Austin Revs into a 1st Tier Meetings City

Circuit of the Americas
Circuit of the Americas

Music may soothe the savage beast, but the strains of country, rock, jazz and Latin that reverberate from more than 200 music venues along seven blocks of Austin’s 6th Street are instead stirring up an explosion of corporate business. Austin is well known as the Live Music Capital of the World, but it’s also referred to as the Silicon Hills of America. The University of Texas at Austin, known for its technology prowess, sprawls across half the Texan capital.

“Developers have us on their radar; hotels, restaurants, and large entertainment venues are opening at a rapid pace,” says Steve Genovesi, senior vp of sales for the Austin CVB. “Austin currently has the highest hotel occupancy among all Texas cities. High tech companies are moving in. Our mix of leisure and convention-driven business really bodes well for a healthy future…. Groups who want to attract young professionals find the city appealing with the university vibe, the nightlife, and because there’s always something new being built.”

Already high on groups’ list for offsite venues, the new Circuit of the Americas is the world’s only purpose-built facility designed for Formula 1 racing. The 100,000-sf facility includes expansive event space, luxury suites for VIP meetings, race training facilities and, of course, a stage for live music.

Another top attraction is Austin City Limits’ Live at the Moody Theatre, home to the world’s longest running live music TV show. ACL moved recently, next to W Austin. Also, the Topfer Theatre at ZACH, Austin’s regional independent theater organization, opened a state-of-the-art stage and education facility that hosts groups up to 420 pax. It also has an 8,600-sf outdoor plaza available for private parties.

Looking ahead, the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin will open as Austin’s largest hotel in 2015. The Texan-themed convention hotel will have 110,000 sf of flexible meeting/event space, including a 23,000-sf Exhibition Hall. Genovesi says the JW elevates Austin’s profile to attract larger convention groups.

“The American Bar Association has confirmed their mid-winter 2020 meeting there,” he says. “Without the JW, we wouldn’t have got that booking.” The JW is just steps away from the Austin Convention Center. For 2016, the proposed $350 million Fairmont Austin is slated to open with 1,000 rooms and 70,000 sf of meeting space.

Boutique hotels are also making their mark. The 296-room Hyatt Place Downtown opens in the heart of downtown this spring. Later this year, the 123-room Lone Star Court will open as an upscale, retro-inspired motor court hotel uniquely reflecting Texan heritage. Located 20 minutes from town, it will have over 5,000 sf of event space.