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Column: ‘College Park – The Hospitality City’
by Barbra Coffee
College Park Economic Development Director
March 28, 2013 04:00 PM | 3658 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Barbra Coffee
Barbra Coffee
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With almost as many hotel rooms as households, College Park is truly a hospitality city. That’s right. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, College Park has 5,764 households and the hotel room count is 5,662.

There are 33 hotels in the 10-square-mile planning that is College Park, not to mention the number of hotels in neighboring cities surrounding the world’s busiest airport. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is certainly the driving force behind this strong industry cluster; however, College Park has taken dramatic moves in recent decades to become more than just a bedroom community for airline travelers.

The city’s Georgia International Convention Center is the state’s second largest convention facility attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually.

In order to continue growing the convention business, a conference center of this magnitude must have high quality, well-run hotels in close proximity. Focused efforts in the area of economic development continue to include goals and objectives related to attracting retail and tourism amenities in order to round out the convention package.

Meeting planners want to book conferences and trade shows in places where they can find great hotels, often within walking distance to the convention center, and a variety of restaurants and activities for their attendees to enjoy outside of the day’s meeting agenda. The more attractive the conference destination, the more likely a person will be to register and attend the event. It’s no surprise that destinations such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Antonio and Orlando top the charts in the convention business.

So you may be wondering, what does it take to create the next great destination? First, take stock of what you have. Historic districts, unique and one-of-a-kind restaurants and boutiques, walking trails, and recreational amenities such as golf courses are all part of the package. Second, look at what you don’t have and work on adding it.

It might be that a luxury shopping center or major tourism attraction would be ideal alongside the convention center. This helps keep conventioneers in the city longer, adding a night or two onto their stay or causing them to bring a spouse or family member along for the fun. And finally, market the destination such that all of these things work together to offer an enhanced convention experience to the thousands of meeting attendees that have choices to make each year as to where they will go for their networking and training events.

Becoming a great destination doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual and organic process in many ways. The charm of an historic district is evident, but it may require a facelift which takes the work of private property owners in addition to public improvements. The recruitment of a major sports or cultural attraction may take years to come to fruition, but stay focused and be open to opportunities when they present. Be consistent with advertising and marketing messages; brand your destination long before you think it might be ready. Live into it. Sell it. Be it.

That’s what there is to do. But it ultimately comes down to the people of a community. Once the visitor is here, can we offer them the best experience possible so that they will return again? It is incumbent upon us to try.

The reality is that your smile at the door, your response to the puzzled traveler’s question, and your assistance to someone who appears lost in this new place is what makes or breaks the visitor’s experience. Help us make College Park the destination it aspires to be — that goes for residents and employees alike.

If you are interested in being a part of this incredible industry we call hospitality, join us for a free workshop in partnership with Georgia State University and The Westin Atlanta Airport on Careers in Hotels and Restaurants April 16 at 6:30 pm at The Westin Hotel in College Park and find out how you can help us make the best impressions we can on the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year that come through our city.
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