Convention Crowds Are Coming

Austin closes in on Houston as U.S. convention and meeting hot spot

Austin closes in on Houston as U.S. convention and meeting hot spot

Austin, Texas, skyline, downtown
Austin ranks No. 20 nationally on a recent list of top spots for conventions and meetings. Ed Schipul/Flickr

Watch out, Houston and San Antonio. Austin is sneaking up on you as a hot U.S. destination for meetings and corporate events. Cvent Inc.’s 2013 list of the top 50 U.S. meeting destinations ranks Austin at No. 20, up four spots from last year.

Houston is just one notch ahead, at No. 19, up two places from last year. At No. 16 sits San Antonio, down three spots from last year.

“Austin has worked very hard to put an infrastructure in place that will help propel us into becoming a first-tier meetings and convention destination,” said Steve Genovesi, senior vice president of sales at the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

 This year, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau has booked 482 meetings and conventions, up from 384 in 2012.

On the infrastructure front, Genovesi noted that more hotels are being built in Austin — such as the 1,012-room JW Marriott, set to open in 2015 — and more flights are being added at Austin Bergstrom-International Airport.

This year, the Convention & Visitors Bureau has booked 482 meetings and conventions in Austin, up from 384 in 2012. And the future looks bright: In 2017, the city will host the annual meeting of the Professional Convention Management Association.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase our city to this prestigious group of decision-makers,” Genovesi said.

Farther down the road, Austin will host the American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting in 2018 and the American Bar Association’s mid-winter meeting in 2020.

Although Austin may be gaining ground on Houston and San Antonio as a meeting destination, it still lags behind those two cities in number of hotels, number of hotel guest rooms and amount of meeting space.

According to Cvent, Austin has 150 hotels with 22,318 guest rooms, compared with 328 hotels and 45,046 guest rooms in Houston and 262 hotels and 35,310 guest rooms in San Antonio. As for meeting space, Austin has 749,970 square feet, while Houston has 1,527,929 square feet and San Antonio has 1,083,944 square feet.

At No. 8, Dallas is the highest-ranking Texas city on the list. Elsewhere in Texas, Grapevine sits at No. 22, followed by Fort Worth and Irving at Nos. 30 and 37, respectively. Orlando, Chicago and Las Vegas take the top three spots; Atlanta and San Diego round out the top five.

To compile its list, Cvent evaluated close to 5,700 cities and ranked them on meeting and event booking activity in its network between July 2012 and June 2013, as well as on the number of meeting venues. Cvent’s technology connects event planners with meeting venues.

50. Newport Beach, California