Virginia Tech has signed a contract with Houston-based Benchmark Hospitality International for management of the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center beginning Jan. 1.  

 “The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center is a vital expression of Virginia Tech’s commitment to sharing knowledge through outreach,” Virginia Tech Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs John E. Dooley said. “Not only is the inn well known for its comfort, hospitality, and inspirational beauty, but also it has also developed a legacy as a place of shared engagement and learning. We are delighted with our new partnership with Benchmark Hospitality International.”

The inn and conference center have also proved to be a boost to the Blacksburg economy, drawing visitors to its guest rooms and conference facilities, said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations. The contract with Benchmark represents a change in that Hilton Hotels Inc., which will continue to manage the university’s Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, will no longer operate the Blacksburg property.

“While we have appreciated the five-year partnership with Hilton in their joint operation of both facilities in Roanoke and Blacksburg, we believe Benchmark Hospitality International with its international expertise in conferencing will serve us well in the future,” Hincker said.

“Benchmark is thrilled to be the management partner for The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center,” said Burt Cabañas, chairman and CEO of Benchmark Hospitality International. “The property is an outstanding university-based meetings and events facility, supported by an expert team of hospitality professionals and a leading school for hospitality and tourism education.”

Cabañas added, “As a leader in the meetings and hospitality industries for 30 years and a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers, we look forward to working with the existing staff to further develop the property’s business, bringing The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center to new heights of service and success.” 

The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center opened in July 2005, offering a Virginia Tech-themed restaurant, private dining rooms, lounge, and conference rooms. Preston’s, the fine-dining restaurant is named for Col. William Ballard Preston, born at the nearby Smithfield plantation in 1805. Preston, a Virginia senator and secretary of the Navy under President Zachary Taylor, lent his name to the school that preceded the university.

The theme is carried throughout. The Continental Divide lounge, next to Preston's, recalls Blacksburg's location on the Eastern Continental Divide, while the 1872 Salon commemorates Virginia Tech's 1872 founding as a land-grant college. The Huckleberry is a conference room named for the railroad train that brought generations of students to the Huckleberry Station in Blacksburg.

The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, in addition to offering traditional lodging in 147 guest rooms, is also a popular site of conferences, seminars, short classes, workshops, and sporting events. Its 23,705 square feet of flexible meeting space includes three suites and three executive suites suitable for V.I.P. or special-event speakers. Situated at the intersection of West Campus Drive and Prices Fork Road on 25 acres and featuring Alleghany Mountain and golf-course views, the building is clad with the signature Virginia Tech material –  Hokie Stone.

The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center employs approximately 260 people, some of them students and most of them employees of Virginia Tech.

More than a year ago, three entities – the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center Commission,  the Hotel Roanoke LLC (a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation), and Virginia Tech – began seeking proposals from qualified management firms interested in operating the historic hotel, the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center, and the Inn and Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, respectively. The current contract for the three properties with Doubletree Management LLC, a subsidiary of Hilton Hotels, expires Dec. 31.

Benchmark Hospitality International brings three decades of experience operating properties within the Virginias.  The company also manages Stonewall Resort near Weston, W.Va.; The Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach, Va.; and Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., near Washington, D.C.