Charles M. Cornell
Travel and tourism have come roaring back this year. People are anxious to return to a sense of normalcy after two years of pandemic living. Still, the meeting and event industry faces lingering challenges, from rising costs to competition for space, supply-chain issues, staffing shortages, flight frustrations, and strict contract clauses.
With a wide variety of options, urban centers are poised for a renaissance. Big cities offer several advantages, including major airports and airline hubs, large convention centers, a wide selection of dining and lodging options competing for business, mass transit systems, a broader workforce pool, and diverse entertainment and attractions. The South has some of the country’s finest cities, both large and mid-size. Here’s a selection of mighty metros that are ready to welcome meetings and events in a big way.
SAN ANTONIO, TX
Texas is so big that three of its major cities made this list. San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas by population and area with lots of room for outdoor gatherings. The city offers a blend of cultures and a rich history, not the least of which is exemplified by the famous Alamo, which offers guided and audio tours. The city also has a strong history of hosting meetings and conferences.
The San Antonio River Walk is among the most iconic and popular areas of the city, lined with shops, restaurants, hotels, and museums. Visitors might catch a boat parade along the river, or a group could rent a boat for a private cruise. The Mexican restaurant Casa Rio was the first restaurant on the River Walk and is a perennial favorite.
Right by the River Walk is the city’s walkable convention center district featuring the Henry B. González Convention Center. The convention center offers 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, including 86,500 square feet of column-free multipurpose space and more than 70 meeting rooms, and boasts the largest ballroom in Texas: the 54,000-square-foot Stars at Night Ballroom.
The 1,003-room Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk is adjacent to the center and offers 115,000 square feet of event space with state-of-the-art technology. Many additional hotels and nearby resorts offer visitors a Texas-size howdy.