By: Jeff Heilman | From: Meetings Today

Ever check into a new hotel and feel like you’ve been there before? Or wake up in the morning and forget what city you're in? In hospitality as in other industries, brand sameness can bring on the blahs. Absent any emotional or experience design considerations, blandness can be another bummer on the road.

Conversely, hotels that thoughtfully create unique and differentiating elements in decor, food and beverage, service and other touchpoints tend to have more engaged and satisfied guests, which is the ideal frame of mind for delegates heading off to a meeting or event. 

Localization, either by way of bringing unique local touches in-house, or creating locally based programs for guests, is a proven method for winning hearts and minds and bringing customers back. These leading group properties discuss how it is done.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio

Located on 600 acres amid the picturesque, oak tree-covered landscape of the enchanting Texas Hill Country 20-plus miles north of downtown San Antonio, this luxurious 1,002-room resort features authentic touches and experiences with influences from the rich culture of San Antonio and surrounding area.

“With incomparable scenic backdrops for outdoor events, indoor design that is inspired by the region, and restaurant menus crafted by regional ingredients, every gathering at our resort provides guests with a local experience,” said Brian Morris, the resort’s director of sales and marketing.

Renowned as a premier business destination, the resort offers more than 265,000 square feet of flexible, newly refreshed meeting spaces that boast new carpeting, wallpaper and paint with designs representing the topography and landscapes of the Texas Hill Country. Many of the breakout rooms are named after Texas wildflowers.

At 40,500 square feet, the 6,300-capacity Grand Oaks Ballroom is the largest group space. Along with 5,000 square feet of indoor space, the River Bend Pavilion offers a 4,200-square-foot covered deck and expansive 18,000-square-foot event lawn with freestanding covered outdoor stage and grill. Ideal for retreats, receptions and board meetings, the Sunday House is a charming one-story, free-standing building featuring limestone walls, distressed wood floors and spectacular Hill Country views. 

“One of our key partners for meetings and events is Knibbe Ranch,” Morris said. “Located less than 30 minutes away in the rolling hills and beautiful meadows of Spring Branch, this truly authentic fifth-generation working cattle ranch and venue provides groups with an inviting, natural, all-weather facility.”

Resort amenities include seven restaurant and lounge options, the luxurious Lantana Spa, Topgolf Swing Suites, running and biking trails, and a stunning infinity pool. Golfing groups can access two championship courses at the private TPC San Antonio, home of the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open.


Omni La Mansión del Rio, San Antonio

Blending Spanish colonial architecture and European style, this 338-room Four Diamond luxury hotel is a true San Antonio treasure steeped in the city’s history. 

The site, located on hallowed ground from the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, was first developed as a school 16 years later by members of the Society of St. Mary, a local religious order. Opened in 1853, the original St. Mary's Institute then evolved through the decades. By 1875, it was one of the largest European-style complexes in San Antonio. Renamed St. Mary's University Downtown College in 1931, the school operated until 1966 when Patrick Kennedy, a former St. Mary’s law student, purchased the property for conversion into a luxury hotel.

After adding a six-story addition overlooking the San Antonio River and remaking the exteriors in Spanish Colonial Revival-style, Kennedy opened his La Posada Motor Hotel.  in time for HemisFair '68. With its "The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas" theme celebrating the many nations that had settled the region, this International Exposition officially introduced San Antonio to the world.

Acquired and renamed by Omni Hotels in 2006, the hotel’s enveloping charms are evident from the moment of entering the romantic lobby. 

Throughout the hacienda-style property, the furnishings and decor evoke San Antonio’s cultural ties to Spain and Mexico. Following a multimillion-dollar update in 2020, the design maintains the building’s originality while incorporating modern amenities and technologies. Facing the River Walk or the lush interior courtyard, all guest rooms have time capsule ambiance. Offering 18,000-plus square feet of flexible space, the hotel’s tradition of service and commitment to the power of personal experience attracts a loyal following of repeat business and leisure customers, including many local and regional corporations and social groups. 

Slated for an August 2022 debut, the new Four Brothers restaurant blends Southern and South Texas cuisine with Latin and French influences. El Colegio Bar commemorates the former law school space from 1934.

Across the river at companion Omni property Mokara Hotel & Spa, groups can dine at the romantic AAA Four Diamond Ostra seafood restaurant and enjoy Forbes Four-Star spa treatments.