Jackie King wears two different hats in the association world, so she knows what it takes to pull off a successful annual meeting. She’s executive vice president of King Management Group, an association management company based in Bel Air, MD, and she also serves as executive director for the American Veterinary Distributors Association (AVDA).
She describes some of the elements she looks for when searching for the right destination and property for an annual conference. “Because golf is an important and large component of the AVDA Annual Conference, I typically look for destinations/resorts that have a great golf course on-property or nearby. We also traditionally book properties with at least a AAA Four Diamond rating and like to book properties with additional amenities besides golf, like a spa, or opportunities for activities onsite like horseback riding or fishing. We also like to be at properties that are no longer than one hour from a major airport.”
For AVDA’s 2012 Annual Conference, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico’s Santa Ana Pueblo fit the bill. Located between Albuquerque and Santa Fe at the base of the Sandia Mountains, the resort features 350 pueblo-style guest rooms, the nationally ranked Twin Warriors Golf Club, the Tamaya Mist Spa and horseback riding onsite.
King explained the key role golf can play at an annual conference. “AVDA holds a scramble golf tournament in conjunction with our Annual Conference because it provides a great networking opportunity for our members and allows them to get to know each other on a more personal and in-depth basis,” she notes. “Many of our members develop long-lasting business relationships as a result of the time they spent together on the golf course during our annual tournament. Our tournament usually has over 85 golfers. For a meeting of 225 people, this is a large section of our membership that participates in the golf tournament, so we want the golf course to be top-notch.”
The Hyatt Regency Tamaya turned out to be a good fit. “Our members enjoyed the golf, spa and horseback riding amenities available at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya,” King describes. “They also liked the unique setting of the hotel being on a Native American pueblo, and the fact that the property was in New Mexico was a huge draw. Many of our members had never been there before and wanted the opportunity to explore the area surrounding the Hyatt, particularly Sante Fe. Our members also liked the cultural center and unique cultural activities that were offered at the hotel for our guests.”
The Tamaya Cultural Museum and Learning Center located at the resort gives guests an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Santa Ana Pueblo and the Tamayame culture, which dates back more than 1,000 years. The resort also offers cultural experiences that include traditional pueblo bread-baking demonstrations and Native American dancing and flute playing.
King was also pleased with the resort’s event space. “The resort’s meeting facilities offered lots of flexible space and some unique venues outside for our events,” she notes. “We used the House of the Hummingbird for our welcome reception and had tribal dancers perform as entertainment.”
House of the Hummingbird is a 12,000-sf outdoor ballroom that offers spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains and a sacred butte called Tuyuna Mesa. The venue’s design reflects the style of indigenous pueblo architecture.
“We also liked the indoor space prefunction areas that have a spectacular view of the Sandia Mountains,” King continues. “Our board was also impressed with the tribal boardroom where we were allowed to hold our board meeting. I have never seen another boardroom like it.”
Reserved exclusively for board meetings and set apart from the resort’s other meeting space, the Council Boardroom is an intimate meeting room decorated with hand-painted pueblo maps and pottery. It also features a private fireplace and lounge area.
For its 2013 annual meeting, AVDA has chosen another golf and spa resort the 454-room Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, FL. The 26-acre resort includes the Stillwater Spa and the championship Raptor Bay Golf Club.
The theme for the annual convention of the Associated General Contractors of Virginia (AGCV) could easily be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” According to the organization’s CEO, Steve Vermillion, the group has met at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA, “as far back as anyone can remember,” and he’s been with the organization for more than 20 years. In fact, the historic, 483-room resort has been open longer than anyone can remember. It dates back to 1766.
Although The Homestead has two championship golf courses, golf is not a factor in AGCV’s annual meeting because it’s held in January. The group does, however, host a sporting clay tournament, and they also usually have a bowling tournament. The resort has an eight-lane bowling center onsite.
Vermillion also noted that in addition to about 420 adults, more than 50 children attend the event. “It’s a good place for it. It works out well,” he notes. “Basically, they get turned loose in the daytime for whatever the parents want to do. We negotiate an activity fee with the hotel, where for a flat fee they can go up and ski, they can snowboard, they can ice skate. They can do all those things, and one fee covers it all. It keeps them pretty busy.
“On Friday and Saturday evenings we have an optional program for the young kids, probably two groups, 3 to 6 and 7 to about 12,” he adds. He noted that the resort also has enough activities to keep the older kids occupied. “It’s a big enough and safe enough facility that they just go on their own. We’ve worked hard over the years to make (our event) very family-friendly.”
In terms of meeting space, two of the areas AGCV uses are the resort’s Commonwealth Room, which has a sunken area with railings around it as well as the 13,485-sf Grand Ballroom.
Even though The Homestead offers an extensive list of activities and amenities, Vermillion says that it has something even better. “The best asset they have is their people. They’ve got people that have been there for 40 or 50 years. They know the group. They know a lot of the attendees by name. It’s just a good, warm, comfortable place to go.”
He and his attendees also enjoy the resort’s ambience. “When we’re there in the wintertime, we frequently have it around 5 or 10 degrees outside and maybe a wind blowing and maybe it’s snowing. People go out and do their skiing or sporting clays or whatever, and then they come down to the Grand Hall. They’ve got huge, huge fireplaces cranking away. People gather around and have a drink or some afternoon tea. It’s one of the great things about The Homestead.”
The continuity of holding the annual convention in the same location has worked well for AGCV. Vermillion noted that some kids who have grown up attending the event now work for their parents’ firms. “They still know each other from the relationships they established 10 years ago when they were 9 years old. It works having it in the same place. It’s a good, safe, friendly place.”
This spring, The Homestead will debut the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. In addition to offering a full menu of the renowned spa’s signature treatments, the new spa will offer Aquavana, described as a “European-inspired aquathermal oasis.” It also will be the first Canyon Ranch SpaClub to introduce family spa services.
The new spa should prove popular with AGCV’s attendees. “They’ve always been very heavy users of the spa,” Vermillion explains. “They usually are booked solid during our event.”
The American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) has chosen the legendary La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA, as the site of its annual conference in July. Set on 400 rolling acres in Southern California’s coastal foothills, La Costa offers 611 guest rooms including luxury villas and suites, as well as 36 holes of golf and 17 tennis courts, seven of which are lit for night play.
The resort is also home to the 28,000-sf Spa at La Costa, the first resort spa established in the U.S. The Spanish Colonial-style spa offers 42 treatment rooms and has been recognized by Spa Magazine as the “#1 Wellness Spa in the Nation.”
Matilda Dhima, DMD, director of public relations for AAWD and Fellow at the Mayo Clinic Department of Dental Specialties, describes her organization’s rationale for choosing a spa resort for its annual event. “It allows for attendees and members to interact socially in environments that focus on relaxation, mind, body and spirit health,” she notes. “This meeting weekend for our organization has the focus of WEALTH — (Wisdom, Excellence, Achievement, Leadership, Teambuilding and Health) for women dentists, their staff members and their families.
“What a great way to offer the above to our members of AAWD,” she continues. “One of the main focuses of the association is to empower our members and strengthen and create new friendships between busy women dentists.”
Fred Stringfellow, CAE, president of the association management firm Stringfellow Management Group Inc., located in Bel Air, MD, explained why golf matters. “I think most of our association meetings do have a golf tournament or golf outing component. It’s always been a great networking opportunity for associations where there is a supplier/customer relationship, which is certainly typical. It’s a way to bring both sides together to pair them up. You also have the flexibility of controlling how your golfers are paired, so we really find that works hand in hand with the networking spirit of most association meetings.”
He describes some of the factors he looks for when evaluating resort properties. “What we find is that it’s always nice when they have golf on-property because that’s less time you have to spend transporting your guests, and you avoid the cost of transportation to go to a course that’s not on-property, so it definitely works well to have that at the resort.”
Stringfellow explains that for those who do not play golf, a trip to the spa is “the next natural thing to do. We also have tennis tournaments at our meetings, as well. We usually try not to run tennis and golf at the same time so they’re not competing.”
He also says that location is also important, and that he looks for properties that are “as close as you can be to an airport and still call yourself a resort. That’s always a plus. Distance to the airport is probably the biggest deterrent when it comes to deciding whether to have it at a resort versus a downtown property. So for those (golf resorts) that are within 30 minutes of a relatively major airport, that’s a huge benefit.
“One of the nice things about having a meeting at a resort versus a downtown property is that you’ve got kind of a captive audience,” he continues. “They’re more likely to eat at the hotel restaurants and hang out in the lounge areas and things like that at a resort than they are at a city property. So it really kind of reinforces that networking theme again. Many of our clients have two major meetings a year, so for almost all of them, one of the two, at least, would be at a resort property.”
Sometimes, the very industry the group belongs to will determine the types of recreational activities they want to pursue. Stringfellow gave an example. “One of the associations we manage is the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA), so the members of that association build tennis courts, and track and field and sports facilities. We just got back from a resort meeting with them in Puerto Rico. The tennis portion of that was very important for obvious reasons as well as golf and other things.”
ASBA’s winter meeting was held at the Rio Mar Beach Resort, A Wyndham Grand Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The 600-room resort offers the Tom and George Fazio-designed Ocean Course, the Greg Norman-designed River Course and the Balinese-inspired Mandara Spa. It is also home to the Peter Burwash Tennis Center, which includes 11 Har-Tru courts and two hard courts.
The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, TX, recently completed its new Westin Workout Fitness Studio. One of the studio’s innovative features is its blue-light technology that uses energizing fluorescent lighting to positively impact guests’ workouts. The resort also has introduced a new grab-and-go market called Henrietta’s, and is adding a new lobby-level meeting space named the San Xavier room.
The Serenity by the Sea spa at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Destin, FL, was recently recognized as one of the “Top 270 Spas in North America, Caribbean, Mexico and at Sea” in the Condé Nast Traveler 2013 Readers’ Poll. The 11,000-sf facility features 16 treatment rooms.
This spring, The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, FL is scheduled to open its Heavenly Spa by Westin. Measuring 14,000 sf, the new spa will include 10 treatment rooms and will offer a Halotherapy salt steam room, a Vichy shower, a relaxation area featuring a “Wall-of-Rain” and a spa café.
The 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando offers a wide range of golf-related services to help groups plan successful golf tournaments and outings. The resort’s onsite 18-hole course at Shingle Creek Golf Club offers five sets of tees to allow players to adapt their play to the appropriate level of difficulty, and a customized website can be created to help organize and keep track of the tournament. The course also has a state-of-the-art GPS system that makes it easy for organizations to recognize hole sponsors and distribute tournament notes.
Just like golfers themselves, many golf resorts are looking for ways to improve their game. For example, now that the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami is part of the Trump Hotel Collection, the company has announced plans to invest more than $200 million to improve the resort, including renovations to the resort’s legendary Blue Monster course. As Donald Trump, the Trump Organization’s chairman and president says, “When completed, Doral will be the finest resort and golf club in the country.” For “the Donald” to have such an ambitious plan sounds like par for the course. AC&F