- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gaylord is poised to shake up the Washington hotel scene.

The Gaylord National hotel and convention center, which is still a year away from opening in Prince George’s County, will have 2,000 rooms — more than any D.C. hotel — and plenty of convention and meeting space.

The $800 million complex, under construction on the Maryland side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, could take large meeting and convention business away from the four-year-old Washington Convention Center and D.C. hotels.

Or, as Gaylord contends, it could prompt meeting planners to try hosting a convention in Washington for the first time and end up making the region a more attractive destination.

Up for grabs: sales and hotel taxes, which could go to the District or Prince George’s County or wherever convention-goers and leisure travelers spend their money.

Gaylord and National Harbor say they are not trying to compete with the Washington Convention Center, and that their unique hotel-convention center compound will help the entire region to grow.

The Nashville company has opened facilities just outside major cities — Orlando, Fla., Dallas and now Washington — and initially hurt other hotels’ business. But in Dallas, the average hotel occupancy rate has increased since Gaylord opened.

The Gaylord Texan opened outside Dallas three years ago. Since then, the city’s hotel occupancy rate rose from 53 percent to 63 percent, said Phillip Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. He also attributes the jump in hotel occupancy to the bureau marketing the city as a convention destination.

“[Gaylord] has brought thousands of people to the area,” said Mr. Jones, adding that visitors have gone to conventions at the Gaylord Texan and made return trips to the city and stayed downtown.

The Gaylord Palms near Orlando has made a “strong contribution” to making Orlando more attractive to meeting planners, said Tammi Runzler, vice president of convention sales and services at the Orlando/Orange County (Fla.) Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. “Considering the resort and convention facilities together, we are also pleased with what Gaylord has added to our destination’s overall offerings.”

In Texas, however, some of the large Dallas convention hotels have lost business to Gaylord, Mr. Jones said. Convention hotels in the District worry they will lose business to the Gaylord National, too.

“The Gaylord is going to bring a lot of new business to the area based on the type of facility they are — their ability to service a group that the normal hotel community can’t. But there also will be some erosion of the surrounding area’s business,” said Bob Jacobs, director of sales and marketing at the Grand Hyatt Washington, a major convention hotel.

The District will benefit from Gaylord because top tourist sites — monuments and museums — are in the city, said Doug Ducate, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research in Dallas.

“I think you’re going to … have the same kind of usage in D.C. as other groups coming to the city,” he said.

Old Town Alexandria is also expected to benefit from the Gaylord National, because it will be connected by a water taxi across the Potomac River.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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