OCT 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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Page 17 of 67

⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 NEW & RENOVATED Sites In The South! Development and Revitalization Hotel development continues across the South as destinations strive to offer the latest brands and a diverse set of options that will generate wide appeal. For instance, Jacksonville, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Little Rock all have plans to bring in Tru by Hilton in the coming years, a new concept geared to more price-conscious business and leisure travelers looking for value and simplicity. Introduced to North America in 2014, the AC Hotel brand by Marriott will open in Asheville with 2,000 square feet of mee- ting space and a rooftop bar. Jacksonville also plans to introduce two new Home2 Suites properties, ano- ther relatively new Hilton brand that is self-described as a "hip extended stay experience." Mayner noted that it's increasingly important to have a "mix of good brands that can fit with rewards pro- grams," in addition to strategies to develop higher-end convention and boutique properties. Along with mid- tier hotel development, Little Rock will also introduce Hotel Frederica as part of the Choice Hotels Ascend Collection later this year. This 102-year-old property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was formerly the Legacy Hotel—a downtown staple. Under new ownership, the hotel is undergoing a renovation that will transform it into a hipper boutique property. Considerable investment in unique boutique offe- rings is underway in Chattanooga as the destination aims to offer more modern, chic offerings. The city recently opened En Root House, a "hostel" concept of- fering eight pod-style bunks with shared common areas along with the 16-room, retro-styled Dwell House and the five-story Edwin Hotel, offering 90 rooms and mee- ting space for small groups. Plans are underway for the opening of Marriott International's new millennial fo- cused boutique brand—Moxy Hotel— in spring 2018. In addition, the city recently welcomed the opening of the newly-renovated historic Read House following a $20 million renovation, which included guest room, lobby, ballroom and restaurant upgrades. The 261-room Westin Chattanooga also recently opened, offering 6,800 square feet of meeting space. Coastal regions continue investing in resort pro- perties to appeal to groups looking for one-stop expe- riences. Florida's Historic Coast region will welcome its newest resort property in Spring 2018—the 175-room Embassy Suites by Hilton on St. Augustine Beach, offering 7,150 square feet of meeting space. The Guy Harvey Outpost Resort St. Augustine Beach is also phasing in a complete renovation effort throughout 2018 to bring modern, coastal elegance to the nation's oldest city. Formerly the Hilton Longboat Key, the $24 million Zota Beach Resort opened on Florida's West Coast ear- lier this year, offering 187 guest rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate groups up to 300. The property offers a contemporary, stylish atmosphere including a wine bar. A new addition to Marriott's Autograph Col- lection, the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club opened last year as a full-service resort on Anna Maria While infrastructure, facilities and accommodations are the primary draws of any destination, there are few differentiators that deliver wide-spread appeal like a hot culinary scene. Trends with food and beverages may come and go, but savvy meeting planners recognize that the appeal of diverse and cut- ting-edge restaurants, breweries and distilleries can go a long way towards attendee satisfaction at today's events. According to John Mayner, vice president of marketing and communica- tions with the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), ongoing revi- talization has brought a vibrant culinary scene to Arkansas' capital city—one that has received notable accolades in recent years. For instance, Forbes Travel Guide named Little Rock as one of "Five Secret Foodie Cities" in 2014, and the city was featured earlier this year in both Food & Wine and Southern Living in an article titled "15 Southern Cities All Food Lovers Should Visit Now." "We have a very diverse dining scene downtown," Mayner said. "People can experience a variety of cuisines very easily as well as a variety of price points. We have everything from Southern comfort food and barbeque all the way to our award-winning chefs." Mayner points to an artisanal craft scene that features not only dynamic craft breweries and distilleries but also chocolatiers, cheesemakers and arti- sanal ice cream companies. All of these entities work collabo- ratively to create uncommon experiences for visitors. Beer, wine and spirit enthusiasts, can explore Little Rock's adult beverage scene by picking up a "Locally Labeled" passport and guide to plan tours and tas- tings. Groups can also rent the Toddy Trolley to drive them to downtown breweries and distilleries, or catch a guided tour with Arkansas Brews Cruise. In terms of private breweries, Asheville, N.C., sits on top. The city—coined Beer City USA— has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., offering favorite brews for breakfast and desserts in some restaurants. The city is also home to multiple beer festivals, a plethora of brew tours and the South Slope neighborhood, known for its concentration of breweries. n Brews, Spirits & Culinary Delights: A Key Differentiator Green Man Brewery in Ashville, N.C. Redesigned Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock, Ark.

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