Stretching from the vineyards of Napa Valley to the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area encompasses a vast assortment of microclimates, landscapes and both urban and small-town environments. With infrastructure development spurred on by a tech-fueled economy, planners will find an ever-increasing array of hotels and venues to suit just about any meeting requirement.
No place in the Bay Area illustrates the boom times better than San Francisco, one of the nation’s most popular (and priciest) meetings and business travel destinations. Massive redevelopment continues to transform the South of Market (SoMa) area, with office and residential towers, transit projects and repurposed industrial buildings creating a vibrant new urban hub.
Among these changes is an expansion and redesign of Moscone Center, set for completion in December 2018, that will not only add more space, but better integrate the facility with the surrounding Yerba Buena neighborhood. Along with a new 50,000-square-foot ballroom, the updated convention center will offer 108,000 square feet of light-filled prefunction lobbies with city views, outdoor terraces and open plazas with public art.
“What the expansion does is improve functionality, giving us 500,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, so our large conventions no longer have to split their exhibits when occupying the North and South buildings,” said Lysa Lewin, senior vice president of convention sales for the San Francisco Travel Association. “It’s also great that we’ll have outdoor space where people can grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the fresh air.”
After nearly a decade of little activity, 2017 marked the start of a new hotel development cycle, including the opening of two boutique properties with stylish rooftop event space: the 159-room Hotel VIA across from AT&T Park and the 131-room San Francisco Proper Hotel near Civic Center. In the Fisherman’s Wharf area, the former Tuscan Inn was reborn as the Hotel Zoe San Francisco, offering 221 guest rooms, 1,950 square feet of meeting space and a courtyard with outdoor fireplaces and communal seating.
Several new hotels are in the pipeline for sites close to Moscone Center. Set to open by the end of the year, the 194-room Virgin Hotels San Francisco will offer a rooftop lounge as well as multiple dining and meeting options. The Waldorf Astoria San Francisco and Langham Place are both expected to debut as early as 2020.
Further development near Moscone may also include a 600-room convention hotel, according to Lewin, who said it would greatly help with the city’s tight availability during large conventions.
“There’s talk about it, but nothing is in the works yet,” she said. “We definitely need another convention hotel, so we’re hopeful.”
South of San Francisco lies the dynamic region known as Silicon Valley, the world’s technology nerve center and a major meetings destination that draws groups to its innovative atmosphere and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
San Jose, as the largest city not only in Silicon Valley but in Northern California, is especially benefiting from a boom in meetings business, much of it coming from the tech sector. According to Cheryl Little, director of sales for Team San Jose, 56 percent of San Jose’s meetings are corporate high tech, while another 39 percent are with tech-related associations.
“This is largely in part due to San Jose being the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley,’” she said. “We are home to the biggest tech giants in the world, so it makes sense for them to hold their meetings here.”
While much of Silicon Valley consists of suburban communities that are largely car-dependent, San Jose offers a pedestrian-friendly urban center where the San Jose McEnery Convention Center is close to meetings-friendly hotels that include the Fairmont San Jose, Hilton San Jose, San Jose Marriott, Westin San Jose and Hotel De Anza.
Like San Francisco, San Jose is seeing an uptick in hotel development after a decade of inactivity. The 210-room AC by Marriott San Jose Downtown debuted earlier this year with a salt-water pool and 3,400 square feet of meeting space. Also new is the 236-room Sonesta Silicon Valley, which offers 4,400 square feet of meeting space and free shuttle service to San Jose International Airport.
Kimpton Hotels is planning a 173-room property for Museum Place, a mixed-use complex set for 2021 that will also include residences, collaborative office space and an expanded Tech Museum of Innovation. Another new mixed-use complex, this one in nearby Milpitas, will include Virgin Hotels San Jose, a 200-room property set to open in 2019.
Between San Francisco and San Jose, San Mateo County is a multifaceted destination where prime meeting areas include a wide assortment of group-friendly hotels near San Francisco International Airport and Palo Alto, an upscale enclave near Stanford University. The diverse county also boasts a stunning stretch of coastline that includes the famed Mavericks surfing mecca and resort properties such as The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.