22nd Annual Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame Will Induct Four New Honorees

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) will recognize four new individuals at the 22nd annual event Wednesday, Oct. 20. Held at Zoo Atlanta’s Savanna Hall, the ceremony will honor Carl Adkins, Jeffrey L. Portman Sr., Nancy Gordy Simms and Steve Smith as outstanding members of Atlanta’s hospitality community.  

“Atlanta’s hospitality industry is resilient and that is reflected in our 2021 inductees,” said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. “As we celebrate the rebound of business, we are honored to recognize these individuals’ contributions to the destination.”

Carl Adkins served as executive director of Atlanta’s local organizing committee for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020. He was responsible for citywide planning, promotion and coordination for all aspects of each of the three large-scale sporting events. Adkins also worked at the Georgia Dome for 21 years, starting as assistant general manager before being promoted to general manager. A 43-year veteran of Public Assembly Venues and Event Management, he held various roles and served as an on-site operational consultant for 16 Super Bowls. Adkins served in leadership roles with several industry-related associations such as chair of the Board of Governors of International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Senior Executive Symposium at Cornell, Board of Directors of the Stadium Manager’s Association Foundation, IAVM Board of Directors and Atlanta Sports Council.

Jeffrey L. Portman Sr. is vice chairman, president and chief operating officer of AMC, Inc., the world’s largest trade mart/trade show organization and the parent company of AmericasMart Atlanta. He manages operations which bring tens of thousands of visitors annually to the city, generating more than $478 million in direct economic impact. Under Portman’s leadership, AmericasMart Atlanta has been named to Trade Show Executive magazine’s coveted Gold 100 listing of the world’s largest and most important trade shows as well as the magazine’s Fastest 50, which honors the fastest-growing U.S. trade shows and markets. AmericasMart’s January and July markets have also been named to Trade Show News Network’s Top-250 listing of the largest U.S. shows. Portman served on ACVB’s board of directors and executive committee from 2003 to 2018.

Nancy Gordy Simms is chairman of the board of The Varsity Restaurants and formerly served as CEO. She took over the family business in 1983 after her father, Frank Gordy, passed away. Simms is an emeritus member of the Reinhardt University Board of Trustees. She was named Woman of the Year in 2010 by the Buckhead Girls Club and is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Atlanta. She is also a member of National Restaurant Association, Metro Atlanta Chamber and Rotary Club of Atlanta.

Steve Smith is a partner of Pendleton Consulting Group and brings 25 years of business leadership experience to governmental, corporate and non-profit clients. He leads Pendleton’s project review teams and has authored economic analysis reports for some of Georgia’s largest cities and counties. Smith joined ACVB’s board of directors and executive committee in 2003 and went on to serve as chair of the finance and HR committees in 2006 and 2007 and chair of the board in 2008 and 2009. Smith’s leadership experience has included serving as the associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools, vice president of corporate responsibility and governmental affairs for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and director of administrative services for Georgia Public Broadcasting.

In addition to honoring the 2021 Hospitality Hall of Fame inductees, ACVB will present the third annual Spurgeon Richardson Member of the Year Award. This year’s winner is Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, LLP.

Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company and Atlanta Business Chronicle serve as presenting sponsors for this year’s Hospitality Hall of Fame. Individual tickets or tables are available for purchase at DiscoverAtlanta.com/HHOF.

Discover Atlanta Announces New Guides in Apple Maps for Destination Discovery

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) announces that Discover Atlanta is publishing new Guides in Apple Maps, making it even easier for visitors to discover the city using the Maps app on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

“Discover Atlanta’s inclusion in Guides provides ACVB another accessible platform to showcase the city’s multicultural experiences to travelers,” said Andrew Wilson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, ACVB. “With our world-class attractions, inspiring civil rights history and iconic Southern cuisine, Atlanta continues to delight guests with an ever-evolving metropolis to explore.”

Guides are curated collections that offer recommendations for the best places to eat, shop and explore around the world. ACVB worked with Apple Maps to showcase some of Atlanta’s most iconic spots – like Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, local restaurants and the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood known for its place as the heart of Black enterprise.

Guides automatically update when new sites are added, ensuring users have the latest recommendations. Travelers can also save places to My Guides, create their own personal Guides, and share them with friends and family while planning a trip to Atlanta. 

For more information on what to do while in Atlanta, visit DiscoverAtlanta.com.

Largest NCAA-certified boys basketball tournament brings more than 500 teams to Atlanta

Best of the South basketball tournament

Atlanta welcomed HoopSeen’s 2021 Best of the South boys basketball tournament to Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) July 8-11, becoming the largest NCAA-certified boys event ever run under one roof. During the competition, 517 teams combined to play in more than 1,400 games across 38 courts in the center of Downtown’s convention and entertainment district.

“As a lifelong native of Atlanta, it’s a thrill to bring basketball teams and college recruiters from around the nation to our city. Atlanta is an ideal location for running one of the largest travel basketball events in the country,” said Mike Eddy, president of HoopSeen. “The ease of travel to Atlanta, both regionally and nationally, the hotel inventory and a tremendous venue in Georgia World Congress Center all help to ensure a great experience for our teams, parents and coaches.”

With more than 5,000 athletes participating, GWCC offered an ideal venue as it sits within walking distance of 12,500 hotel rooms, restaurants and world-class attractions. Best of the South will return to Atlanta in 2022 and 2023.

The basketball tournament adds to the list of youth sporting events Atlanta has hosted this year including volleyball and cheerleading competitions. The combination of GWCC’s ability to transform its conventions halls into competitive fields of play and Atlanta’s accessibility makes it a hub for youth sports in the Southeast.

“Atlanta provides the total package for families traveling here for sports competitions with so many amenities within close proximity of Georgia World Congress Center,” said William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “These guests provided a boost to our economy throughout the first half of the year, and we look forward to continuing to welcome them for years to come.”

In addition to youth sports, Atlanta will see several large events return in 2021 with 75 percent of the destination’s citywide conventions scheduled for the back half of the year.

Atlanta celebrates the return of conventions

Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) successfully welcomed multiple conventions and events in the first half of the year including medical meetings, youth sports competitions and a wholesale market. This signals the return of in-person events as Atlanta’s hospitality community continues to rebound from the pandemic.

“Atlanta has safely welcomed a variety of groups that continue to boost the city’s economy, and this trend will continue with a strong convention calendar in the second half of the year,” said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. “It’s exciting how much new hospitality product we have to show our customers including the ever-expanding Georgia World Congress Center, new hotels and refreshed event spaces throughout the destination.”

This year’s collective of successful events began in January with the eight-day Winter 2021 Atlanta Market at AmericasMart. In February, CHEERSPORT held its Nationals competition at Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and in March, the city welcomed Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting’s 108th gathering with continuing education in dentistry. Mizuno Big South National Qualifier brought more than 1,500 volleyball teams to GWCC in April, using all three buildings for the tournament. The first weekend in May, SECO International held its annual convention highlighting optical research.

The outlook for the remainder of 2021 is positive with 75 percent of Atlanta’s citywide conventions scheduled for the back half of the year. Momentum continues to build as sporting events welcoming patrons at full capacity and demand generators such as concerts and festivals return. Development is booming with eight hotel properties opening this year, and the recent groundbreaking of Signia by Hilton Atlanta. The new hotel will connect directly to GWCC with an anticipated completion in late 2023.

Charlene Lopez

Vice President, Sales

Charlene Lopez

Charlene Lopez leads sales initiatives for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) through events, lead generation and customer engagement to increase hotel room night bookings across the city.

Lopez currently serves as vice chair of American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) Industry Partner Alliance Committee and sits on the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ (IAEE) Southeast Chapter board of directors. From 2015-2020, she served on the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Southeast Chapter board.

Lopez’s experience working in hospitality spans 18 years. She joined ACVB in June 2012 as sales manager, national accounts, focusing on association and corporate business. She was promoted to director, citywide sales in October 2019. Her career includes roles with Omni Hotel at CNN Center as director of sales, associate director of sales at Hyatt Regency Atlanta and associate director of sales, sales manager and business travel manager at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Lopez earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Texas A&M University and master’s degree in human resource development from Tarleton State University. Originally from San Antonio, she now resides in East Cobb with her husband Chris and they are proud parents of five children.

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ACVB Promotes Charlene Lopez to Vice President

Charlene Lopez has been promoted to vice president, sales of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB). She will lead sales initiatives in her new role through events, lead generation and customer engagement to increase hotel room night bookings across the city.

“As meetings and conventions return to Atlanta, Charlene’s leadership will continue to play a key role in the city’s economic recovery,” said Mark Vaughan, executive vice president and chief sales officer, ACVB. “Her dedication to the destination’s hospitality community is inspiring and through her efforts, we know our customers will learn why Atlanta remains one of the top convention cities in the country.”

Lopez’s experience working in hospitality spans 18 years. She joined ACVB in June 2012 as sales manager, national accounts, focusing on association and corporate business. She was promoted to director, citywide sales in October 2019. Her career includes roles with Omni Hotel at CNN Center as director of sales, associate director of sales at Hyatt Regency Atlanta and associate director of sales, sales manager and business travel manager at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Signia by Hilton Atlanta Breaks Ground at Georgia World Congress Center

Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), the largest combined convention, sports, and entertainment campus in North America, and global hospitality company Hilton (NYSE: HLT), broke ground on the first newly constructed hotel for Signia by Hilton.

Signia by Hilton is a premier meetings and events brand, combining an elevated hotel experience with premium meeting and event spaces, all delivered with the safety and security of customers in mind. Boston-based Drew Company is the developer for the 975-room property with Gensler as the architect and a joint venture between Skanska and SG Contracting as the general contractor.

“Signia by Hilton Atlanta completes our vision for a connected campus and delivers a package of facilities unrivaled in any city in the United States,” said Frank Poe, executive director of Georgia World Congress Center Authority. “More importantly, it solidifies the Authority’s status as the economic catalyst for the area, spurring billions in growth along the west side of our campus.”

Owned by GWCCA and managed by Hilton Management Services, Signia by Hilton Atlanta will overlook the Mercedes-Benz Stadium sports and entertainment complex and will be connected to the Congress Center. Offering 75,000 square feet of world-class meeting space, a destination bar, signature restaurant, premium wellness amenities, and modern guest rooms, construction is expected to be completed by late 2023.

“This is a tremendous milestone for Signia by Hilton as the first groundbreaking for the brand, and we are thrilled to mark this occasion with our partners,” said Gary Steffen, category head, full-service brands, Hilton. “Signia by Hilton will deliver an exceptional guest experience to both business and leisure travelers through unparalleled, dynamic meetings and events capabilities, world-class design, thoughtful innovations, signature food and beverage experiences, and premium wellness offerings, in the world’s most desirable locations.”

“Signia by Hilton Atlanta will enhance our position as a top meeting and convention destination,” said William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “To be able to offer Hilton’s state-of-the-art, premier meetings brand hotel connected to one of the country’s leading convention centers creates an exciting new option for meeting planners and guests.”

Using feedback from meeting professionals, guests, owners, and developers, Signia by Hilton was created to solve critical gaps in the industry to deliver an unparalleled experience from check-in to check-out. Today, consumer and professional feedback continues to shape Signia by Hilton, which now features Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, delivering innovative solutions to address the evolving needs of meeting professionals, including flexibility in planning and transparency in cleanliness policies. 

Signia by Hilton Atlanta will join a carefully curated portfolio of hotels in highly sought-after urban and resort destinations, and boast a variety of premier amenities and services, including:

Signia by Hilton Atlanta guests will enjoy the benefits of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest loyalty program for Hilton’s distinct hotel brands.

For more information about Signia by Hilton Atlanta, including construction updates, please visit gwcca.org/about-the-gwcca/campus-development or newsroom.hilton.com/signia.

ACVB’s stance on voting rights and access

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau stands solidly with our employees, colleagues and their families in opposition to any legislation or action that restricts the rights or impacts access for Black, Brown and underrepresented communities to participate in the democratic process. We believe in a fair, accessible and secure election process for all Georgians. We encourage our staff and all members of our hospitality industry to cast their votes and have their voices heard.

ATL Unguided Celebrates Black Travel Experience in Atlanta

ATL Unguided: Where Legacy Meets Evolution

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) introduces ATL Unguided: Where Legacy Meets Evolution – a multi-platform collection of content spotlighting the destination’s Black travel experience. This curation of key cultural experiences amplifies Black voices, stories and businesses to help Black travelers, along with those interested in supporting the Black community, see and explore the beauty of Atlanta.

ATL Unguided’s launch also coincides with Black History Month to showcase Atlanta’s rich heritage and influence on arts, culture, food, music, technology and civil rights. ACVB partnered with local Black content creators to write personal stories of their favorite places to spend time in the city to give travelers a local’s view of the destination.

“Atlanta is a bold reflection of Black excellence,” said Sheretha Bell, vice president, brand, ACVB. “You see it in our people, our creativity, our resilience, our pride and our strength. When visitors hear untold stories and learn where to go and what to do to celebrate the fullness of Atlanta’s Black history and culture, we know they experience our city differently. Our hope is they feel more connected and want to share with family and friends.”

ATL Unguided includes an array of content including:

Additional content and stories will continue to be added at ATLunguided.com.

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