Embracing Drive-in MeetingsApril 1, 2017

The Multiple Benefits of Steering to the Right Site By
April 1, 2017

Embracing Drive-in Meetings

The Multiple Benefits of Steering to the Right Site


Meeting and event planners turn to regional drive-in meet­ings to keep costs down and draw the maximum number of attendees. Moreover, drive-in meetings in or near city centers are convenient and walkable, which enhances the overall experience — exactly what planners and attendees want more than ever nowadays. Here are a few options to consider from coast to coast.

East Coast Classics

Lansdowne Resort and Spa sprawls across 476 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in Leesburg, Virginia. Rich in history and at the gateway of Virginia wine country, the resort is deeply connected to nature and the region. It’s also the ideal locale for a drive-in meeting or event for attendees from the East Coast.

Glynnis Judy, corporate meeting event specialist at Taylors, South Carolina-based Touchpoint Energized Communications, produced a corporate event of high-level executives. The two-day meeting featured a reception on the first night and an outing on the second evening. There were general sessions each day.

“They may be able to take advantage of the venue’s golf course because it’s easier to throw the clubs in the trunk than it is to bring them along on a flight.”
— Glynnis Judy

“The majority of the attendees drove, and there were about 40 to 45 people in attendance,” Judy says. “Usually, if you have a beautiful venue like Lans­downe, attendees can plan to arrive early and enjoy the property. They’re usually more relaxed when they’ve driven because they haven’t had to deal with airline issues, crowds, etc. They may be able to take advantage of the venue’s golf course because it’s easier to throw the clubs in the trunk than it is to bring them along on a flight.”

The Lansdowne resort features 55,000 sf of event space, exquisite cuisine, recreation and experiences tied to the destination, leaving guests feeling inspired with a new perspective. Just miles away from Washington, DC, Lansdowne is heir to a cherished tradition of Virginia hospitality and is the only full-service, four-diamond resort in the area.

“We’ve found that drive-in meetings help the meetings flow better as you can plan for a specific start time if you don’t have to work around airline delays,” Judy says. “Lansdowne is a beautiful property set in an easy-to-reach location and close to major cities. You get the feeling of being far away in a beautiful, lush environment without having to travel too far.​”

Nearby, Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley is a premier destination for meetings, conferences and social escapes in the greater DC and Baltimore area because of its proximity to and drivability from both cities. Surrounded by Maryland’s renowned horse country, Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley is consistently booked by large corporations (including Under Armour, McCormick Corporation, Lucent Technologies, Becton Dickinson and more). The property provides meeting planners the best of both worlds — easy access to the nation’s largest corporate headquarters and complete serenity in nature.

With an under-the-radar profile, the area’s largest collection of meeting space at 30,000 sf and the capacity to accommodate 1,200 event attendees, Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley is the ideal location for high-powered groups looking for access to Washington and Baltimore. It is close to attractions yet removed from distractions. And better yet, there’s complimentary parking for 900.

Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley boasts a transformative redesign of all interior spaces blending an authentic countryside vibe with a luxurious, modern style.

Another popular drive-in destination is Connecticut where expansion is the name of the game. Leaders of the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Sun gathered recently to announce the official plans for The Mohegan Sun Expo Center. Construction is underway with a target opening date of summer 2018. The expansion will span more than 240,000 gross sf and will be located by the Winter Garage and in close proximity to Mohegan Sun’s newest hotel, Earth Tower. Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown stated, “This new conference center will help solidify Mohegan Sun as not just the premier conventions destination, but the premier resort in the Northeast region. It will enable us to host some of the largest trade shows in the nation and take back some of the lost conventions that seek bigger venues in Boston and New York.”

The 21,412-sf ballroom is divisible into two and will feature more than 3,000 sf of prefunction space. There will be 18 meeting rooms in total.

More features include free parking, six loading docks from an open parking field and additional drive-in access from two grade level drive-in doors.

Additional features include a mobile box office, advanced technology, digital displays inside and outside the center, free Wi-Fi and contiguous exhibit space.

The new Expo Center will be a column-free structure with clerestory windows. The main circulation spine that connects the exposition hall to the prefunction area also provides access to the overall facility, including the ballroom and adjustable meeting rooms. Along this path, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors lead visitors onto an outdoor patio that adds gathering space in warm weather and buffers the building from Cove Road that loops around the entire site. Greenery extends east to the recently completed Earth Tower, which shares the same grand entry as the Sky Tower.

Interior finishes will recall the Tribe’s cultural history, with custom carpeting and light fixtures that reflect Native American motifs, the nearby Thames River and the color palettes of the Earth and Sky Towers.

Once the Expo Center is completed in the summer of 2018, Mohegan Sun will be home to the largest meetings and convention spaces between Boston and New York City.

Just a two-hour drive from New York or Boston, another attractive drive-in site in Connecticut is Saybrook Point Inn and Spa in Saybrook, which offers a variety of venue options — from traditional to non-traditional settings for meetings, along with creative teambuilding activities including an Iron Chef-style cooking competition in their award-winning restaurant Fresh Salt, New England-style fishing boat excursions and scavenger hunts on a hiking trail.

The Hilton Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center in Meadowlands, New Jersey, also is a favorite drive-in conference hotel featuring 30,000 sf of flexible space. This Northern New Jersey events venue features 15 meeting rooms and two ballrooms, complete with high-speed internet access, videoconferencing services and complimentary event parking.

Pittsburgh on Your Own

Susan Zachardy, events coordinator at GPD Group in Akron, Ohio, understands the importance of having as many attendees as possible for a meeting or event. She recently orchestrated a drive-in leadership retreat for GPD Group at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thirty-one executives participated for a full-day event with a facilitator. As corporations continue to tighten their proverbial purse strings, they recognize that not all meetings are conducive to people’s schedules or the company budget — especially those that are held in locales that require the majority of attendees to fly in. But regional drive-in meetings offer cost-effective options to productive getaways without hurting the bottom line.

“The vast majority of past meetings for GPD Group have required flying,” Zachardy says. “The only other two cities we have driven to were Detroit and Niagara Falls. From a planning standpoint the hardest part of planning in the past has been having to put so many people on planes. Driving offers all attendees (the option) to arrive on their own time schedule.”

For GPD Group’s most recent leadership retreat, all 31 attendees drove — from different locations in Ohio and Indiana.

“The convenient location of the hotel was a drawing point, and I investigated four hotels in the Pittsburgh area and was most impressed with the courteous, knowledgeable and helpfulness of the people that I had original contact with at Hotel Monaco,” Zachardy says.

Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh is located in downtown Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, right next to Mellon Square Park. Its location offers great bars and restaurants within easy reach, and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, bus station and train station are all within four blocks.

Pittsburgh is easily accessible by car from most Northeast cities, and Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh plays host to some of the best meetings in town. Located within a six-hour drive or less from nine states, Washington DC, and parts of Canada, Pittsburgh is both easy and affordable to travel to by car. There is an abundance of parking options, from hotel valet, to several parking garages and lots within a five-minute walk, to plenty of street parking — ideal options for drive-in attendees.

West Coast Wows

For Denise Odle, sales assistant and meeting planner at Iridex Corporation in Mountain View, California, drive-in meetings that are close to the main office provide attendees flexibility, which gives them the option to leave when necessary.

“Not only can they go home at night to be with family, if necessary, but they are also available to go back to the office or other local meetings/events that they need to attend,” Odle says. “A few of our attendees did have to leave for other meetings but came back. Coming and going like that is easier when you don’t have to fly to and from the venue.”

Odle recently planned a yearly global sales kickoff meeting with the sales, marketing, engineering and executive teams at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa in Monterey, California.

“The sales team was provided with new info, strategy and goals for 2017 along with the opportunity to provide feedback to the main office staff,” Odle says.

Designated as an eight-time Forbes Four Star-rated hotel, the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa features breathtaking views of the ocean, and the hotel’s ideal location provides easy access to the area’s most vibrant attractions, including Cannery Row, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf and recreational activities such as world-class golf, sailing, scuba diving and whale watching.

The hotel’s oceanview event venues are welcoming sites for executive retreats, conferences and seminars, while the ballrooms have adjacent outdoor terraces and beautiful waterfront settings for receptions and social events. The Outdoor Plaza is a stunning, open-air location for private cocktail parties, banquets or barbecues.

“We chose the Monterey area because it was fairly close to the main office, and we didn’t have to fly the entire team to the venue,” Odle says. “But the location is still far enough away and in a cute little tourist area so that people at least feel like they were getting away from the norm.”

Paige Cecil, meeting planner and administrative coordinator for FreshSource LLC, in Orange, California, recently coordinated an awards dinner at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa for a retail partner. Attendees included the retailer’s employees (the award winners), executives, and a select few of their vendors. All attendees were invited to stay two nights and to select the complimentary activity of their choice.

“With the exception of a handful of vendors, most drove to the event,” Cecil says. “There were approximately 140 attendees. The biggest benefit to drive-in meetings is that the attendees are spending less time with travel. Flying is becoming more and more stressful, so a more local event means the attendees are more likely to enjoy themselves.”

Michelle Wilson, a corporate meeting planner who recently orchestrated her company’s second three-day teambuilding and celebration meeting at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz, California, had 11 attendees drive to this offsite event.

“Drive-in meetings offer privacy and focus,” Wilson says. “When away from the office and in a relaxed atmosphere, I have found drive-in meetings to be an outstanding experience. Offsite meetings have provided our groups with the aforementioned privacy and focus as well as the chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful location. With everyone at one site, participants aren’t running to meeting after meeting trying to keep up. The Ropes Course is a tremendous teambonding experience and one we’ve enjoyed immensely. Having leisure time between workshops and the ability to enjoy meals together or have a bit of private time to rejuvenate helps tremendously.”

At Chaminade Resort & Spa they offer the Benchmark Conference Plan (BCP) — a one-price-per-person package that conference professionals tailor to a company’s specific objectives. The BCP is a unique and exclusive offering including overnight accommodations, meals, continuous refreshment service, conference space including amphitheaters, boardrooms, large conference rooms and smaller breakout rooms. Each room is set to specifications with ergonomic furnishings. High-tech audio-visual equipment also is part of the package.

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, a working ranch located on 10,500 acres in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, about 30 miles northeast of Santa Barbara, is a popular drive-in destination for meetings and events. From custom teambuilding and corporate events, Alisal creates programs for groups of all sizes.

The property is made up of 73 cottages all with working wood-burning fireplaces — and without phones or televisions (although they do have Wi-Fi throughout the property) — making it a truly rustic escape from the daily grind. The Alisal offers various group and teambuilding activities, from ropes courses to country dancing, as well as a winemakers dinner and winery tours. The resort’s Meet & Play package is designed for groups who like to split their time between meetings and recreation. This package includes unlimited recreational activities, including horseback riding, golf, fishing and tennis.

Located 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa offers a variety of beautiful indoor and outdoor event venues that will motivate and inspire attendees. Hyatt Regency Indian Wells offers more than 88,000 sf of meeting space accommodating any type of event, from a stunning outdoor event on the Serena Vista Lawn to a full-scale trade show in the Indian Wells Ballroom.

Tina Oliver, meeting planner with Onyx Meetings and Events in Kansas City, Missouri, recently orchestrated a drive-in corporate event at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California.

“This particular meeting is very special. It’s a celebration and thank you from the company to its employees because of their dedication and hard work,” Oliver says. “Each attendee is invited to bring a guest. We have one day of meetings and one day of giving back to the community, and it ends with an awards celebration.”

Spanning 400 rolling acres in the coastal foothills of Carlsbad, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is the premier destination for drive-in meetings, conferences and social escapes in Southern California area because of its proximity to and drivability from both San Diego and Los Angeles. Consistently booked by large corporations, the property provides meeting planners the best of both worlds, easy access to the nation’s largest corporate headquarters such as med-tech giants in San Diego and La Jolla and entertainment in Los Angeles.

“We chose Omni because of their location, size and service. There were 700 people in attendance and 60 percent drove,” Oliver says. “The attendees love drive-in meetings because they can be flexible. We have several attendees that take advantage of the more scenic routes that they don’t typically get to take. I love it because it saves on airfare and allows me the opportunity to spend it in other areas, such as a great keynote speaker, or a well-known band for the welcome reception.”

Southern Gems

Whether it’s for corporate retreats, conferences or executive meetings, Callaway Gardens offers a diverse selection of traditional and non-traditional meeting venues as well as a number of lodging, dining, shopping and recreational options throughout the resort for guests to create a customized day outing. This property, which is popular with the Southeast drive market, is just 70 minutes from Atlanta.

Southern hospitality and the expertise and resources of a city that hosts nearly 11 million visitor days annually, makes Panama City Beach the ideal destination in Florida for meetings, groups, conferences and conventions. Whether it’s a business conference, convention, or executive retreat there are endless options in this beachside community with more than 160,000 sf of flexible meeting space complete with stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico or St. Andrews Bay.

The newly renovated Sheraton Bay Point resort is now open and offers 60,000 sf of flexible indoor and outdoor event space including a 12,000-sf ballroom, 8,000-sf junior ballroom, eight additional breakout rooms, 22 individual meeting rooms, outdoor lawns and a covered deck and private bay beach among other venues that cater to a group’s needs. From large conventions for up to 1,500 attendees to intimate board meetings, the Sheraton Bay Point Resort offers a catering staff that can fulfill all dining expectations.

Located on the South Carolina coast, close to Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, Montage Palmetto Bluff is recognized as a premier destination for board meetings, client events, corporate retreats and incentive programs. There are a wealth of activities and dining options as well as meeting space with a residential atmosphere and gorgeous views of the May River. Located on 20,000 acres in South Carolina’s low country, Montage Palmetto Bluff is adorned with 100-year-old oak trees and 35 miles of waterfront, providing an unforgettable backdrop for a board meeting, executive retreat or client event. The facilities include more than 16,000 sf of flexible meeting space, including a 7,000-sf ballroom and a 1,800-sf ballroom with an outdoor veranda overlooking the May River. C&IT

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