'Austin Is A Very Marketable Destination for Event Planners', says Genovesi
EventsInAmerica.com (EIA) spoke with Steve Genovesi, Senior Vice President, Sales and Services for the Austin, Texas Convention & Visitors Bureau at the IAEE Expo! Expo! 2015 in Baltimore.
EIA: Tell us about Austin. Why Austin for a convention?
Steve Genovesi: So much has been changing with Austin! We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of good publicity for all the great events we do, such as South x Southwest. We’re a great technology hub, home to Dell Headquarters and several other technology companies. And then the University of Texas, one of the top public universities in the country, takes over half of our downtown. And now, we have new hotels coming in, such as the J.W. Marriott with 1,012 rooms. This has allowed us to bring national meetings, both association and corporate, into the city for the first time, packaged with our convention center.
How many hotel rooms does the city have?
We have 33,000 right now, but we’ll be up to 37,000 with all the new hotels coming in. Downtown, alone, is growing from 6,500 to 11,000 hotel rooms by 2017. That will culminate with a 1,068-room Fairmont hotel opening in 2017.
What is square footage of the convention center?
Our Exhibit Hall is about 250,000 sf. All told, we have about 800,000 sf with a 40,000 sf ballroom and 50 breakout rooms.
How big is your airport?
Well, that also is changing dramatically. With all the new companies coming is, the airlines have increased their service. We have about 49 non-stops now, so we’re comparable to a New Orleans or a Nashville. About 40% of our flights are with Southwest Airlines, which gives passengers the affordability, and then 9 other airlines. So it’s a good, healthy balance with United, American, Delta and even some international flights. Last year British Airways started non-stop flights to Heathrow and that has become the second-most-successful launch for British Airways in America. So we’re experiencing a lot of great success with our airlines.
What’s the target convention size you think you’re best able to handle?
That’s really growing, too. Right now our average is about 2,000 to 2,200 hotel rooms per night. But we’ve had some conventions with as many as 5,000 rooms.
There are a number of venues and destination locations represented here at IAEE. Why would an event planner choose Austin? What do you think your unique differentiator is?
Yes, there are a lot of great cities represented here. I would say Austin is a new destination. We have a lot of positive buzz nationally about Austin right now. We’re a very marketable destination for event planners. Austin is a great location for all ages but young professionals – the demographic group that associations are especially interested in attracting – seem to really like the vibe of Austin. We have an urban, lively, vibrant city with great music. Those qualities really resonate with that group and make us very marketable for conventions.
You have exciting news on the medical front, too.
Yes, the Dell Medical School is opening next year. It will be the first medical school opening at a public university in 50 years. And they’re getting the best and brightest people from around the world to staff it. The School is only a few blocks from the convention center, so we’re already engaging with them to plan medical meetings and tech meetings and so forth. There’s a great opportunity to get out into the city when you have a meeting at the convention center.
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