Not all meetings are created equal. There are many variables that make one destination, one hotel or even one specific venue right for a particular group.
Small meetings, for example, may have very different parameters and
requirements than their larger counterparts. High-powered C-suite executives should not feel like small fish in a big pond, lost among larger groups with a massive room block and, perhaps, bigger spend. VIPs and executives may require a level of security and privacy for their meetings that mid-management sales teams don’t need.
Planners have many things to consider. Is there a boardroom available that precisely accommodates 10 or 12 rather than 30 or 40? If a ballroom is not the right fit, are there appropriate onsite or nearby restaurants that feature private dining space? Is there a club level at the hotel for VIPs or executives? What level of airport transport service is available?
It’s not just a matter of big hotel vs. small hotel, although the size of a property can come into play. Typically, it’s more about whether the hotel, large or small, has the appropriate meeting space, service level, restaurants and layout to truly meet the needs and
requirements of a small group.
“If you want a truly amazing experience for a smaller group, utilize the wilderness properties. We held an executive retreat at Cloud Camp and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone involved.”
Senior Manager, Event Marketing CoBank
Greenwood Village, CO
When Nancy Montgomery, senior manager, event marketing, with CoBank looks for a destination and property for the company’s multiple meetings each year, the choice is frequently The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some meetings are as small as 15 people.
The location offers easy access and reliable summertime weather, among other things.
“Only an hour from Denver by car, and with a number of direct and connecting flights, Colorado Springs is fairly easy to get to and yet you feel a world away from the city,” Montgomery says.
“Being in the Colorado mountains is both an enticement and reward for our attendees. The Broadmoor offers a unique combination of resort and mountain settings, nestled right at the base of the peaks. Additionally, in summertime, the climate is absolutely perfect — sunny skies, warm in the day and cool in the night — so we know we are most likely going to be able to hold our events outdoors. This is a definite benefit since it is often difficult to find a location that will not be too hot or humid in the summer.”
Montgomery encourages other groups to make the resort’s outdoor spaces part of their summer programs. “They should utilize the outdoors as much as possible. It’s what draws
people to the meeting and will make the meeting a standout against other locations. There is something simply exhilarating about being in the Colorado mountains in the summer.”
The area also offers multiple choices for spouse activities and programs. “We usually have at least one spouse program in the area each year,” Montgomery says. “We have utilized lovely historic facilities such as Glen Eyrie, Miramont Castle, Red Stone and Briarhurst Manor Estate, and we have also been to stunning outdoor locations including the Royal Gorge, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Seven Falls, Garden of the Gods and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway (currently closed).”
The Broadmoor itself has its own powerful assets. “The Broadmoor is a beautiful, five-star resort that has a historic, timeless feel and yet has every modern amenity, updated rooms and is pristinely maintained,” Montgomery says. “And the staff is amazing. Everyone is friendly and helpful. As a planner, I am always amazed at how much easier it is to hold a meeting at The Broadmoor than anywhere else. And I leave feeling pampered, which, trust me, is not how I usually feel at the end of a meeting. My attendees and management also leave feeling relaxed, pampered and happy. This combination is unbeatable.”
Montgomery calls the conference services manager she works with at The Broadmoor the best in the business. “He anticipates our needs and makes recommendations for changes to the current year’s program based on last year’s. There is no problem we have encountered for which he has not figured out a solution. The entire meeting, banquet and conference concierge teams are outstanding in every way. Their focus on the details equals, or maybe exceeds, my own. I guess this is why it’s so easy to meet there.”
She has equally high praise for the catering staff and chef. “Catering is excellent, and the chef is willing to customize. I especially love the Taste of The Broadmoor heavy hors d’oeuvres menu with which you can offer meeting attendees a sampling of The Broadmoor’s various restaurant fare in a banquet setting. The décor that accompanies this menu is great, too.”
Because the property is quite spread out, Montgomery notes that some attendees, depending on which rooms you are using, might have to walk a ways to the meeting venues. “However,” she says, “the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service all around the property.”
That includes to the wilderness properties, The Broadmoor’s spectacular venues away from the main resort, which are especially attractive to small groups on their own or within a larger group. CoBank made use of Cloud Camp, which sits on Cheyenne Mountain high above the main hotel. It’s an airy venue with incomparable views and highly personalized service for intimate gatherings.
“If you want a truly amazing experience for a smaller group,” Montgomery says, “utilize the wilderness properties. We held an executive retreat at Cloud Camp, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone involved and really created a sense of team and common memories for that group.”
There was also golf, something else The Broadmoor is well-known for. “We always have a couple of golf outings in conjunction with our meeting. The East Course is a big draw for serious golfers, which is another enticement to attend our meetings. The golf staff is very
helpful, and everything always goes off without a hitch.”
While Montgomery doesn’t arrange spa time for the attendees, she says that a number of the attendees’ guests take advantage of the resort’s highly rated spa while attendees are in session. “The spa facilities at The Broadmoor are really warm and relaxing. I love the relaxation room that looks out over the golf course, as well as the locker room facilities that include sauna, hot pools, etc. It all embodies The Broadmoor’s ambience of quiet calm and its ‘let us take care of you’ feeling.”
With no challenges or issues to work around, Montgomery’s only words for others considering The Broadmoor are, “Your attendees will thank you for selecting The Broadmoor, and they will ask you to keep returning there. You will agree with them.”
Another secluded mountain setting is Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, which sits at the base of Canyons Village at Park City, Utah, where exceptional skiing is the draw for a winter meeting.
Mark Armstrong, vice president and financial advisor with Morgan Stanley, worked on the annual ski gathering of 56 attendees from a San Diego-based financial organization. The resort is located at the first ski area you come to in Park City, which Armstrong notes is convenient.
“The location at the Canyons ski resort and the ski in/ski out capabilities for my group were the primary reasons I choose this property. Additionally, there is easy access from Salt Lake City via numerous shuttles, which makes the destination attractive as well,” he adds.
And then there’s the ski storage valet service, which Armstrong calls “very well run, giving guests a hands-free walking experience to the lifts.”
Rooms, food and pricing were attractive, too. “The rooms are very complete with kitchens and sofa beds, as well as comfortable large beds. The Burger Bar was a great place to meet before and after skiing and offers good value for the food you get.”
And, he adds, “one of the best steak restaurants in Park City is right on premise and has an area that fits a small group. There are also multiple pools so guests can get away from crowds or children if they want, and room prices are reasonable.”
One thing Armstrong says planners should be aware of is that “all of the rooms are suites and that there are not many with two-bed options.”
The group did not hold any formal meetings or events in town, but Armstrong says that “eight to 10 of the participants did venture out to enjoy the High West distillery facilities, including the dining experience it offers nightly.”
Within the resort, the group used one meeting space for the welcome reception. “It was very comfortable, conveniently located and provided great food and beverage service. They put up nice room divider screens to help decorate the space. The resort has very adequate banquet rooms and meeting rooms to handle most needs of small or large groups,” Armstrong says.
A highlight of the trip was the final dinner. “We held a farewell dinner offsite up on the mountain at the Lookout Cabin. The private party for dinner included a sleigh ride. It was a fantastic evening with great food and views of the city down below. I highly recommend it.”
Although the resort is large, Armstrong says it’s divided on many levels, “so that you never notice a whole lot of people.” Those same divisions can be a challenge, however.
“Due to the fact that there are three different buildings that make up the hotel, and there are several half levels to the layout, navigation can be confusing at first. I simply explained that to everyone in the group and informed them of where to find maps.”
As for staff, Armstrong says, “Director of Sales Jim Goslin was great to work with, along with the accounting department’s Andy Dew. And Group Sales Manager Tanya Gaines did a great job helping me put together my catering orders for my reception.”
Armstrong’s tip for planners is to “clue people in on the key floor levels they need to access in order to get to ski lifts and restaurants. Encourage them to explore the hotel to become familiar with the layout.”
Victoria Rabadi, marketing specialist with an East Coast-based insurance group in Albany, New York, chose intimate La Playa Carmel for the company’s All Hands Meeting last year with 60 in attendance.
“One of our larger offices is located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. We have a few larger offices around the country where we could hold our All Hands Meeting, but, let’s face it, none beat Carmel.”
The meeting was the company’s second All Hands Meeting at La Playa and this December will be the third. The group has also held smaller events at La Playa.
“La Playa can accommodate our full group, is perfectly located and is a beautiful property,” Rabadi says. “And the amenities are plentiful.”
She notes that all staff are courteous and responsive but points to the sales and catering managers in particular. “They’re extremely experienced and helpful with regard to all the planning and execution of events. Tracy Hunter, our senior sales manager, is amazing! I know I can always count on Tracy for anything I need during our events. She is much more than a sales manager. Once the contract is signed, she stays close to her events and is immediately available and responsive, if need be. Tracy is one of the reasons we keep coming back.”
And then there’s Adrienne Kar, catering and conference services manager. “She takes care of all the details which makes me look good,” Rabadi says.
The hotel delivers what’s needed on all fronts. “I love the around-town, evening shuttle. The breakfast buffet is to die for, beautifully set up with a wonderful selection of delicious food, and the view from the outside terrace is breathtaking. And who doesn’t love an afternoon wine tasting? No one! The grounds are simply gorgeous and perfectly maintained.”
The two-day conferences portion of the event was held in La Playa’s Pacific Room. “The room is large with ocean views. The staff were on time, efficient, flexible and friendly. They took care of everything. I just showed up and everything was where it was supposed to be and looked professional. They took care of our A/V needs, the catering was perfectly timed and received many raves, and, as I said, the staff is exceptional.”
In addition to the conference time within the hotel, the group also had a dinner in town. “We had one of our dinners at Bistro Beaujolais located in the Carmel Plaza,” she says. “We had full, private access to the restaurant and, therefore, didn’t have to worry about the noise factor during the karaoke portion of our event.”
While the group had no issues in planning or execution, Rabadi says there are things planners should know if they are considering a meeting at La Playa.
“There are no elevators, and there is no onsite restaurant, though the bar offers a small nighttime menu. The location is about one-and-a-half hours from the San Jose airport, which has more available flights than the Monterey airport, but then a shuttle or car rental is needed. That adds to the travel time and expense.”
Yet once you arrive, she says, you realize it is all worth it. “If you are looking for a hotel that offers a ‘back-in-time,’ serene feel with lots of interesting history, La Playa is your place. My tip: Call Tracy right away and book your memorable event!”
Farther to the south in Carlsbad, California, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa offers small groups another choice and experience. Brett Barrowman, vice president, conferences, meetings and travel with American Fidelity, brought two groups of about 40 to the resort.
Barrowman says the reasons to choose Park Hyatt are many, including location, airlift, ease of access, cost, quality of lodging and access to golf, activities and venues in San Diego. He points to the clean and welcoming property and grounds and the exceptional F&B. “It’s a great location,” he adds, “close enough to San Diego for offsites, yet far enough away to get a true resort experience without the commotion.”
And then there’s the staff, which Barrowman describes as professional, forward thinking, creative, flexible, good at communicating and accessible.
In terms of space, Barrowman says the resort has plenty of venues, but he especially likes the “unique outdoor venues” that are available. “Overall,” he says, “the meeting space is very workable for all sizes of groups.”
For groups that have been to the area before, Barrowman believes the Park Hyatt Aviara is a good option. “Many attendees have been to the San Diego area, and it is sometimes difficult to offer alternatives for lodging. We found our attendees liked the Park Hyatt.”
In the end, Barrowman says there were no problems in executing his events, and the resort checked all the right boxes in terms of “total cost evaluation, flexibility, accessibility, marketability and affordability. The only downside? We hated to go back to reality!” I&FMM