious you had left the Hilton at all.

"We are working very closely with Maria Walker [director of sales at the PBCCC]," says Edd Karlan, CHME, director of sales and marketing of the Hilton West Palm Beach. Quite a few groups have booked both, and some are using us and our meeting space, and four or five of the convention center's meeting rooms -- and they can contract those rooms through us."

The Hilton West Palm Beach itself is not really what you'd expect from a convention hotel -- it's more of a leisure property, with large, airy rooms and a sizable, sunny pool area with two 2,400-square-foot event lawns that also face the ballrooms. (A 4,500-square-foot event lawn is in front of the hotel). And it is directly across the street from the Kravitz Performing Arts Center, which has a number of venues, including a Broadway-show-caliber theater.

Another factor is that the owners of the hotel also own CityPlace, the Mediterranean-style dining, shopping, and nightlife venue across from the convention center and hotel. It has 26 restaurants, an Improv comedy club, a movie theater and bowling alley, and an Anushka Spa. The ways the two work together include offering discounts to Hilton guests, arranging to deliver packages, and helping organize dine-arounds for large groups. CityPlace has several spaces for (barely) off-site events and also connects downtown with Clematis Street, the heart of the city's dining and nightlife.

It's important to note that while West Palm Beach is known for its wealth (and the celebrities that can be spotted at Starbucks), Palm Beach County is far more diverse, including Jupiter, Delray Beach, and Boca Raton -- all of which have beautiful beaches and meeting- and incentive-friendly resorts.

One of the grandest of those is the 90-year-old Boca Raton Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, its core designed by legendary Florida architect Addison Mizner. The 835-room, 365-acre resort has 146,000 square feet of meeting space. It's an extraordinary property with service to match, says John Tolbert, the president. This is no boast. The resort's convention services manager (CSM), Nancy Sergio, was the Waldorf Astoria CSM of the year, and in 2014, the magnificent, 50-room Waldorf Astoria Spa -- trying the bath ritual is a must -- was named No. 1 spa in the world in Condé Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards.

While the restaurants on property were all exceptional, a particularly impressive feature was the attention paid to my fish allergies -- which was proactive and indicative of the level of service I saw throughout the property. At every spot I dined, from fine dining to the pool cafe, my reservation and guest profile preceded me, and waiters knew before I mentioned it.

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This article appears in the July 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.