When the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort opened this June, it was not only big news for San Diego County’s hospitality and travel industry, it was a significant development for the region. The 215-room oceanfront newcomer is the only major hotel to open in the Western U.S. this year, according to Kathy Van Vechten, the property’s vice president of marketing.
Such is the strength of coastal destinations. Beachfront locations for meetings are a powerful draw along the Pacific Coast, and hotel and destination executives are seeing more business as companies return to the areas after a few years of budgets cutbacks.
Hotels and destinations are ready for the surge. From the far north of Canada’s British Columbia to the tip of Mexico’s Baja California, new and renovated meeting facilities and hotels, as well as additional air service, are luring meeting planners to the Pacific Coast.
Victoria is a favorite of groups that enjoy island charm, and the destination keeps adding to its appeal.
“Victoria is seeing a real uplift as a destination,” says Heather McGillivray, director of sales for Tourism Victoria. “Every major meeting hotel is planning or has completed some form of renovation.”
The range of Victoria’s activities adds to its allure, McGillivray says.
“From taking a cider-making class at a local organic orchard to harvesting local seaweed by hand from the Pacific Ocean, groups will run out of time before running out of experiences,” she says.
New properties include the 100-room waterfront Oak Bay Beach Hotel, which adjoins the 180-seat David Foster Foundation Theatre. Other meeting venues include the hotel library and study.
The Fairmont Empress’ former Kipling’s Restaurant is now the 4,500-square-foot Ivy ballroom, with a capacity for up to 250 guests.
The Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Hotel & Spa, which upgraded guest rooms earlier this year, is starting meeting space renovations that are due for completion early next spring. Meanwhile, The Hotel Rialto reopened in June with 50 additional rooms following a six-month renovation, and The Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel reopened in May after an exterior renovation.
At Butchart Gardens, the space beside the Rose Carousel is now the Carousel meeting room, which can host a stand-up reception for 75.
Vancouver, with its spectacular waterfront location, reported its biggest convention year ever in 2011. The city was once again named North America’s top international meetings destination by the International Congress and Convention Association.
“With an expanded, world-class facility—coupled with the awareness generated by the 2010 Olympic Games—Vancouver’s appeal as a convention destination is stronger than ever,” says Claire Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for the Vancouver Convention Centre.
In May, the Canadian airline WestJet started daily service between Vancouver International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.