is expanding downtown, as are incentives,
financial, insurance, tech and medical
“We’ve seen over a 200 percent increase
in medical meetings because we just
opened the Dell Medical School,” he said.
“It’s the first medical school to open in over
30 years at a public university.”
Meanwhile, corporate and tech meetings
have mushroomed for the city with Dell
being Austin’s big headquarter company. There are also large offices for Apple,
Facebook and Oracle, which just opened a
campus with 2,000 employees.
“And certainly with South by Southwest,
the biggest wave being the interactive
portion, a lot of tech companies come in,
like what they see about Austin and start
thinking about bringing their meetings here
as well, so that’s a big plus,” Genovesi added.
The demand has been very high, he said,
and the diverse mix of hotels and resorts in
the Austin metro area, not to mention the
expanding list of only-in-Austin off-sites and
experiences, allows the destination to cater
to the growing meetings market, he said.
“A big trend is that a lot of our groups
want to emulate the SXSW model,” Genove-
si said. “SXSW takes over our convention
center, but there are several meetups and
activations around town with the various
sponsors. We have an incredible amount of
off-site venues that are walkable from the
hotels in the area, so they can hop from one
meetup to another while experiencing our
different entertainment districts.”
Sixth Street is still a popular entertain-
ment corridor where groups take over live
music venues such as Maggie Mae’s, but
Genovesi said several other entertainment
districts—each with its own distinct vibe—
offer unique off-site venues that companies
can book for events, panels, meetups or
any type of gathering
“When groups are
looking at a city now-
adays, as part of the
decision process, they
want to see several
off-site venues that are
within walking distance
and are easy to book,”
Genovesi said. “We now
have several destination
nies that can also play a
pivotal role in theming
those off-site venues, so
One of the hottest
areas is Rainey Street, which is a block-and-a-
half from the convention center and encom-
passes a cluster of bungalow homes that have
been converted into restaurants and bars.
“So we’ve had groups take over one side
of the street and places like Bangers, which
makes its own sausage, has an incredible tap
beer selection and is able to handle about
500 people,” he said.
Another trend among groups is utilizing
Austin’s thought leaders as part of the agenda, according to Genovesi.
“We have a really strong entrepreneur
spirit here and a lot of successful people
who have started businesses here,” he said.
One great example is Roy Spence, who
just spoke at PCMA in Austin in January and
has spoken at several other events.
“He started an advertising agency here
that was the first for Southwest Airlines. He
talks about purpose,” Genovesi said. “And
then there are tech gurus and locals like
Joshua Baer of the Capital Factory, and the
university is a huge connection for these
types of speaking opportunities.”
Aside from tapping into local intellectual
capital, groups are increasingly wishing to
live like a local when in Austin.
“We have more connections to our local
vibe than ever, and it’s getting easier for convention groups to come tap into what the locals do,” Genovesi said. “There are businesses
such as Austin Detours, where a musician
will take you around to the latest music spots,
for example, or restaurants or food trucks.”
Groups seeking a bucolic, relaxing excursion
or a leisurely meeting complete with quaint
and off-the-beaten path settings can head
to Gillespie County, which still retains the
German character of its original settlers.
The Hill Country town of Fredericksburg
is as quaint as it gets,
and according to Konnie
Patke, director of group
sales at the Fredericks-
burg CVB, there are
plenty of unique lodging
spaces in town.
“At the Hangar Hotel,
you feel like you just
stepped into the 1940s,
and their attention to
detail is amazing,” she
said. “Their conference
center is an old airplane
hangar, so it’s themed
and ready to go and you
can do things like USO-
Nearby, Barons CreekSide is an ideal spot
for corporate retreats, Patke said.
The list of fun diversions in the area
includes Enchanted Rock—whether groups
hike to it or do yoga on top of it in the morning or at sunset—while the National Museum of the Pacific War is another popular
spot, according to Patke. Live music of every
genre is also a huge draw, she added.
Meanwhile, a visit to historic Luckenbach
is one of the area’s most unique offerings.
“We do a lot of fun things with groups
there, and one of the best is a traditional
dinner in the dance hall from the 1800s with
live music and a chuck wagon,” she said.
Meanwhile, the region is known for its
wineries, which continue to expand.
“Right now, we’re up to around 50 wineries in and around 20 minutes from Main
Street,” Patke said. “They are always adding
new experiences for groups. Places like
Becker Vineyards and Woodrose Winery do
wineblending classes, and Mendelbaum
Cellars makes Israeli and Texas wines as
well as olive oil. They do olive oil tastings
and dinners pairing food made with the
olives and their wines.”
Patke said new wineries continue to open
in the regions, and several are available
for groups functions and dinners with live
music. Three have chefs on property: Grape
Creek Vineyards, Woodrose Winery and
Inwood Estates Winery.
Along with the wineries, the culinary
scene continues to blossom, Patke said.
“Food is amazing here, with everything
from authentic German dishes to eclectic
cuisine from around the world—one of
my caterers specializes in paella,” she said.
“We’re all about local and a lot of it is farm-to-table. We have a new cooking school that
has become very popular with groups.”
BECKER VINEYARDS, HILL COUNTRY
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