A cluster of new hotels in eastern Boca Raton has elevated the city’s status as a vacation destination for larger convention groups and meeting-goers.
For decades, the Boca Raton Resort & Club has been a popular gathering spot for corporate groups, trade associations, and other large events. But over the years, the 1,000-room resort has been forced to turn some of the largest groups away because there weren’t enough nearby hotel rooms to accommodate all the guests, said John Tolbert, the property’s president and managing director.
With the opening of the 200-room Hyatt Place Boca Raton this month and Mandarin Oriental Boca’s 118-rooms set to come online next year , the Boca Raton area will be able to host large “citywide” conventions — allowing southern Palm Beach County to compete for events that would generate about 1,500 nightly hotel bookings. Previously, the resort has been limited to groups that generate roughly 700 nightly room bookings.
“We’ve turned down thousands of groups over the years that we couldn’t get enough room block for,” Tolbert said. “This allows us to take groups that would have had to go to a convention center previously.”
Adding to the package: the Waldorf Astoria resort’s luxury setting and historic buildings, Tolbert said.
“It really creates a powerful combination,” he said.
The new Hyatt is located just over a mile north of the Boca Resort. The Mandarin Oriental hotel, part of the 830,000-square-foot complex now under construction at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Camino Real, is even closer.
Both of the new hotels are located just a few blocks south of Mizner Place, Boca’s outdoor entertainment and shopping hub.
“Individually, the (hotels) are strong, but collectively they open even more opportunities for us to capture larger conventions,” said Kelly Cavers, senior vice president of group sales for Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing arm. “With these additional hotels located within a small geographic space in Boca Raton, our destination is a compelling product for groups who can easily access the meetings space at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. This helps generate a greater economic impact for The Palm Beaches.”
Jorge Pesquera, Discover’s president and CEO, said growing the number of conventions and groups that hold meetings in Boca Raton is a “very critical, strategic component” of the organization’s marketing and sales efforts.
Meanwhile, it has been a record-breaking year at the county’s convention center in downtown West Palm Beach thanks to the opening of the long-awaited Hilton West Palm Beach. The 400-room hotel opened next door to the convention center in January.
Before the Hilton opened, the convention center was limited to competing for events that would generate a maximum of about 450 nightly hotel bookings, officials have said. But after the Hilton’s 400 rooms were combined with those at other nearby hotels, including the West Palm Beach Marriott, the Hyatt Place and the Residence Inn in downtown West Palm Beach, the convention center’s sales team was able to vie for much larger events.
Overall, tourism officials expect a record 7.2 million tourists to visit Palm Beach County this year, breaking last year’s high of 6.9 million visitors, according to Discover.
The countywide hotel occupancy level stood at 73 percent in November, up 1.6 percent over last year. Meanwhile, the number of nightly hotel room bookings grew by 3.7 percent last month when compared to Nov. 2015, Discover said.