In November 2017 the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) brought Expo! Expo!, its annual meeting and exhibition, to San Antonio. The hosts put on quite the show for the “show for shows,” including re-creating the city’s annual Fiesta River Parade with decorated floats, music and local cuisine in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center’s outdoor lagoon. When welcoming the National Travel Association’s annual Travel Exchange convention last year, the hospitality included greeting delegates at the preeminent The Witte Museum with mariachis, German choral singers and other sounds of San Antonio.
Alamo City has been honing the fine art of tradition since 1718. This tricentennial year has proven a banner occasion for event tie-ins, such as Spain: 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid at the event-capable San Antonio Museum of Art. Inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain during their first official visit to San Antonio in June, the exhibition featured works by Picasso, El Greco and other Spanish masters never shown before in the U.S.
Centuries-old traditions are practiced here every day. San Antonio’s five historic missions, collectively a UNESCO World Heritage site, represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial architecture in North America. Along with San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest church in Texas, all save The Alamo are still active Catholic parishes, with exceptional experiences that include the mariachi mass at Mission San Jose.
With groups seeking deeper immersion than ever in destinations and authentic experiences, San Antonio exemplifies the enduring power of Texas’ multi-layered heritage and tradition.
Texas Tourism’s latest hotel performance research report, released in March 2018, reveals a lodging sector keyed for growth. With some 475,630 rooms in 4,916 properties, room revenue reached $10.8 billion in 2017, up 8 percent from 2016.
Lodging Econometrics ranks Dallas and Houston second and third nationally for new hotel construction. According to a March 2018 report from leading real estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap, Texas is a pipeline leader with some 200 hotels adding nearly 23,800 rooms now under construction, and another 276 properties adding 31,300-plus rooms due to break ground in 2018.
Behind the numbers is a long tradition of hotel innovation. Modern-day entrepreneurs include the Houston-based Valencia Group. Offering group-capable properties such as the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk in San Antonio and Hotel Sorella in Houston, the company is expanding its retro-styled “motor court” concept with the new spaghetti western-themed Texican Court in Irving, opening in late 2018. With a trio of group-capable luxury boutique ZaZa hotels in Dallas and Houston, Dallas-based Z Resorts is expanding to Austin, slated for 2019.
Granddaddy of them all is Hilton Hotels & Resorts, launched by Conrad Hilton in 1925 with the 325-room Dallas Hilton. Today, Texas is landmarked with Hilton icons. El Paso’s Plaza Hotel, Hilton’s first high-rise property from 1930, will relaunch in 2019 following a $78 million transformation. Long a Dallas darling, the 1956 Statler Hilton reopened in October 2017 as the retro-styled, Hilton-flagged The Statler Dallas. The skybridge-connected Hilton Americas-Houston is a headquarters powerhouse.
Dating to 1979, the 27-story Hilton Anatole is another brand champion. Acquired by Hilton in 2005, this 1,606-room Dallas group magnet offers 600,000-plus square feet of versatile space, plus the programmable outdoor Jade Waters resort pool complex. Late owner-developer Trammell Crow filled the hotel with 1,000-plus pieces of global art, creating the largest hotel collection in the nation. With new Executive Chef Thomas Gray reinventing the menu, top-floor SER Steak + Spirits offers private dining rooms with stunning Dallas views.
Opened in 2014, the 299-room Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park is ideally equipped for Plano’s corporate-centric market. Flexibly hosting up to 1,000 delegates, the hotel’s 30,000-square-foot conference center includes two ballrooms and spacious prefunction area. Amenities include an outdoor resort-style pool and Italian-inspired Carso restaurant, with a bridge connection to the expanding waterfront dining options at The Boardwalk at Granite Park.
Gulf Coast groups have the 239-room Hilton Galveston Island Resort. Offering 15,000 square feet of flexible space, the property is on the campus of the 32-acre San Luis Resort Spa & Conference Center.
Home of the 140,000-square-foot Galveston Island Convention Center, this AAA Four Diamond beachfront destination offers 200,000 square feet of total space, 700 hotel rooms and 10 restaurants. The luxurious 250-room San Luis Resort includes private villas and the 40,000-square-foot IACC-accredited conference center with 22 soundproof meeting rooms.
Another award-winning Galveston group mainstay is Moody Gardens Hotel Spa & Convention Center. Covering 242 acres, this multi-venue complex offers 418 newly modernized luxurious rooms and 103,000 square feet of flexible convention space. Wide-ranging on-property attractions include the Sky Trail Ropes Course and recently renovated Aquarium Pyramid.
Originated by the Dunfey family of New England in 1958 with a 35-room motor lodge in New Hampshire, Omni Hotels & Resorts was purchased in 1996 by Corpus Christi, Texas-based TRT Holdings and relocated to Dallas. Since then, the company has invested significantly in Texas, including the long-sought 1,001-room Omni Dallas headquarter hotel, 614-room Omni Fort Worth and most recently, 300-room Omni Frisco. Other properties include the 392-room Omni Austin Hotel Downtown and Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Texas Hill Country, slated to reopen in May 2019 as a 493-room resort following a $150 million transformation.
Omni also has deep ties to Texas history at San Antonio’s 338-room La Mansion del Rio. Offering 18,000-plus square feet of flexible space, this Spanish colonial-style hideaway on the River Walk dates to 1853 and celebrates its 50th anniversary as a hotel this year. The charm includes Las Canarias restaurant, a heated courtyard pool and access to Forbes Four-Star spa treatments at companion property Mokara Hotel & Spa.