- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

The new Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, which is holding its grand opening Friday, is poised to be big competition for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

It might even become a member of the group responsible for booking D.C.’s convention space.

Gaylord has 2,000 hotel rooms — more than any single hotel in the city — as well as convention space in its spot along the Potomac River in Prince George’s County.

Gaylord’s existing properties in Kissimmee, Fla., Grapevine, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., have been a popular alternative to traditional convention centers because of their flexible meeting space and restaurants, spas and hotel rooms all in one space.

In the District, Gaylord is up against the five-year-old Washington Convention Center and the city’s hotels, many of which are members of Destination DC.

The organization, which until recently was called the Washington DC Convention & Tourism Corp., is responsible for marketing the city as a tourism destination and booking citywide conventions at the Washington Convention Center.

At least one D.C. Council member has signaled that it’s problematic to have Gaylord as a member of Destination DC because of their competing interests.

“I just don’t want [Destination DC] focused on that other place,” said at-large Democrat Kwame Brown, jokingly refusing to even name Gaylord or National Harbor, the sprawling property that includes the Gaylord hotel. “I know it’s a sensitive subject, but I have to be focused on the [D.C.] residents.”

He made the comments at an oversight hearing for the convention center.

Destination DC receives money from the city in the form of the convention center’s dues, according to Reba Pittman Walker, general manager and chief executive officer.

Destination DC is funded by member dues and a part of the city’s hotel taxes.

Gaylord and Destination DC have talked about Gaylord becoming a member of the organization, both parties said.

They have yet to determine what Gaylord’s dues would be, and Gaylord has yet to decide whether it wants to join, spokeswoman Amie Gorrell said.

Destination DC declined to comment on whether it would pose a conflict to have Gaylord as a member while it tries to book trade shows and conventions at the Washington Convention Center.

William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of Destination DC, said that the groups have talked about membership and that Destination DC’s member hotels include properties in the District as well as Maryland and Virginia.

Gaylord properties have been members of convention and tourism bureaus in its other cities, Ms. Gorrell said.

As in Washington, Gaylord properties are located just outside the city proper in Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando, Fla.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washington times.com.

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