Travel Portland: A Proud Culture of Creative Energy

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Beer-bottles

Hopworks Urban Brewery

While at AIBTM 2013 in Chicago, we spoke with meeting representatives from Travel Portland to learn more about one of the nation’s greenest cities. Groups booking the trendy destination will not only gather in a variety of LEED-certified spaces and hotels, but also immerse themselves in a truly unique lifestyle. As you walk the streets of the Pearl District and Central East Side, you’ll find a variety of creative energy buzzing with artists, chefs and musicians for all tastes. Outside of Portland, you have some of the most beautiful forests and national parks, providing the perfect mixture of inspiration for your entire group. 

We spoke with Marcus Hibdon, communications manager for Travel Portland, to learn more about the destination’s creative lifestyle and inspiring venues for meetings/events.

What is it about Portland that creates such a trendy style and vibe among the locals?

What’s really driving the cool and hip factor in Portland is the lifestyle. It’s very laid back, it’s a progressive city, it’s open minded, it has a very ‘come as you are’ type mentality. It tends to attract a lot of creative, entrepreneurial-minded people. All sorts of different people are drawn to Portland because of that laid back, relaxed lifestyle that still offers great culture, entertainment and nightlife that you’d expect to find in a big city.

When you go to Portland, you’ll notice that the people are fearless when it comes to trying something new and doing things in a different way. A lot of the locals that live in the city have that mentality of, “Why can’t we do that or make that here?” The Creative Class of Portland residents are doing very unique things that really separate the city from the rest of the country. Groups find that very inspirational during their meetings.

Why are groups choosing Portland for meetings and events? 

Booking a city without a sales tax makes lodging and travel more affordable. The value from booking Portland is huge. Not only is the city affordable for the delegates to make the trip, but inexpensive once they get here. Portland is such a fun, hip city that a lot of people haven’t visited, but have probably heard a lot of cool things about. We have huge meetings space and are a totally green city.

What types of groups are you seeing the most of?

We are seeing small, medium and large groups from all over the country booking Portland right now, but there is still a lot of local business from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. It’s busy, but there’s still a lot of availability.

Can you tell us about the convention center and what makes it special? 

The Oregon Convention Center is the largest convention facility in the Pacific Northwest. The building became LEED certified in 2004 and became the first to be re-certified with a higher ranking of Silver in 2008. It actually became greener, which some people said couldn’t happen. The building has a 30,000-sf outdoor space and 255,000 sf of continuous meeting space with 50 meeting rooms and two grand ballrooms. It’s one of the greenest convention centers in the world with recycling programs, composting programs, LED lighting and Salmon-Safe certified.

What other venues are groups booking?

In addition to the convention center, there are several new neighborhoods that are very cool with a lot of unique meeting spaces. Of course, we have boutique hotels and large brand hotels in downtown Portland, but there are Portland-only kind of places that are quite unique for groups. You might find a group at a brewery for instance or a gallery space. Our Convention Service Team here at Travel Portland can really help planners find those unique spaces based on their group.

There are a lot of mixed-use buildings in very cool areas that have special meeting space. There’s a new warehouse district called Central Eastside Industrial District, very similar to the Meatpacking District in New York. The Leftbank building is a great space for a group. There’s a brewery in the basement of the building, a cafe on the ground level and there’s a large amount of meeting space with all of the retail spaces located within that building.

Another area is St. Johns, home to a building called The Colony, which offers some historical meeting space that is really beautiful. I would also recommend booking the Portland Art Museum to really submerge a group in our artistic culture.

Can you tell us about your most popular meeting hotels? 

We have several large hotels and we have a few in the works. We are blessed with numerous big brand meeting hotels and also very eclectic small boutique hotels with tons of character and personality. Everything in the downtown area, which is where the majority of our lodging is, is just a short 10-minute train ride away from the convention center. There are also several large hotels within walking distance.

Our two largest hotels are the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower with 775 rooms and 12,657 sf of meeting space. The 500-room Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront has 40,000 sf of meeting space with 32 meeting rooms. One of best boutique hotels is The Nines, Portland. The 330-room hotel is LEED certified and part of the Starwood Luxury Collection. It’s located on the top nine floors of what used to be the Meier & Frank department store, one of the largest department stores on the West Coast. It was renovated into a very chic hotel with 13,478 sf of meeting space. The hotels are very happy with their bookings, we’ve had a great year.

What are the attendees doing for entertainment and recreation during their downtime? 

Portland is a very social city. There’s a great place called Powell’s bookstore located in the Pearl District of downtown Portland. The building is larger than a city block, the largest city bookstore in the world with over 1 million books. There’s been a real renaissance of local businesses opening up, a lot of unique boutiques, menswear stores, chocolate shops and a strong base of national level retailers. Of course, Oregon doesn’t have any sales tax, so those attendees that may be considering purchasing a new iPad or something of that sort will save between 10 and 14 percent.

Portland is also heavily driven on the outdoors being that we are such a sustainable city. We have some of the best biking infrastructure in the world. We lead the nation in the percentage of bike commuters with 8-times more than the national average. For people who want to get out, they’ll find a lot of urban bike paths, bike lanes and free bike rentals for guests at most downtown hotels. The city is very walkable. The city blocks are about half the size of most urban centers, so it’s very easy to get out and explore.

Downtown Portland is a short ride away from Forest Park with more than 5,000 acres of national forest. There are 70 miles of hiking trails within the forest. We are an hour and a half away from Mount Hood, an 11,000-sf doormat volcano with glaciers for skiing. We are also not far from the Oregon coast, which is a beautiful rugged coastline with resort beach towns, boardwalks, cotton candy, salt water taffy and blue-collar fishing towns. We are also close to the Columbia River Gorge, a beautiful scenic area with hiking trails, waterfalls and over a million acres of natural forestlands.

What’s the food scene like in Portland?

We are a huge culinary capital on the West Coast with many amazing restaurants and food carts located on the pedestrian levels of the downtown city blocks. We have many different culinary offerings, including excellent restaurants with nationally renowned chefs available for buyout.

There’s a very well-known Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl District called Andina with four private dining rooms, each seating up to 65 guests. The food is amazing and the vibe is edgy and modern. Blue Hour is a French restaurant within the Pearl District with a private dining room for 100 and an expansive wine wall. There are many small restaurants within the city that are also available for buyout or dine-around.

I think we are known more for our drinks though. There are 52 breweries in the city, more than any other city in the world. Hopworks Urban Brewery is my favorite. Craft beer is a huge part of the culture here. Everyone drinks the locally made craft beers. They are absolutely incredible. For anyone that says that they don’t like beer, they haven’t been to Portland. There are hundreds of beers being made in the city every single day. They will definitely find one that they like while visiting.

Portland has a lot of urban wineries, craft distilleries for local spirits and dozens of small batch coffee roasters. Portland is newly known for coffee, sourcing beans from all around the world at one of the many boutique roasters around town. We’re home to Stumptown Coffee, one of the best independent coffee brands, so when it comes time for your morning cup you’ll have plenty of local options to choose from.

Why is the city so passionate about keeping the area green and sustainable? 

It’s really part of the culture here. The pioneer spirit and mentality of taking care of the land, living off the land and respecting the land is still very strong today. People in Portland want to do what’s right for the environment, they want to eat foods that are grown locally and they don’t want to have to travel far to get here. For a very long time Portland had more LEED certified buildings than any other city in the country. Some larger metropolises throughout the country have been able to catch up and surpass us since then, but Portland was the city that started creating buildings that were good for the environment and for businesses. The money that you spend on the front end, ends up saving you when it comes to saving energy and things of that nature.

When you come to Portland, a lot of the things you’ll be doing and the places you’ll be visiting are green and sustainable by nature. We have extensive public transportation, there’s no need to rent a car. It’s a culture that’s been consistent since people were walking across the country to settle here years ago.