Omni Hotels is developing two new properties that will be connected to two new major league sports facilities operated by the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Braves.
Over the last decade, Omni has pivoted toward operating these types of integrated and experiential destination hotels, typically located near major convention centers or event spaces.
For example, the Omni San Diego Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter is attached to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. The Omni Nashville Hotel is connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Both hotels are located next to their city’s respective convention facilities.
The changing tone today in the meetings and conventions sector is a big factor driving this design philosophy. Omni Hotels is answering growing demand from convention organizers and delegates for more experiential travel opportunities, location-specific environments, forward design, and leisure travel amenities such as chef-driven restaurants and upscale spas.
It’s working, too.
Omni Hotels was ranked #1 in the Upper Upscale segment in J.D. Power’s North American hotel guest satisfaction survey in 2015, performing higher than brands in the same tier including Marriott, Renaissance, Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, Sheraton, and Kimpton. Additionally, Omni Nashville was ranked the #1 convention hotel in the country this year by the Cvent event management company.
Aside from Dallas, opening in 2017, and Atlanta, which breaks ground later this year, the new Omni Louisville Hotel will open one block from the Kentucky International Convention Center in 2018.
According to Mike Garcia, CFO and SVP of acquisitions & development at Omni Hotels, the brand averages about a 50/50 split overall between convention and leisure business at the 62 hotels and resorts across North America. However, he says, the line between the group and leisure user experience is blurring.
“I think, today, event planners and groups are looking to have something similar to leisure travel, so we’re creating something unique, we’re creating destinations,” Garcia told Skift. “We’ve basically turned our hotels outward into the cities. If you look at Nashville, we have a live music venue with all these garage doors that you can open up and sit on the patio, and be part of the city. In Dallas, it’s the same way at our Owner’s Box sports bar. Groups want to feel like they’re in the city that they’re in.”
Mixed-Use Meetings, Sports, Dining & Entertainment
In August, the Dallas Cowboys are moving their headquarters and practice field to a 91-acre mixed-use development called The Star in Frisco, Texas, an upscale community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Omni and the Cowboys signed a 50/50 joint venture to develop the hotel overlooking the entire sports complex, events center, and plaza filled with restaurants and nightlife.
The meeting space in the hotel was designed so visiting conference attendees can watch the Cowboys practice.
“We’re going to be adjoining our meeting space with their conference space, and their conference space will overlook their practice fields, so that will be something else we can offer groups on open training days,” explained Garcia. “The Cowboys said they’d welcome that, so again, it’s just about offering different experiential travel opportunities.”
In Georgia, the Atlanta Braves are moving from their present stadium in downtown Atlanta out to Cobb County, where they’re building the new SunTrust Park stadium. Omni is partnering with the Braves in another 50-50 joint venture to build a hotel right outside the stadium. During baseball season, groups will be able to watch the Braves play from the comfort of the hotel’s pool deck.
“So you’ll feel like you’re part of the Braves’ organization,” Garcia said. “I think, and I really do believe, that groups and meeting planners are looking to us and saying, ‘Let’s do something different.’ I think we’re offering something different.”
A winding plaza and mixed-use community with residential housing will surround the stadium and hotel, offering groups a range of evening group activities such as private dine-arounds and live concerts.
In a strange twist of fate, these convention hotels are attracting a high percentage of leisure traffic. By incorporating a wider range of amenities, including upscale restaurants, pools, and spas for meetings and convention groups, Omni Hotels discovered that both locals and weekend vacationers are also being drawn to the newer properties.
“So when I say we create destinations, look at our Dallas hotel, which has 1,000 rooms,” said Garcia. “We’ll have 800 check-ins on the weekend, just from leisure travel. People want to come and stay at the hotel because we have so many different F&B and amenity offerings. We didn’t expect that when we first built these hotels.”
At the same time, Omni doesn’t always seem to get the exposure from both the public and trade that some of its competitors do. We asked Garcia if he thinks there might be a bit of a perception issue.
“I’d agree with that statement that we don’t get talked about as much in the mix of the bigger brands, but I think we are getting better known, especially with some of the new hotels we’re putting on the market,” he answered. “I think over time we’re getting a lot of traction. People are taking notice of what we’re doing.”