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Capital Region News

Albany Hospitality Summit Update

As the massive Albany convention center project construction continues, officials presented an update on downtown Albany and its business scene this morning.

A series of speakers and panelists at the Hampton Inn & Suites on Chapel St. addressed and interacted with a breakfast audience of businesspeople, meeting planners, restaurateurs, community leaders, officials and interested citizens.

The focus was on the Albany Capital Center construction and all phases of development. The project has turned a large square of downtown land into a bustling construction zone. 

Discussion revolved around how much progress Albany has seen since construction of the South Mall was completed and the ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown area.  Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar says the rebirth of downtown is in full bloom.    "What we have going on downtown, not only do we have 'the renaissance' in downtown Albany, we also have 'a renaissance' going on here. And that includes apartment living downtown, it includes more hotels, it includes more services for people to come here, the convention center obviously, more restaurants and bars, and that requires a real culture of quality hospitality to serve the people who are now living and also the numbers who are going to be coming, the greater numbers who are going to be coming, to downtown Albany."

Michele Vennard, President and CEO of the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees. "Aesthetics is some of it. Connectivity, you know some of the activities dealing with 'What kind of wi-fi do we have downtown?' Connectivity as it deals with transportation is important. Those are the things people have asked us for, they asked us about those after the June conference, so that's why we wanted to come back and say 'And here's some of the programs that we have put forward, some of the training programs for hospitality excellence, and that they will continue in 2016."

The summit lauded the positives of Albany's history and art, elements that are being rolled into the process of marketing downtown facilities.  Officials say the various construction and reconstruction projects across the downtown area promote walkability and act as an added value in promotion of heritage tourism.

Vennard adds there was dialogue over taming signage downtown. "There is huge signage clutter. I mean, there are signs for different things in different formats, and so one of the things that the BID is going to undertaking is an inventory of signage so we can approach it more comprehensively, so that when we're welcoming people who are not familiar with the city that you are guiding them in the appropriate way."

On the sales and marketing end, promoters cited Albany's distinct historical aspects and landmarks along with attractions in the area.

Shannon Licygiewicz is director of sales for Albany Capital Center: she appears in the video clip below from the summit.

Bob Belber is the regional general manager with SMG of the Times Union Center and The Albany Capital Center.   "The Albany Capital Center is an exciting new property that's gonna open downtown. SMG manages Albany Capital Center. We've got our sales team and marketing team aggressively pursuing every lead to bring in new conventions, consumer shows, weddings, annual events for corporations...  we use various different trade shows in the industry where meeting planners will gather. Our SMG company has 75 different properties that are convention centers throughout the United States. And we share information, a lot of the bigger meeting planning organizations actually work exclusively with SMG, and many time they will revolve their conventions and large-scale meetings around the country in different locations. We look at this opportunity to bring more of those into Albany, some are going to be bigger than the space at Albany Capital Center will be, so we'll work with the Empire State Plaza, we'll work with the Times Union Center, connect via brand new renovated walkway, and the 159,000 square feet of space collectively is the biggest in the state of New York.”

Belber says the region can expect to see "a whole lot business" and much more vehicle and pedestrian traffic soon.

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