It is something I have found in speaking with convention planners and event planners that seems to be a hard problem to juggle, having a facility and also having places for people to stay. I mentioned this problem the folks are having at Comic-Con International when they have a great conference at a great facility but no where for the people to stay.
The folks at Gaylord Hotels have come up with a great plan to combat that very problem, combine a hotel with a convention center! It may sound simple but the people at Gaylord Hotels have taken the idea to a whole new level. I had a chance to sit down and talk with Tina Sampson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Gaylord (pictured left) to get her take on this idea and to discuss the newly opened facility in Washington DC called the Gaylord National.
The company is owned and operated by Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET). Tina was able to get her inside joke in about her company that Gaylord is a company that “GETs it”, referring to their stock ticker. Gaylord is headed by Colin Reed and they are headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Their first property Gaylord Opryland was the inspiration for their business model that Sampson calls the “Vegas model without gaming” and what she indicated to me was “the best of all worlds”. They put it better than I can:
Gaylord Hotels are designed with the needs of our customer in mind. Conference facilities are in close proximity to exhibit hall space; separate loading docks simplify group move-in and departure. Meeting planners donâ€™t have to worry about distractions, and enjoy simplified logistics because everything they need is all in one place.
Another distinguishing factor that makes Gaylord’s resorts stand above the crowd was their people. Sampson was very specific about this requirement at Gaylord. “Everyone loves working here from the top down,” she said. They call their people STARS, and part of that is that they treat every customer or attendee as a rocks star! I’ll be traveling this Sunday myself to the Gaylord Palms for an event and I am up to the challenge to see if I am treated as Sampson indicated. Hopefully, I will get a chance to meet and interview one the managers of that facility in Orlando. They do make a very bold statement at Gaylord Hotels:
“Gaylord enjoys the lowest staff turnover of any hotel company and very high repeat factors among our key customer segment – meeting planners.”
Gaylord recently opened their latest “convention resort” in Washington DC in April 2008. The atrium is pictured above right. Their press release gives the staggering figures:
Set along the banks of the Potomac River, the massive $865 million facility is the largest combined hotel and convention center on the Eastern Seaboard. It boasts 2,000 luxurious guest rooms, including 110 lavish suites, and 470,000 square feet of meeting, convention and exhibit space.
A few of the fun facts about the Gaylord National convention resort:
- The width of the atrium is 240 feet, and the highest point of the atrium is 230 feet high. This means the 150-foot-tall Space Shuttle could easily be parked under it.
- In need of a cup of java? Weâ€™ve got you covered! The banquet kitchen boasts a brewing station that can brew up to 1,186 gallons of coffee per hour. It also features enough coffee urns to serve 552 gallons of coffee at a single sittingâ€¦or pouring that is. Thatâ€™s 7,728 cups of coffee!
- More than 240,000 cubic yards or 16,000 dump trucks full of dirt were moved during the construction of the resort. If you stacked each cubic yard of dirt on top of one another, you would have a pile of dirt more than 115 miles tall.
I was nice to get a chance to meet up with Tina and get and inside look at Gaylord National and find out about the behind the scenes realities of a company that truly does “GET it!” All of their faciltiies are breathtaking, and Gaylord National is their latest gem in the Gaylord’s crown jewels. Congratulations to Mr. Reed, Tina Sampson and all the rest of their STARS.
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