The Hotel San José in Austin had a lot going for it—40 bungalow-style rooms, a garden courtyard with a beer and wine lounge, a happening coffee shop, a wading pool, and a primo location on South Congress Avenue. But when potential customers started asking about creative meeting spaces for small groups, the hotel didn’t have a solution.
Rather than pass up a revenue-generating opportunity, General Manager Meghan Hughes knew the hotel had to accommodate demand somehow. About a year ago, they met with a local builder to figure out an easy, low-cost way for one of its courtyard suites to serve double duty as a meeting space. To prepare the room for a meeting, the hotel staff removes the linens and mattress from the room, pulls aside the bedside tables, and lifts the platform away from the spine of the bed. When placed on top of legs, the platform transforms into a boardroom-style table. “It just seemed like a natural fit, and without having to spend all the money building a new structure, pulling permits, and go through all that hubbub,” Hughes says.
Now, business travelers have a unique alternative for their intimate business or social gatherings of up to 16 attendees in a 425-square-foot guestroom-turned-meeting room. The room offers natural light filtered through bamboo-lined windows, and provides social seating indoors, as well as on the porch overlooking the pool area. The hotel has AV capabilities and several catering options.
Prospective customers can watch a time-lapse video to see the room transform. Under normal circumstances, the room takes at least an hour to convert, Hughes says. (Although, she does recall an emergency situation in which the hotel was overbooked, and five team members managed to convert the room in only 20 minutes.) When it’s not being rented for meetings, the space returns to its function as a guest suite.
A one-day meeting typically costs about $1,000 for the room rental, plus a $500 food and beverage minimum. Hughes set a goal of booking the room once a month for meetings, and so far the hotel has surpassed expectations. The meetings page only recently went live on the website, so RFPs are picking up, she adds.
From high-end tequila makers conducting tastings to clothing brands brainstorming with their development teams, the space attracts a variety of groups. “The ROI is great,” Hughes says. “We hope to continue to grow with more exposure, marketing, getting it out there on social media channels. It seems to be a well received addition without having to totally rethink or create a whole new space in the hotel.”