Oakland Suddenly a Meetings Magnet

Just a couple of years ago, Oakland was struggling to achieve recognition as a viable meetings destination, but it’s suddenly emerged as arguably the hottest spot in the Bay Area and one of the most intriguing in the nation.

Cultivating an edgy, hip identity and featuring much-improved meeting options, the city is on track to book 120 conventions this year, a 23 percent hike from 2015. This represents a huge increase even compared with last year, when conventions rose from 94 to 97 and a record-breaking 2.6 million overnight stays accounted for $1.6 billion.

The total hotel tax collected this fiscal year in Oakland is expected to rise 11 percent, to more than $23 million, supporting 94,000 tourism-related jobs.

Several hotel projects have been proposed for the city, and in the meantime alternative meeting spaces in office buildings and even an abandoned train station are being used to supplement Oakland’s offerings, which include Oakland Marriott City Center, with more than 90,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; Oakland Convention Center, with 64,000 sq. ft.; Hilton Oakland Airport, with 16,000 sq. ft.; Claremont Club and Spa, with 24,800 sq. ft., and Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, with some 8,000 sq. ft.

Gatherings are also held in restaurants and theme parks, among other locations.

Oakland is primed to become an even more attractive alternative to San Francisco, with its great demand for meeting spaces and ultra-expensive room rates—the average hotel room rate in 2015 was $397 in San Francisco, compared with $144 in Oakland.

Also, Oakland is benefiting from the closure of a large portion of San Francisco’s Moscone Center during a two-year, $500 million expansion project. Some 42 percent of space will be added to the facility, which offers 1 million sq. ft. of event space, but in the meantime up to 1 million attendees will need to meet elsewhere.

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