Smart Stars winners prepare for return to meetings with open arms

When you return to the ballroom of your favorite property, it may not look the same as when you left it. Venues have been busy putting new cleaning and operating standards in place to ensure that everyone—guests and employees—will have a relaxing and safe stay. And many have been adding space and amenities.

A constellation of Smart Stars winners led the way in strengthening what were already intense hygiene practices. Marriott unveiled a Global Cleanliness Council platform that included electrostatic sprayers and remote check in (see “The New Corona Reality” on page 46). Hyatt soon followed with its Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, which was accredited by GBAC STAR and called for the naming of hygiene managers at each hotel.

Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton, poised across the bay from San Diego in sunny southern California, is a shining example. The iconic property featured on the cover of this issue as a Best Beach Hotel winner is part of Hilton CleanStay with Lysol Protection. The brand worked with experts from Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control Team to update Hilton’s cleaning and disinfection methods, develop training and a quality assurance program. It focuses on 10 high-touch areas for increased disinfection—light switches, door handles, remotes and thermostats. Guest rooms are then sealed so new guests know they haven’t been entered since thorough cleaning.

Cheryl Ferguson

From the peace of mind of touchless check-in to increased signage to ensure all interactions are following government guidance, safety is the priority.

Cheryl Ferguson, director of sales at the property where Smart Meetings will hold its first in-person three-day Experience since the COVID-19 disruption, explained that the new protocols looked at every detail of a guest experience to instill a feeling of comfort.

Based on inquiries her team has been fielding throughout the shelter-in-place interim, she is confident robust, pent-up demand will fuel a wave of new and returning guests—luxury leisure travelers, initially, followed by business groups.


When they return, visitors will find a property with more to offer than ever. Many venues took advantage of the down time to add some shine to their properties (See “The Great Reawakening” on page 60). The Del, as it is affectionately known to thousands of repeat visitors, was in the midst of a $200 million upgrade when the sheltering began—and used the time to speed up the process.

“The silver lining is that, while it was slow, we powered through planned renovations. We knew we wouldn’t be disturbing guests. So now everything is brand new,” Ferguson said of the historic property originally wired by Thomas Edison. A new pool, sun deck and dining areas are now in place on the water side of the property, not far from where Marilyn Monroe filmed Some Like It Hot.

Work is ongoing for a new conference center on thae south side of the resort, featuring a 15,000-square-foot, clear-span ballroom with some 10,000 sq. ft. of prefunction and breakout space. The venue will open onto a 14,000-square-foot Great Lawn with views of the Victorian building and include a loading dock and kitchen. This facility joins the existing event space of over 65,000 sq. ft.

Nearly 150 new guest rooms being added adjacent to the Conference Center will bring the property room count to 898. The phased redevelopment is scheduled to be complete by late next year.

Hospitality Therapy

Like most of the Smart Stars winners, the Del’s secret sauce is not the lobby bar, but the people who make guest feel comfortable, regardless of what is happening off-stage. Ferguson boasted of the enduring spirit of hospitality in residence throughout the pandemic disruption. “The outpouring of support we have experienced at the local level in San Diego has been heartwarming,” she said. The hotel’s food purveyor donated care packages of groceries for employees who had been laid off, for example.

Best of all, perhaps, the beach vibe is intact. “When you get here and touch sand at the beach, the ocean lifts your spirits, and you feel that everything will be OK. You are not confined, and you can breathe again. Then you can leave everything behind,” she enthused. Ahhhhh…

Editor’s Note: All our Smart Stars winners offer their own over-the-top experiences, from the best airport hotels to city, green, mountain and desert properties. These outstanding venues were voted on by our Smartie community based on first-person experiences of bringing groups to their ballrooms and pools. What better way to say welcome back than to check out what they have to offer for your next program?

Best Golf Resort

Photo credit: Brian Walker

Edgewood Tahoe Resort

The golf course at Edgewood Tahoe Resort encapsulates everything a golf course can – and should be. Surrounded by the majestic Sierras, sublimely serene Lake Tahoe, and towering pines, the Edgewood golf course is a playable yet challenging masterpiece of sport and nature which has been drawing business-minded visitors since 1968.

Best City Hotel

Hyatt Regency Seattle

By focusing on Hyatt’s three landmarks of wellbeing—Feel, Fuel and Function—Hyatt Regency Seattle takes this distinction to the next level by focusing on environmental health, as well as guest health. With wellness at the forefront, the hotel is excited to bring new experiences into its guestrooms and meeting space to help guests be their best.


Best Beach Hotel

Hotel del Coronado

Located on 28 oceanfront acres just 8 miles from the San Diego International Airport (SAN), Hotel del Coronado’s majestic Victorian architecture provides an inspiring backdrop for meetings and events. The Del is San Diego’s only beachfront meeting space that welcomes groups with 65,000 sq. ft. of indoor, outdoor and oceanfront venues.


Best Ballroom

Paris Las Vegas

The 140,000 sq. ft. of elegant meeting space fits perfectly within the classic European style of Paris Las Vegas. While the design may be timeless, the facilities incorporate the very latest in business and communication technology, making any event at Paris Las Vegas as dynamic and exciting as it is stylish. Every aspect was carefully conceived to help you create an event that’s as successful for you as it is unforgettable for your guests.


Best Convention Center

Austin Convention Center

The LEED® Gold-Certified Austin Convention Center is located downtown, just a short walk from vibrant nightlife and 11,000 downtown hotel rooms. The four-level facility spans six city blocks with five contiguous column-free exhibit halls, two ballrooms and 54 meeting rooms. Our free Wi-Fi allows 20,000 wireless devices to connect simultaneously.


Best Conference Center

Boise Centre

Situated in the heart of energetic and walkable downtown Boise is Idaho’s premier convention center—Boise Centre. With 86,000 sq. ft. of versatile meeting and event space Boise Centre accommodates groups of up to 2,000 people. Just steps away are plentiful hotels, restaurants, breweries, shops, night life and recreation.


Best Conference/Convention Center Hotel

Caesars Palace

The grandeur and lavishness of Caesars Palace extends triumphantly into stately meeting facilities. Its 300,000 sq. ft. of meeting space is comfortably set apart from the casino area, yet remains within easy reach of your attendees. With an outstanding range of flexible venues with countless configuration options to suit any group, large or small, a meeting at Caesars Palace is a most successful event, each and every time.


Best Conference Center

Park MGM

MGM Resorts International and Sydell Group have partnered to redefine Las Vegas hospitality with two new distinct hotel experiences: Park MGM and Sydell’s NoMad Hotel. The mix of indoor and outdoor space consists of three distinct areas: The Conference Center, The Madison Meeting Center and The Ideation studio, offering a fresh place for inspiring interaction, connection and collaboration.



Meet AC

Atlantic City can give you the space you need for your future meeting or convention. Events of all sizes will receive world-class treatment from our team. We’re ready for you to come celebrate the many experiences of Atlantic City, New Jersey.



Greater Miami CVB

Greater Miami and the Beaches is a global destination with a stunning array of dynamic venues and world-class hotels. Breathtaking landscapes and vibrant neighborhoods set the perfect stage for Miami’s innovative art, outdoor adventures, family-friendly attractions and iconic beaches. Miami has everything you need to make your next meeting shine.

800-933-8448 ext. 3071

Best Eco/Green Hotel

Lied Lodge

A property of the Arbor Day Foundation, Lied Lodge at Arbor Day Farm serves each group with excellence and environmental stewardship in a safe environment. The 260-acre campus provides a unique setting—from world-class indoor spaces to leafy, open-air vistas where rich conversations and the spirit of collaboration thrive.


Best Eco/Green Hotel

ARIA Resort & Casino

ARIA Resort & Casino offers technologically advanced meeting and pre-function space. As a resort with LEED® Gold certification, your group will breathe clean, refreshing air and enjoy the illumination of beautiful natural light throughout three levels of flexible convention space. Located in the heart of Las Vegas, ARIA presents an enticing array of acclaimed dining, shopping and entertainment options, as well as easy access to The Strip. This is trumped only by an unrivaled commitment to individually tailored service and the utmost personal attention for every industry and any size group.


Best Hotel Spa

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

Located in a spectacular aarea of Punta Cancun, the award-winning Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun resort offers views of the Caribbean Sea and distinguished luxury in every one of its guest rooms and spaces. This is where art, sculpture and high design come together to offer an authentic world-class experience.


Best Incentive Hotel

UNICO 20 ̊87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya

Redefining all-inclusive means creating an entirely new kind of immersive experience, one that offers an unfiltered view of modern Mexico and a deep connection to the region. UNICO 20 ̊87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya is a one-of-a-kind, all-inclusive hotel for the sophisticated traveler.


For a full list of winners, visit our magazine online.