The history dates to the 1830s-’50s, when Galveston was still a republic and thumbed its nose at the law; prostitution and gambling were conducted in the open. Home to the legendary Balinese Room nightclub, by the mid-1950s stars such as Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee frequented this haven of sin and much of this history remains today for groups to enjoy.
While the Balinese Room was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Strand Historic District, with 36 blocks on the port side of the island, features more than 100 shops, restaurants, attractions and art galleries; horse-drawn carriages still travel its streets. The Strand was the heart of Galveston in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the city was known as the “Wall Street of the Southwest.”
“Spouses love shopping on the Strand,” said Heather Hidalgo, program administrator for the Texas Justice Court Training Center (TJCTC), in Austin. “There is so much to do all day long, which is perfect for many of my attendees who bring their families.”
Hidalgo also noted that Galveston offers many great restaurants, especially seafood, and many venues for after-hours activities. Her attendees like to cut loose in the evenings, enjoying the endless options on the Boardwalk, Pleasure Pier and the Strand.
Another benefit for groups in Galveston is the location of its facilities. Situated on Galveston’s famed Seawall Boulevard, The Galveston Island Convention Center at The San Luis Resort’s oceanside location features 140,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 43,100-square-foot exhibition hall, 15,500-square-foot grand ballroom, 12,000 square feet of breakout meeting space and 29,000 square feet of prefunction space.
Beachside access aside, the convention center recently upgraded its network infrastructure, and planners like Lori Gracey, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Computer Education Association, appreciated the enhancement.
“They have upgraded on par with, in fact way above—in terms of the Internet—most other convention centers,” she said. “Their Internet service is fast and reliable, and today with social media, having that access is a key difference for our attendees.”
The cost of doing business in Galveston is also appealing to planners.
“Pricing is incredibly reasonable,” Gracey said.
Dealing with educators with limited budgets can be incredibly challenging, she said, but added that the hotels in Galveston are always willing to work with her to meet her budget, many allowing three or four adults with the same group to share rooms without the usual added surcharges.
Heather Hidalgo’s groups, comprised mostly of county employees, are also constrained by budget, but she has had great success negotiating packages with hotels such as The San Luis, especially for her F&B component (including continuous coffee and buffet lunches).
“They work with our budget and provide fantastic F&B,” she said. “They’ll even change the buffet theme every day for lunches. And for breaks, instead of plain old cookies, they get creative and provide fun snacks such as ice-cream bars, popcorn or crudites.”