Whether it’s a digital-free retreat in the redwoods or a downtown tradeshow showcasing the latest tech innovations, the San Francisco Bay Area has got it covered. From San Jose to Santa Rosa, there’s something to suit just about any meetings style or requirement.
San Francisco continues to be among the most sought-after meetings destinations anywhere, with 2018 bringing the highest number of room nights booked in the city’s history, according to Joe D’Alessandro, president of the San Francisco Travel Association.
With the expansion of Moscone Center headed for an on-time completion at the end of November and a grand opening on Jan. 3, the future is even brighter. 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. In another advantage, groups will no longer need to split their exhibitions between the north and south wings of the complex but will have 500,000 square feet of contiguous space.
“Not only can we accommodate groups that we couldn’t before, but this frees up the Moscone West building for other meetings,” D’Alessandro said. “It gives us more flexibility.”
Opened this summer just two blocks from Moscone, the Salesforce Transit Center, which sports a four-block-long rooftop park, Salesforce Park—reminiscent of New York City’s High Line—is a new option for groups seeking outdoor event space with city views.
“It’s an incredible venue, with an amphitheater and beautiful landscaping and artwork five stories off the ground,” D’Alessandro said.
He is also enthused about the upcoming Chase Center, a new arena for the Golden State Warriors slated to open on the waterfront not far from AT&T Park in time for the 2019-’20 basketball season.
“This will be a fantastic option for general sessions and other events for large groups,” he said. “It’s got a phenomenal design and has a variety of spaces good for small or midsize groups. Plus, it has a huge plaza for events and is right on a new light-rail line connecting it to downtown.”
Several new hotels are in the pipeline for sites close to Moscone Center, including the 194-room Virgin Hotels San Francisco, which will offer a rooftop lounge as well as multiple dining and meeting options when it opens in November. The Waldorf Astoria San Francisco and Langham Place are both expected to debut as early as 2020.
The city’s newest property is the upscale 42-room Lodge at the Presidio, a conversion of late 19th century U.S. Army barracks in the Presidio national park, a short walk from museums, wooded hiking trails, restaurants and historic event space.
Last year 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 Proper Hotel near Civic Center. In the Fisherman’s Wharf area, the former Tuscan Inn was reborn as the Hotel Zoe, offering 221 guest rooms, 1,950 square feet of meeting space and a courtyard with outdoor fireplaces and communal seating.
South of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are home to the dynamic region known as Silicon Valley, the world’s technology capital and a major meetings destination that draws groups to its innovative atmosphere and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Its primary meetings hub is San Jose, where the downtown area is abuzz these days with new infrastructure plans, including a major expansion of the Adobe Systems campus and a proposed Google transit village that is to include offices, residences, retail, restaurants and hotels. According to Ken Slattery, vice president of sales and services for Visit San Jose, these and other developments, including several hotel proposals, are part of a wave that is transforming downtown San Jose into a vibrant destination with plenty of nightlife, restaurants and attractions within a walkable area.
“As the Google development moves forward, we’re seeing other developers recognizing the enormity of the project and building around it,” he said. “We’re looking at the creation of an urban village centered around transit and high-density living.”
With tech firms among its most frequent meetings customers, the city makes it a priority to keep the San Jose McEnery Convention Center up-to-date, including the recent installation of a new sound and lighting system from Meyer Sound Laboratories.
“The sound, lighting and audiovisual throughout the building are now on par with any major concert venue,” Slattery said. “This not only meets the needs of our tech customers, but it gives nonprofits and other more budget-sensitive groups the chance to have a first-rate sound system at a very attractive price point.”
Among new or upcoming hotels in San Jose are the recently opened Hyatt House and Hyatt Place, a dual-branded property offering 365 rooms north of downtown. A dual-branded Marriott, which will include a Courtyard and Residence Inn, is in the planning stages for downtown. The 210-room AC by Marriott San Jose Downtown debuted last 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 Silicon Valley, a 200-room property set to open in 2020.
Located between San Francisco and San Jose, San Mateo County’s prime meeting areas include a wide assortment of group-friendly hotels near San Francisco International Airport and in Palo Alto, an upscale enclave near Stanford University and major tech firms. The diverse county also encompasses a stunning stretch of coastline that includes resort properties such as The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.
“One of our biggest selling points is our easy access to San Francisco—attendees can get here on BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit], Caltrain or a quick Uber ride,” said Anne LeClair, president and CEO of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB. “Another big selling point is our safety—we’re ranked as the safest large county in the state.”
For groups that want a behind-the-scenes Silicon Valley experience, the CVB can help them connect with such tour operators such as Incredible Adventures or Silicon Valley Innovation Center, both of which offer tours and customized experiences at local tech firms.
“These tours enable people to go on the campuses where they might not otherwise have access,” LeClair said. “You can take a selfie in front of the Facebook sign or hear a presentation at Google. It can also be combined with a visit to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.”