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Hotel Roanoke spends nearly $500K to create hybrid conferencing capability

Fancy new video support makes virtual meetings almost as good as being there

Hybrid conference and meeting space upgrades coming to Hotel Roanoke
Hybrid conference and meeting space upgrades coming to Hotel Roanoke

ROANOKE. Va. – The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center is pulling the wraps off months of work behind the scenes to create a platform for conferences of today and the future.

The hotel invested approximately $450,000 in infrastructure to create meeting space that easily accommodates mixed live and virtual attendance, by conference-goers.

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge board of directors held a meeting on June 24 to demonstrate what it is like to have some people attend in person while other board members joined online via Zoom.

It’s no coincidence the Visit VBR board was among the first to showcase the technology since the COVID-19 pandemic caused a huge downturn in business for the meetings and events industry, an important part of the region’s tourism efforts.

“Meetings are a vital part of tourism, the Board recognizes this importance and wants to emphasize that Virginia’s Blue Ridge is welcoming and open for business,” said Lee Wilhelm, Chair of the organization.

“We can have remote attendees participate as full partners in your event. It creates a lot of excitement and entertainment with some of the virtual studio capabilities that we have,” said Brian Wells, general manager of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center.

The technology includes remote cameras and green screen technology which allows the use of realistic-looking virtual sets.

Wells explained that some of the lessons learned and habits formed during the pandemic won’t be going away anytime soon and expected the need for hybrid conferences would continue into the foreseeable future.

He also sees how the ability to use virtual conferencing with modern technology will give groups more options than they had in the past.

“We see this hybrid technology as a mix for future conferences. It’s a chance for people to invest in top speakers that they might not be able to get on the calendar because of travel time, but suddenly you can engage with Colin Powell to be a 30-minute speaker at your event when you never could have had that capability,” Wells said.

Wells also pointed out that the Hotel and Conference Center have replaced aging carpets, wall coverings, and furniture, while also adding parking and reducing vehicle congestion. The Hotel also spent $3.9 million to renovate the historic Pine Room restaurant and expand outdoor seating. The 1882 Lobby Bar opened in the fourth quarter of 2020.


About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.