“In the meetings industry, you might say you never have enough meeting space,” says Gino Caliendo, general manager of Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in Florida. But the 110,000 square feet of meeting space at his waterfront property is more than enough for most planners to work with, particularly those looking for a large location between Atlanta and Orlando. Caliendo says planners are attracted to the hotel’s 21,000 square feet of waterfront outdoor space, where they can work with the city to prepare a fireworks show for attendees. The property’s location allows for easy access to Jacksonville’s extensive water taxi system, as well as the opportunity to arrange events like a dinner cruise on the St. Johns River without having to bus attendees to the docks. Nearing the end of a multimillion-dollar soft renovation of all of its 963 sleeping rooms, lobby, fitness center, pool and meeting rooms—slated to be completed late this fall—the Hyatt property is intentionally creating spaces that are “more connective, accessible and communal,” says Caliendo.
With a background in food and beverage within the Hyatt brand, Caliendo is particularly passionate about creating an interactive relationship between the kitchen and the planner. “We want to get away from the standard three- and four-course banquet meals, so we’ve done personal-preference dinners for up to 700 people,” he says.
Groups such as Christian Healing Ministries, The Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith International, and National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses have each utilized the property for meetings. “The planner who chooses our hotel is placing an incredible amount of trust in us,” says Caliendo. “It’s our job not to only meet their expectations, but to exceed them.”