Category Archives: Member News

Behind the Scenes with The National Conference Center

In only 18 months, one of America’s largest conference centers is emerging with a striking new design, revamped services and facilities and a fresh new branding strategy. The multimillion dollar project has transformed the 65-acre campus and its six connected buildings into a warm, functional and cohesive complex, elevated by a brilliant and inspiring design.

“We are extremely proud that this challenging task was accomplished so quickly,” says Geoff Lawson, general manager of The National Conference Center and West Belmont Place. “It is certainly a record in the conference center industry.”

With Management oversight provided by LaKota Hotels & Resorts, The National Conference Center is one of the largest meeting, training and event centers in the nation and the largest on the East Coast.  The property is located on a 65-acre campus just outside Washington, DC, in Leesburg, Virginia, just 12 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport.

“The National” provides 1.3 million interior square feet in six connected buildings. It houses 917 guestrooms, and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space. Supporting outlets include a 900-seat Dining Room, the 200-seat Black Olive Bar & Grill and other new guest-centric outlets creating a warm and engaging atmosphere. Learn more.

Prague Wins the Prestigious Top Meeting Destination Award Again

Representatives of the Prague Convention Bureau received the 2016 Top Meeting Destination award at the annual Conventa trade fair in Ljubljana, Slovenia on January 18, 2017. The prize is awarded by Slovenian Kongres magazine to the destinations from Central and South East Europe region since 2011, in accordance with the evaluation based on destination’s infrastructure, marketing activities and other indexes. Prague thus follows up on its achievements in previous years: the city occupied the second position in the Meeting Star contest twice, and in 2013 it even won the first prize.

The Kongres magazine expert jury evaluated 68 destinations from 19 countries of the Central and South East Europe region, based on the following criteria: natural and cultural factors, general and transport infrastructure, tourist infrastructure, meetings infrastructure, marketing buzz, ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) index, quality of life index, global peace index, and subjective grade. The top grade for each assessed section was 5.

The Czech metropole received the overall destination grade of 4.51 from the expert jury. The overall grade is a result of combination of the following individual grades:

  • natural and cultural factors: 4.54
  • general and transport infrastructure: 4.59
  • tourist infrastructure: 4.90
  • meetings infrastructure: 4.65
  • marketing buzz: 4.85
  • ICCA index: 4.12
  • quality of life index: 4.10
  • global peace index: 4.25
  • subjective grade: 4.61

In the top 5 ranked also: Istanbul on the second place with the grade of 4.39; Budapest on the third with 4.37 points, followed by Athens and Ljubljana.

Welcome Newest Members has been busy adding new venues to our portfolio.

Consider these newest members of for your next meeting:

Horton Grand Hotel – San Diego, CA
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress – Orlando, FL
Visit Huntington Beach – Huntington Beach, CA
Miraval Resort & Spa – Tucson, AZ
Myrtle Beach Area CVB – Myrtle Beach, SC

View more newest members.

Don’t forget, when you use, you can still send your RFP to your NSO reps!

Welcome Newest Members has been busy adding new venues to our portfolio.

Consider these newest members of for your next meeting:

Fairmont Dallas – Dallas, TX
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa – Bonita Springs, FL
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa – Maui, HI
Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa – Key West, FL
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel – Pittsburgh, PA
Bahia Resort Hotel – San Diego, CA
Deauville Beach Resort – Miami Beach, FL
American College of Chest Physicians – Glenview, IL
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino – Palm Beach, Aruba
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa – Kalaheo, HI
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate – Orlando, FL

View more newest members.

Don’t forget, when you use, you can still send your RFP to your NSO reps!

Berlin Convention Office – We Know all About Arranging Meetings

berlin logoBerlin Convention Office – We know all about arranging meetings
The visitBerlin Berlin Convention Office (BCO) is the first go-to agency for event planners. The BCO offers comprehensive support for the organisation of conventions, meetings and incberlin photoentives in Berlin.Customers benefit from the experienced team, a vast network of contacts and the free-of-charge agency and reservation services for hotel allocations.

Learn more about Berlin.

ALHI CEO Talks on Vastly Expanded Global Portfolio

Adds 76 Luxury Hotels in Europe, the Middle East & Asia 

Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), the leading independent Global Sales Organization serving the North American meetings and incentive marketplace, has expanded its impressive portfolio with the addition of 76 magnificent luxury hotels and resorts located outside North America. The hotels and resorts, all owned and/or operated by Kempinski Hotels, are located in 31 countries outside of the United States, with 17 hotels in Western Europe, 13 hotels in Eastern Europe, 26 hotels in Asia, 10 hotels in Africa, and 10 hotels in the Middle East.
Dave spoke with AHLI CEO Dave Gabri to learn more about this expansion and the market trends behind it.
CP: What is driving this latest expansion in the hotels and resorts represented by ALHI?
Gabri: This strategic addition helps ALHI address the growing demand for international meeting and incentive programs, as these hotels and resorts are now officially represented by ALHI for North American meeting professionals, incentive specialists, association executives and business executives interested in conducting meetings and/or incentive programs at any of the hotels or resorts. The addition of these beautiful hotels brings our portfolio to over 250 Four and Five-Diamond quality (U.S. standards) hotels and resorts worldwide, which all serve the meetings and incentive marketplace. ALHI’s portfolio now features more than 100 international options in 44 countries to complement our extraordinary hotel portfolio in the United States.
CP: Tell us more about Kempinski Hotels.
Gabri: Kempinski Hotels is Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, and one of the most respected hotel companies in the world. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Kempinski is known for its luxurious and distinctive hotels and resorts, personal service, fascinating destinations, and reliability. The portfolio comprises historic grand landmark hotels, superb city hotels, and exquisite resorts and lifestyle hotels. Each property embraces the cultural traditions of its location.
CP: How can meeting professionals take advantage of the services ALHI offers?
Gabri: First, I want to emphasize there is no cost to the planning organization to utilize ALHI’s services.
For information about any of the ALHI member hotels and resorts and other resources, planners should contact their nearest of the 20 professionally-staffed ALHI Global Sales offices located coast-to-coast in the United States and in Canada, with locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Louisville, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Richmond, Southern California (3), Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Washington (state).

For specifics, go to to identify the “ALHI Team” sales professionals in your state/area.

For more information about ALHI, to inquire about any of the ALHI portfolio properties, and/or to acquire a free copy of ALHI’s new “2016 Meeting Facilities Guide” or the ALHI app, contact your nearest ALHI Global Sales Office, or call the “ALHI Group Desk” toll-free at 866-303-ALHI (2544), and visit

National Conference Center Celebrates Turnaround Success

Anyone driving by The National Conference Center or West Belmont Place, knows there’s a lot going on at the property. The National and West Belmont Place represent the largest open market meeting, training and event center in the nation, located within close proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport and just outside of Washington, D.C. Purchased out of bankruptcy just over a year ago, the property has undergone significant changes and improvements which have resulted in a dramatic uplift in business.


Last year, LaKota Hotels & Resorts was retained by the new ownership to reorganize and re-energize the operation. LaKota brought in new onsite leadership and worked with them to reorganize the sales and marketing team, develop a capital improvement plan and infuse and reinforce a “whatever it takes” attitude. The result was one of the fastest and most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the conference center industry.

Earlier this summer, The National hosted a reception to celebrate their turnaround success.

The National's Turnaround Reception

The National’s Turnaround Reception

In 2013, prior to new ownership, The National was at a financial low with a downswing that continued into 2014 when the property was purchased and the new management team brought in. The team managed to completely reverse the downward direction during the remaining seven months of 2014, actually increasing revenue 34% over the prior year. In 2015, the team accelerated the trend with 2015 revenues forecasted (conservatively) to increase another 73% over 2014, which is a 140% increase over 2013. Occupancy in 2015 has increased by 130%. Usage from all group market segments is up double to triple digit percentages at The National and West Belmont Place including corporate, association, government, military, religious, fraternal, weddings, social functions and events. So far this year, more than $5 million in additional group business had to be turned away due to advance group commitments.

The key players of the new executive leadership team include Vice President and General Manager Geoff Lawson, a proven hospitality executive with years of conference center experience, numerous turnarounds and a former president of the International Association of Conference Centers; Chief Marketing Officer Chuck Ocheltree, a conference center sales and marketing icon with a number of turnaround successes in his career; Kahilua Herlihy, chief financial officer with years of experience as an accounting and finance executive in the D.C. hotel market; Allan Reynolds, director of food and beverage, with exceptional culinary experience in revamping conference center food and beverage operations; Chris Ferrier, executive chef who brings large 4- star hotel and catering experience and a passion for exciting, locally-sourced and innovative food; and Kellie Mueller, an exceptional leader in conference planning who returned to The National as director of conference services.

This new team set about to shake up the former operation and set it on a new path by investing in top sales talent, repositioning the property in the marketplace, and initiating capital improvement and renovation plans. “The dramatic turnaround at The National is a true testament to the ability and attitude of the onsite team, which is by far the strongest leadership, sales, and service group of folks I have had the pleasure of working with in this industry,” stated Sam Haigh, LaKota president and chief operating officer.

Capital improvements include renovations internally and externally with new dining and gathering areas, lobby improvements, a renovated fitness center and outdoor gathering areas such as patios and fire pits, taking advantage of the property’s large campus setting. With the physical improvements and service changes, dining at The National is an entirely new experience, as is relaxing and enjoying the evening entertainment in The Bar.

“The best way to tell we’re on the right track is the tremendous volume of business we’re seeing as well as the very high marks and exceptionally positive feedback from our clients,” stated Geoff Lawson, The National vice president and general manager. The property will continue with additional renovations as part of the ongoing capital improvement plan, so that clients will experience new enhancements with each return visit.

Networking Experiences Multiplied

Networking is always a key element of a successful meeting, and increasingly meeting professionals are looking to exciting offsite locations for these events. These can include a wide variety of venues, many of which can provide unique experiences for attendees.“I’ve always been a big believer in giving people a great experience and good food to help them connect and engage at conference networking events. When you give people a fun location and/or an engagement opportunity outside of the convention center/conference location, then you find that organic relationships are built, says Carrie Abernathy, Director of Education and Events at Practice Greenhealth.Consider some of the adventurous and exciting offsite venues highlighted on

L.A. Live
Looking for the ultimate entertainment destination, maybe with a bit of star-sighting? That would make a great networking activity. L.A. Live in Los Angeles is a genuine world-class sports and entertainment destination. Located in the center of the entertainment capital of the world, the 5.6 million square foot L.A. Live mixed-used development on 27 acres is the primary “content campus” and event center for Southern California.

Some of the many venues include the Conga Room – the premier Latin and world music venue in Los Angeles – which features live performances from the hottest Latin music acts along with authentic Latin cuisine, cocktails and dancing. The GRAMMY Museum® is an interactive celebration of the power of music with four floors of cutting edge exhibits, experiences and films. The Nokia Theater is home to the EMMYs, ESPYs, American Music Awards and American Idol Finals.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood has activities that can get everyone talking. Popular venues include their show pavilions such as the Globe Theater, Animal Actors Pavilion, and the Special Effects Stage.

Up Close With the Monuments
On the East Coast? Check out the The American Pharmacists Association’s headquarters, known as the American Institute of Pharmacy on the National Mall. Located on Constitution Avenue, the event spaces include two connected buildings with ground-level indoor and outdoor areas and a spacious rooftop deck.

The original building was designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope, whose work includes the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial. The expanded building, completed in 2009, is LEED certified, boasts a rooftop terrace with unparalleled views of the National Mall and beyond. The rooftop is seasonally tented and available for corporate and private events March to November.

On the Track
Some friendly competition is a good way to break the ice and make connections. Pole Position Raceway in Jersey City, New Jersey, is a state-of-the-art indoor karting center. They work closely with planners to ensure a customized, memorable networking experience.

Back to Nature
More into nature? Cibolo Creek in Marfa, Texas is a 30,000 acre ranch that offers ATV rides, horseback riding to view Native American rock art and its own ghost town. Rafting trips through the canons of Big Bend National Park are also a great way to get adventuresome networkers to do some bonding.

Check Out the Ranch
The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colorado hosts automotive shows, animal and livestock events, and concerts. Getting away from the normal stress and hectic schedule of meetings to go kick up some dust will definitely let attendees relax and connect.

CP Members Receive CIC Award

Kudos go out to Jane Schuldt, CIS, CITE, founder and president, World Marketing Group Ltd. and longtime supplier partner of along with Patricia Farías Barlow, CEM, CEO, Puerto Vallarta Convention Center, a brand new member for being honored by The Convention Industry Council.

“This year’s CIC Hall of Leaders and Pacesetter Award inductees represent a global footprint of the meetings, conventions, events, and exhibitions industry and we are excited to celebrate their expertise, leadership, and breadth of achievements. The iconic Hall of Leaders encapsulates a lifetime achievement award, while the Pacesetter Awards recognizes emerging leaders who have made an impact,” said the CEO of the Convention Industry Council, Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP.

The winners will be inducted into the CIC Hall of Leaders for 2015 during IMEX America in Las Vegas this coming October. The team is proud to be partners with such esteemed colleagues and we value their contributions as leaders in the meetings industry. To Jane and Patricia, Congratulations and ¡Felicidades!