- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center isn’t opening its doors for another year, but its hotel already has 900,000 room nights on the books and is closing in on the record for advance bookings by a single hotel.

Gaylord, a 42-acre hotel on the 300-acre grounds of National Harbor near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Prince George’s County, will be the largest combined hotel and convention center on the East Coast when it opens a year from today.

Gaylord said the $800 million hotel and convention center will attract conventioneers who might never have visited the Washington area.

About 65 percent of the hotel bookings are from customers who have held meetings at other Gaylord properties near Orlando, Fla., Dallas or Nashville, Tenn. Most of those customers have never held meetings in the Washington area, said John Caparella, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Gaylord Hotels.

Harley-Davidson, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Procter & Gamble and Astra Tech are some of the companies that have signed on to host meetings or conventions at Gaylord National, said Tina Sampson, the hotel’s vice president of sales and marketing.

The largest event booked so far is a meeting of 15,000 people, and the largest convention will generate 4,500 room nights, Ms. Sampson said.

The 900,000 room nights Gaylord National has on the books through 2016 is close to the record 1 million opening-day bookings set by the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla., in 2002, Mr. Caparella said.

He said yesterday that he is confident Gaylord National will beat that record.

The Washington Convention Center has about 2.2 million room nights booked from 2008 to 2012, according to Victoria Isley, spokeswoman for the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corp.

Gaylord and National Harbor say they’re not trying to compete with the Washington Convention Center, but they undoubtedly will.

“We really want the region to grow in size,” said Milton Peterson, whose massive National Harbor project is under construction next door. “When you sell 900,000 of whatever, it means the market was underserved.”

Both Gaylord and National Harbor tout their proximity to the District as a major selling point.

“From the positioning that Gaylord and National Harbor have taken, they seem to be feeding off of the demand that D.C. generates,” Ms. Isley said.

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