Finding the energy to keep up in today’s fast-paced world has led many Americans to improve their diets and increase their activity and exercise. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness retreats within the corporate environment now account for 14 percent of all tourism expenditures, and are expected to surpass 23 percent over the next two years. Indeed, today’s corporate environment has embraced the wellness trend — incorporating wellness and fitness activities, and healthful food options throughout all facets of their meetings.
Kial Afton, corporate meeting and event planner at the New York City office of NBCUniversal, is a perfect example of a corporate planner who tries to incorporate wellness options into many of NBCUniversal’s retreat and incentive programs.
“Exercising…offers a way for people to clear their heads, which allows them to look at a situation, business proposal or presentation with fresh eyes. In short, it helps people to be their best selves.” — Kial Afton
“Over the past 1 1/2 years, we’ve seen a surge in requests for fitness-based teambuilding activities, including group spin classes and morning hikes where attendees have a working breakfast upon arrival,” Afton says. “We also incorporate Radius, a fitness Internet subscription video service, into client programs to alert them to new ventures.”
Additionally, many of NBCUniversal’s programs offer optional activities — ranging from spa treatments to golf to early morning boot camp classes.
“As each client has different interests, we offer a wide variety to ensure there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” Afton says. “Aside from the health benefits, exercising on a regular basis has been proven to help people be happier and more productive in the workplace. It offers a way for people to clear their heads, which allows them to look at a situation, business proposal or presentation with fresh eyes. In short, it helps people to be their best selves.”
NBCUniversal recently held a retreat for powerful women within the industry at Cal-a-Vie, located just north of San Diego in Vista, California. Voted one of the top destination spas in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, the resort frequently caters to corporate and incentive groups for wellness-focused retreats.
“In just a few hours, we saw the women leaving stress behind, letting their guard down, letting loose and enjoying themselves,” Afton says. “Any destination where guests can be surrounded by colleagues and clients, and feel comfortable wearing no makeup and spandex while sprinting up a hill, is a rarity.”
Cal-a-Vie is a serene French Provencal-styled destination spa featuring 32 elegant villas surrounded by 200 rolling acres of citrus groves, vineyards and lavender fields. The private spa creates a serene setting for tailored incentive programs that ignite productivity, inspire teambuilding and bonding, recharge the body and rejuvenate the spirit.
“Companies are starting to realize the importance of investing in the health and wellness of their employees,” says Cal-a-Vie’s onsite group sales manager, Colleen Cosenza. “Planners are now more focused on booking experiences that will benefit attendees long after the retreat is over.”
Groups can personalize their Cal-a-Vie experience with professional guest speakers, tailored activities and the full range of Cal-a-Vie amenities and services such as more than 150 fitness classes, nutritional experts, sunrise hikes, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis clinics, spa treatments and an 18-hole golf course. Group teambuilding activities can include sand and water volleyball, scavenger hunts, water relay races, obstacle courses, golf and tennis tournaments and interactive cooking classes.
“There is always a high level of interest in events that focus on wellness and exercise,” Afton says. For example, the chairman of NBCUniversal advertising sales and client partnerships incorporates exercise into her daily routine, as well as many of her client and senior leadership programs.
“We are currently planning to return for our third visit to Cal-a-Vie in February 2016,” Afton says. “The feedback we’ve received from attendees who have participated in Cal-a-Vie retreats in past years is unlike any other event we host. People find themselves interacting at a personal level, even if business is at the forefront, which allows for deeper and more honest communication moving forward, which ultimately is a win-win for all parties involved.”
By adding a health and wellness component to corporate retreats, companies can help employees jump-start a healthier, more productive lifestyle by teaching them how to eat better and incorporate fitness into their busy professional lives.
“Attendees appreciate the fact that their employers care about their health, which inadvertently creates a sense of loyalty to the company,” says Cosenza. “When employees are healthier, they have more clarity and become more productive, which in turn benefits the company as a whole.”
Libby Crooker, vice president of international support at Hastings, Minnesota-based Anytime Fitness, handles meeting and event planning for the company. Crooker agrees that incorporating wellness has long-term benefits. She brought 2,100 attendees to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in September for the company’s annual conference.
“Studies show that one’s ability to learn and retain information is increased with movement,” Crooker says. “Sedentary learning, while common, is simply less effective. Therefore, in a conference environment, our goal is always to offer activities that exercise the mind and the body.”
In addition to incorporating early morning workouts during their meeting and incentive travel programs, Anytime Fitness also arranges for at least one speaker to talk about a relevant medical advancement around optimum health.
“While in Scottsdale we hired Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, the chief medical officer of Well & Being, whose engaging message on nutrition was one of the most popular of all the sessions at our conference,” Crooker says.
Well & Being is an innovative spa/wellness concept at luxury hotels. Well & Being has developed a meetings-focused Wellness Menu for groups with a variety of fitness options and workshops on how to use packing items that can double as fitness equipment.
Brennan Evans, the managing director of Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has found that corporations are looking for ways to entice their attendees with a unique point of difference that sets their conference apart from others.
“The opportunity to tap into the variety of fun and innovative health and wellness options is enticing to meeting planners as it allows them to use the spa facility as a true educational moment and not just a luxury amenity,” Evans says. “At Well & Being, we use a wide array of fitness programs and special wellness offerings to provide energizing educational and informative classes or teambuilding events to provide groups with networking opportunities in a less intimidating environment.”
The challenge courses on the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess property have been especially popular with large groups who want to provide a pre-meeting workout that is fitness-focused while helping guests improve their teamwork skills.
“One recent meeting group — Anytime Fitness — incorporated a session on aerial yoga into their day of meetings, and it was a big hit,” Evans says.
On the educational end, Well & Being has incorporated nutrition programs into group classes focused on education and teambuilding. Groups also can incorporate integrative health programs — such as mindful eating or women’s health — featuring insightful sessions with Well & Being coaches.
“Businesses have noticed a connection between a healthy lifestyle, employee productivity and a positive work environment — not to mention the financial savings that come to a company that has healthier employees,” Evans says. “Health education offers long-term, takeaway benefits. A wellness program during business travel allows guests to learn and experience wellness options that they can incorporate into daily life.”
Since the Well & Being program launched, Evans and his team have seen a significant jump in group activities, such as exercise classes and workshops, and a 50 percent increase in individual bookings.
“With this in mind, we’ve tripled the number of onsite group wellness programs,” Evans says.
Due to the nature of the industry in which they work — natural health products, health and wellness — a wellness component always has been integrated into the corporate and incentive travel programs for the Salt Lake City, Utah-based United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), an international consortium of forward-looking companies dedicated to providing consumers with natural health products of superior quality, benefit and reliability, says Kira Olsen, director of operations and member services at UNPA, who plans the company’s meetings and events.
“Organizations are beginning to see the success of incorporating fresh, new elements into their conferences and programs,” Olsen says. “Years ago, we decided to incorporate the wellness concept into our annual member meeting, therefore morphing it into what we so proudly refer to as our Annual UNPA Members Retreat. That’s when we decided to step away from the typical conference and meeting format, and make our retreat a unique experience.”
In the past, Olsen has incorporated activities such as river rafting, river jetboat rides, golf, spa services, aerial hammock yoga, circuit classes and acupressure demonstrations into the company’s retreats.
“We’ve heard it said time and time again that our annual event is different than most due to the incorporation of wellness components,” Olsen says. “Our attendees look forward to it and know that they will not only receive valuable information but will enjoy themselves — that’s when the magic happens. We’ve found that combining business and pleasure is extremely rewarding, personally and professionally. It creates a very productive synergy. There are many workaholics out there that will discredit the activities by saying that they are not productive or necessary. I couldn’t disagree more; in my experience, incorporating wellness concepts really brings people together. It helps provide opportunities to practice what we preach.”
While some corporate and meeting event planners sprinkle various wellness components throughout a function, others incorporate complete wellness immersion programs. For example, The Ranch at Live Oaks Malibu offers an active and intense seven-day program along with education about health and wellness combined with measurable results and fat loss.
“Like The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu seven-day stay, the daily routine at The Ranch 4.0 consists of eight to 10 hours per day of rigorous exercise including four hours of morning mountain hiking and an afternoon full of exercise classes,” says Alex Glassock, co-founder of The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu. “The intense daily physical regimen is complemented by a daily 1,400-calorie diet of vegetarian fare served in a charming, private greenhouse setting.
The Ranch 4.0 program, while still strenuous, can accommodate larger groups than the traditional Ranch at Live Oak Malibu program, allowing for more flexibility in the programming. The group-friendly option can work for groups of up to 200 or 300 attendees.
The program and daily schedule can be tailored for each group’s needs including breakout sessions during the day.
“Being in a group environment creates a special dynamic and bonding experience. People tend to come away from the program with measurable results both physically and mentally,” Glassock says.
Jack Ezon, president of NYC-based Ovation Vacations, believes wellness options at meetings and events breed all-around good will. “Focusing on wellness shows participants that their company cares about them personally — their health, their well-being, their lifestyle,” Ezon says. “It shows that the company cares more than just their work output and wants to lend a hand in improving their lives beyond the office or bottom line. In addition, participating in challenging physical activity together brings people closer.”
Ezon says that adding wellness components to meetings he’s orchestrated has led to an overwhelmingly positive response. In fact, one company group experimented with a 7:00 a.m. yoga class. They expected five people, but 50 showed up.
Jeff Vivacqua, senior vice president of marketing at Fairfield, Iowa-based Cambridge Research, helps with the company’s corporate travel programs. Vivacqua notes that Cambridge has an active wellness committee, and the company’s events team is very mindful of wellness as a relevant aspect of the event planning process. The company is recognized for its culture and values, and their wellness approach is an extension of that.
“A focus on wellness communicates to our attendees that we care about all aspects of their lives while providing a well-rounded event experience. We seek to incorporate wellness in ways that make sense for our event attendees and their guests,” says Vivacqua. “We plan events for the whole person, which means more than providing content intended to stimulate thinking. We recognize that wellness is an important part of an attendee’s everyday lifestyle, and we want to reflect that in our events.”
Cambridge offers a variety of wellness-related activity options during events such as yoga and Pilates classes, sports and physical activity-driven offsite options, such as horseback riding, paddleboarding and bike riding.
“We also host an annual 5k fun run at our national conference, offer spa activities, as well as expand our offerings of healthy food at events,” Vivacqua says. “Our events team sees more companies incorporating exercise into their event schedules while more are getting creative with healthy menus for meals and breaks, as well as ensuring down time is available for individual or group exercise and use of spa offerings.”
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa’s Mindy Miller worked with a corporate event planner who requested a wellness break to refocus the meeting attendees and provide them a relaxing breather during a long meeting.
“Our Lantana Spa, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, brought spa treatments to them at their meeting space and provided hand massages for tired hands that were taking notes or typing on laptops,” Miller says. “A scent journey of essential oils created an added element of uniqueness as employees could breathe in different essential oils to wake up the senses and re-energize before returning to the meeting.
Brain breaks with healthful, homemade granola bars, mixed nuts, fruits and smoothies is another popular option for meeting planners to request and fend off the afternoon slump that everyone can experience.”
For Jeffrey Cesari, CMP, corporate meeting planner at Philadelphia-based IHG Meetings & Events, wellness is something that is often forgotten about during corporate and incentive programs. By building an optional wellness plan to include food and beverage options and fitness, it allows those who want to do something healthful the opportunity to take action because it’s now easily accessible.
“Seeing a fitness option as an agenda item, one is more likely to participate versus hitting that snooze button one more time,” Cesari says. “Many of our clients are requesting some time of activity. It’s great for teambuilding and health. One new trend we’re seeing is to incorporate fitness with giving back to the community — as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’re now talking with ZogSports to bring them in to help us with a client event. This company organizes sports like kickball or basketball, and the teams from the company compete and play to win a company-sponsored donation to a charity of their choice. It’s a great idea, and clients love it.”
Kavin Schieferdecker from Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas, agrees that there is a rising demand for health and wellness offerings, especially when the activities can be tied in to a larger community involvement component.
“Fitness culture has become an increasingly popular trend within the mainstream market, and it seemed only a matter of time before this trend permeated the meetings industry,” Schieferdecker says. “One experience that stands out in particular is an educational software company that utilized a portion of our outdoor park for a high-energy, deejay-hosted sunrise fitness class for 1500+ people — it was so much fun. It’s great when this emphasis can continue during that company’s corporate meetings or incentive trips, and hopefully serve as a tool to boost productivity and teambuilding.”
Surrounded by the inspiring Topa Topa Mountains of Southern California, the 31,000-sf day spa at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is the focal point of this serene resort village, which includes two pools, a fully equipped workout room, Mind and Body Studio, Spa Boutique and Artist Cottage and Apothecary, one of the few authentic resort art studios.
The resort offers such Mind & Body programs as guided meditation, Pilates mat work, Pilates on the roller, Qi Gong and several types of yoga from gentle to strength and stretch.
In a setting as natural as Ojai, it is only fitting that it is home to one of America’s premier Southern California golf resorts and championship golf courses. This 18-hole golf course plays 6,292 yards with a par 70, rating of 71.0 and a slope of 132.
Forbes Travel Guide recently awarded Eau Spa with its Five Star rating. Situated on the grounds of Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Palm Beach County, Florida, Eau Spa is one of fewer than 50 spas around the world to earn the prestigious rating.
Catherine Warren, director of Eau Spa, said, “This reflects our team’s dedication to providing guests with unparalleled luxury spa experiences that underscore the ‘Pause, Play and Perfect’ vision — which is where time stands still, worries are forgotten and well-deserved “me time” is all that remains. An Eau Spa visit is a total sensorial experience that’s customized to what your mind and body need at the time with effective and precise technique…always injected with fun.”
Eau Spa is a 42,000-sf adult retreat featuring personalized experiences that are fun and free of judgment. Guests are greeted by “spa fairies” offering gourmet cupcakes and chilled champagne. Nineteen treatment rooms set the stage for beauty and wellness treatments, with technology that customizes light and aroma therapy in addition to musical soundtracks to each guest’s specification. The expansive salon earned a perfect score from the Forbes judges. Relaxation areas include private garden villas with alfresco soaking tubs and waterfall showers; bath lounges; scrub and polish bars; and the Self Centered Garden with airy cabanas, dipping pools, suspended swinging chairs, music and refreshing cocktails.
In addition to the inviting spa treatments, the resort offers several wellness-themed teambuilding and meeting breakout programs, such as a professional deejay mixing class, artistic painting with wine-pairing and group fitness classes including chair yoga, group cycling and meditation.
Enchantment Resort & Spa in Sedona, Arizona is home to Mii amo, recently named one of the world’s top destination spas by Travel + Leisure.
Mii amo, a 24,000-sf destination spa at Enchantment offers full- 60- and 90-minute treatments, including massage, wraps, facials, Reiki, Aura-Soma, Watsu, and signature therapies. Highly trained therapists provide a number of restorative therapies using Mii amo signature blends of oils and lotions. Ongoing activities include high intensity interval training, yoga, Pilates, guided meditation, wellness lectures, and demo classes in cooking, juicing, teas and organic gardening and composting. An additional 16 guest rooms are located at Mii amo. These are available as part of an all-inclusive package, ideal for individual incentive and reward programs.
Enchantment offers guests the opportunity to play Seven Canyons, a private golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. Tournaments and challenges may be customized for groups, and The Clubhouse offers a spectacular setting for offsite events.
Enchantment Resort provides an excellent location, atmosphere and facilities for teambuilding. Outdoor programs include golf challenges, scavenger hunts, Jeep tours, GPS missions and athletic challenges. Popular indoor activities involve music and film creation, and culinary-themed events such as chili cook-offs, margarita/salsa making and wine tasting.
Also, more than 100 activities are offered weekly, including guided hiking and mountain biking excursions, tennis and golf clinics, fitness classes, art classes, Native American programs and stargazing, all of which can be customized for groups. Area activities include jeep tours, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, aerial tours by plane and helicopter, Native American ruin sites, kayaking, wine-tasting, ghost town tours, Grand Canyon excursions, and boutique and gallery shopping.
The culinary team creates customized menus, artfully presented to complement the event’s theme and attendees. Meals can be designed to meet gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian or other dietary requests. Healthful, energizing breaks might include colorful handmade artisan sodas, nutrient-packed smoothies, and a tea bar featuring Mii amo’s private label white, green and black teas.
The Biltmore Hotel, located in Coral Gables, Florida, debuted the new Benessere at the Biltmore initiative, an ongoing series of interactive programming designed to inspire guests to pursue a healthful lifestyle. The new program includes fitness classes, healthful cooking courses, the latest trends in spa, tailored menu items within the hotel, and a robust selection of wellness activities throughout the property.
In the future, The Biltmore plans to add Benessere Breaks to its corporate group offerings, designed to provide unique experiences that nourish and motivate attendees ranging from meditation to Zumba. Benessere Wellness Days will include programming aimed at detoxification, enhanced energy and stress release, and will change seasonally. These days will begin with a targeted fitness activity and fresh juice from the Succo Juice and Smoothie Bar, followed by a carefully selected spa therapy that supports the day’s objective and a relevant interactive culinary class. The day culminates with a leisurely afternoon at the hotel’s iconic pool.
Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts launched a new Fit in Paradise initiative with fitness personality Sarah Dussault also known as Sarah Fit.
As part of the initiative, Sarah Fit is visiting each of the collection’s eight resorts to film a series of workout and lifestyle videos, which will be rolled out across her social media channels, as well as those of Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts.
Sarah also is developing property-specific fitness and wellness tip sheets, highlighting the coolest ideas to stay active and the most delicious ways to eat healthfully at each destination. In addition, Sarah is creating menu recommendations highlighted at a designated restaurant in each resort, in addition to crafting a signature Sarah Fit cocktail.
The Dolder Grand in Zurich features a new Meet in Balance package including a new Life Balance spa menu. Groups partake in one of four wellness programs: Relax, Beauty, Vitality and Detox, each of which are customized to meet the group’s needs. C&IT