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Virginia governor promotes meetings: 400th anniversary of first permanent English-speaking colony.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had their choice of meeting sites in Colonial America, and they led a group of patriots to meet and build a nation amid the verdant hills, valleys, and strategic waterways of Virginia. By the time the state celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2007, it will be able to host 40,000 more participants in meetings and conventions, thanks to new meetings space that will be available across the commonwealth in the next four years.

Attributes that attracted America's founders to Virginia still exist in the 21st century. Contemporary facilities, services, and attractions only enhance the package.

One of the first acts of Governor Mark Warner's administration was Executive Order Six. The directive mandates all state agencies, boards, and commissions to recruit national and regional conferences. The "keep it in Virginia" EO6 requires these state affiliates to submit annual reports detailing their meetings business procurement efforts each May 1. The initiative is expected to add significant numbers to the $800 million that meetings and conventions already bring to the state annually.

EO6 targets organizations to which the state pays membership dues. Annual meetings procurement reports by state employees will list the number of contacts made, RFPs received, and confirmed bookings. Virginia Tourism Corporation's new resources, the meetings and conventions Web site www.virginia.org /meetings and companion CD-ROM are boosting the meetings marketing initiative.

Virginia has been hosting the nation's premier gatherings since America's first permanent English settlement was founded at Jamestown in 1607, and today's trend toward drive-in meetings and reduction in travel budgets makes Virginia an even better value for groups, Governor Warner has said.

Washington and Jefferson's choice meetings destination lies within a day's drive of two thirds of the American population. The state's easy international air accessibility through nine major airports, legendary natural beauty, national historical importance, and modern facilities assets are additional reasons planners choose meetings venues throughout the state.

Warner also emphasizes Virginia's affordability and commitment to the industry. "Our state offers first-tier city facilities at second-tier prices. And development has not stopped because of the sluggish economy. Cities across the commonwealth continue adding hotel rooms and technologically sophisticated meeting facilities that will dramatically improve services to planners and their groups," he says.

NEW VENUES

As of January 2003, a $165 million expansion will make the Greater Richmond Convention Center the largest meetings facility in the commonwealth, with 600,000 square feet of space. The Wytheville Conference Center opens in fall 2004 in Virginia's Blue Ridge region, with 24,000 square feet of conference and meeting space, including an 8,500-square-foot banquet hall.

Eastern Virginia development includes the Hampton Roads Convention Center, opening in 2005, with 320,000 square feet of meeting and event space connecting to an adjacent 300-room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Virginia Beach's new convention center, with its 140,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 32,000 square-foot ballroom, and 25,000 square feet of additional meeting space, is scheduled for debut in 2006. A new 400-to-600-room convention headquarters hotel will adjoin the center.

New meetings facilities will complement leading industry resorts and specialized convocation centers around the state, such as The Chesapeake Conference Center, The Tides, and Wintergreen Resort. Premier amenities and services exist at the Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville; the five-star, five-diamond Jefferson Hotel in Richmond; the Hotel Roanoke; and The Williamsburg Inn, which completed extensive renovations and upgrades in 2001. In 2002, The Homestead, Kingsmill, and Lansdowne resorts received the Gold Key award from Meetings and Conventions magazine.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Fairfax County enhances Virginia's array of interactive museums, living history sites, and scenic appeal with the December 2003 opening of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. The museum, which houses rarely seen aircraft, including the Space Shuttle Enterprise, offers space for private events.

January 2003 marked the beginning of Virginia's themes of European exploration and discovery leading to the 400th anniversary in 2007 of the Jamestown settlement. Monticello, Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, is interpreting Jefferson's role in directing the Lewis and Clark expedition and the 1803 Louisiana Purchase that defined the nation.

CONTACT

Virginia Lynn Bostain, Meetings and Conventions Manager

Phone: 800-811-4296, 202-872-0557

E-mail: Ibostain@virginia.org

Web site: www.virginia.org/meetings
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Title Annotation:Hospitality
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:712
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