New Orleans Marks GMID 2023 With Its Authentic Brand of Hospitality
GMID New Orleans Panel
The New Orleans area meetings and events industry gathered at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans March 30 to celebrate Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) 2023, joining colleagues from across the globe who marked the occasion in their own destinations.
To mark GMID, the destination’s DMO, New Orleans & Company, held a panel discussion with local industry leaders, PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat and executives from two major clients, the American Geophysical Union and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, to discuss the value of business meetings as well as extol the virtues of the Crescent City as a host.
Indeed, the term “host” is something that New Orleans & Company takes to heart, as it adopted the slogan “Built to Host” in marketing the destination, a catchphrase that describes both the city’s longtime fondness for hosting travelers from both the leisure and business sectors as well as its existing and developing infrastructure to do just that.
“'Built to Host’ is all about the people of New Orleans and our welcoming nature, and the need to make connections,” Stephanie Turner, senior vice president convention sales and strategies, said to a crowd of industry journalists gathered for a press fam to tour the city and participate in GMID happenings. “Meetings is where friendships are made and problems are solved.”
[Watch: New Orleans & Sherrif Karamat Extend Their GMID Greetings]
Celebrating GMID with New Orleans and Company was Karamat as well as Lauren Parr, senior VP, meetings and learning for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and Ryan E. Tucker, deputy director of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Key representatives of New Orleans & Company included its president and CEO, Walter J. Leger III, and Turner.
“It’s no secret that New Orleans is an amazing, welcoming place,” said Karamat, noting that PCMA held its EduCon 2022 in the destination. “The things they’re doing to transform the destination are great. This is a destination that is leading, but the thing that makes a destination great is its people, and the people of New Orleans are great.”
Tucker, who represented fraternal organization Kappa Alpha Psi, detailed why the historically African American fraternity founded in 1911 selected New Orleans as the host city for its Founders Day event in 2024.
“We could’ve gone anywhere else—the family-oriented planning and the opportunity to collaborate was fabulous,” Tucker said of the Kappa Alpha Psi’s experience working with the New Orleans tourism community. “New Orleans was a no-brainer for me. It wasn’t just a contractual situation; it was a relationship that will last.”
American Geophysical Union’s Parr echoed Tucker’s summation of the conviviality of New Orleanians, and why that was a big factor in the association selecting New Orleans as the location for its Fall Meeting in 2025.
“That is the way New Orleans is—all are welcome,” Parr said. “And it’s not just me that feels welcome, it’s my attendees that feel welcome, too.”
Parr added that AGU attendees can spread themselves out in up to 50 hotels in the destination, but the compact layout of New Orleans means that the association does not have to press shuttles into service.
Sitting down at a breakfast table that Hyatt Regency New Orleans set up with a variety of the destination’s signature cuisine favorites, Tucker echoed comments from others during the opening fam breakfast that the city’s world-class food culture was also a key driving factor in Kappa Alpha Psi’s decision to select New Orleans as a frequent Conclave host.
Indeed, Kappa Alpha Psi (whose members call themselves “Nupes”) featured “Eleven Dishes That Every Nupe Going To The Kappa Conclave In New Orleans Has To Try” to promote the event the last time it was in the Crescent City, in 2015.
[Related: Delectable Group Dining Options in Louisiana]
GMID Panel Discussion
New Orleans & Company leader Leger moderated a panel featuring Turner, Karamat, Parr and Tucker to hit on the theme of GMID—the value the meetings and events industry brings to destinations.
Perhaps Parr summed up the panel’s thoughts about why the meetings and events industry gathers every year to mark GMID.
“We talk a lot about meetings, and how Meetings Mean Business, and this city feels that acutely, that [meetings] maybe change lives around the world,” Parr said. “It's not just the business of the meeting, it's all of the knowledge and the competence and the creativity and the collaboration that goes back around the world. So, when you can do that here, it's not just something that happens here in New Orleans, it's something that starts here in New Orleans and spreads around the world. So please be proud of that…Whether it's medical advancement, or scientific advancement or just economic growth that has stemmed from the collisions that just kind of happen when meetings occur, and when people come together.”
New Orleans Fam Tour
Following the GMID festivities, Meetings Today got to take in some of the aforementioned New Orleans hospitality with a March 30-31 press fam trip. The itinerary launched out from our host hotel, Hyatt Regency New Orleans, a towering 1,193-room property that contains more than 200,000 square feet of meeting space in the Central Business District near the Caesars Superdome and a little over a mile from both the convention center and French Quarter.
To fortify ourselves for the journey to come, the first stop was the Canal Street Dickie Brennan & Co. restaurant co-owned and operated by Dickie Brennan himself. The Palace Café boasts an enviable location at the foot of the French Quarter and serves up New Orleans and regional classics in a grand, open setting.
New Orleans favorites such as gumbo, shrimp ‘n’ grits, turtle soup and various applications of oysters and other seafood will give guests an authentic taste of the city’s signature cuisine.
Private dining options can accommodate from 10-500 guests, with three private dining rooms on the third floor that can seat 10-80 guests. For larger groups, the first and second floor space can be combined.
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
The big news on the New Orleans meetings and events front is a massive upgrade underway at the destination’s primary meeting venue, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Built in 1984, and admittedly looking it, the massive facility that stretches three-quarters of a mile—the sixth largest in the U.S.—along the Mississippi River, is in the midst of a more than half-billion-dollar capital improvement project, $120 million of which has been completed.
According to the convention center’s general manager, Mike Sawaya, the facility is also the largest building in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification, last November, under its new Maintenance and Operations standard.
Highlights of the renovation include the replacement of the facility’s 17-year-old carpet, modernization of the design of its 140 meeting rooms, a new roof, the addition of pedestrian-friendly gathering areas outside the front door that replaced two lanes of roadway, the reconfiguration and improvements to its 65,000-square-foot ballroom and exhibit spaces, and a 48-acre mixed-use development that already has Topgolf signed on as a major tenant.
“They’re building a new city, a new destination for New Orleans that will redefine what it means to be entertained,” Sawaya said.
The venue also has plans for a radical transformation of its third-level ballroom that would add floor-to-ceiling windows to bring in stunning views of the Mississippi River between the two major bridges that literally run on top of the convention center.
Two really interesting factoids from the convention center tour were learning that the facility has an agreement with local Basin Street Records to use music from artists on the label, thus avoiding paying licensing fees to BMI, and the facility’s prodigious LED lighting displays, which can be customized for applications such as branding with its thousands—if not more!—color variations.
The Higgins Hotel New Orleans, Curio Collection by Hilton
Wholly owned by the neighboring National World War II Museum, the Higgins was named to honor Higgins Industries, a New Orleans company that made the Higgins Boat landing craft instrumental in the D-Day invasion and other amphibious assaults.
Operated as a non-profit, the 230-room property—with a period Art Deco design and the popular Rosie’s on the Roof bar, nine floors up with view of the skyline and landmark Bollinger Canopy of Peace—offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space all on one level. Its main ballroom is 6,500 square feet and can be divided into 2,200-square-foot sections.
National World War II Museum
Across the street from the Higgins Hotel is the phenomenal National World War II Museum, which is set to open the Liberation Pavilion, examining the end of the cataclysmic war and its aftermath, this fall.
Sprawling over seven acres and the dream of Band of Brothers author Stephen Ambrose and historian and former Vice Chancellor of the University of New Orleans Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD., the museum has entered into its 23rd year after opening as The National D-Day Museum and only occupying one building at the beginning.
Earning the distinction of the No. 1 visitor attraction in New Orleans for five consecutive years, visitors can easily turn a visit into a multi-day affair. Groups can rent one or more of 15 venues within the museum and also take advantage of the facility’s in-house entertainment options, which offer a period flair.
Catering for private events is handled by the venue’s The American Sector Restaurant & Bar, which can be rented out separately or as part of a full building buyout for up to 600 that includes BB’s Stage Door Canteen and the museum’s atriums.
It doesn’t get more New Orleans than the flagship restaurant of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, which operates six restaurants.
Groups can rent up to nine ornately decorated rooms for sit-down meals featuring the cuisine New Orleans is known for throughout the world—think turtle soup, shrimp and grits and the flame-born dessert the restaurant gave to the world in 1951, bananas Foster.
The largest spaces, the Chanteclair Room and The Courtyard, can each seat 100. Our group breakfasted in the Queen’s Room, which celebrates the history of Mardis Gras and the many Mardis Gras queens stretching back to the first in 1893.
Set on the riverfront and occupying the top two floors of the 34-story Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, Vue Orleans is a fantastic place to start any program in the city, as it offers 360-degree panoramic views with Vue Finder augmented reality stations that describe landmarks and popular neighborhoods such as the French Quarter.
The venue can accommodate up to 150 for a buyout, which also includes the second floor entrance space that boasts an impressive, interactive AV show that showcases the history of the city and its unique culture. This floor also includes a panoramic Vue River Theatre with a presentation by the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Irma Thomas, on how the Mississippi has shaped the city.
The attraction’s three elevators—each offering an impressive audiovisual experience on the ride up, and which can be branded with 30-days’ notice—at Vue Orleans can move 24 guests to the observation deck every two minutes, eliminating bottlenecks. Catering options include passed hors d'oeuvres, food stations and the ability for a sit-down dinner for up to 25 with views of the city.
Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans
With a brand reputation that needs no introduction, the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans offers a refined experience for discerning groups.
The 341-room property on the banks of the Mississippi between the French Quarter and Warehouse District opened in August 2021 in the former landmark World Trade Center New Orleans building.
The owners of the hotel poured half-a-billion dollars into the property, which offers two ballrooms, each with its own foyer space. The largest, The Plimsoll Ballroom, measures 8,000 square feet and has a capacity for 500. Other event highlights in its 29,000 square feet of space include an outdoor garden that can host receptions for up to 200.
As with any Four Seasons property, the hotel’s food and beverage quality truly shines, with our group lunching at Miss River, which overlooks the iconic river and serves Louisiana favorites at the highest level, with a cocktail menu that is among the most innovative in the city.
New Orleans Entrepreneur Week
The fam ended with a peek into the Final Pitches at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, an annual festival that celebrates budding economic innovation in the Crescent City. Held at Generations Hall, candidates gathered in front of colleagues and other dreamers to compete for cash prizes given out to the best pitches, which were delivered on stage.
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