With beautiful beaches and warm weather, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, have a strong case for meetings business for small associations that see their event as a chance for attendees to tack on a family vacation. The setting allows for golfing and fishing excursions, as well as zip lining and paddleboarding teambuilding activities. In May, Gulf Shores Welcome Center debuted its new building, symbolic of the push the region is making to draw planners and attendees to the year-round destination. A look at what’s new and coming:
> Down the road in Foley, Alabama, the $32 million Foley Sports Tourism Complex, currently in development, will also have a 90,000-sq.-ft. indoor events center to host association events, conventions and trade shows. It’s scheduled to come online by Memorial Day 2017.
> You won’t find big hotels with huge conference centers along the beach, as the area is suited to a different type of meeting experience. While a SpringHill Suites is now open in Orange Beach and a Hotel Indigo is set to join by March 2017, condominium-hotel buildings like Phoenix All Suites Hotels often work well for smaller meetings.
> The Event Center at Cosmo’s Courtyard, which had its grand opening in July, can accommodate 200 attendees for an event or reception. Another addition this year will be Big Beach Brewing Company, the first craft brewery in Gulf Shores.