While last year effectively put much of the meetings industry on collective pause, this year finds destinations and travelers looking ahead with great anticipation. Among those destinations best poised to welcome back guests for meetings, conferences and events, golf & spa resorts offer enticing possibilities for renewal and rejuvenation in corporate and incentive travel.
Top of mind for returning business travelers remains the need for reassurance of health and safety protocols. Happily, many golf and spa resorts offer expansive properties with plentiful outdoor activities and attractions ideally suited to meet social distancing needs. At Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Julie Garber, director of sales & marketing, points out that “Even the 550-sf casitas accommodations are situated in clusters to the north and south of the main lodge, allowing ample social distancing.”
With crisis comes opportunity, the saying goes. And if there’s one silver lining of the past year’s challenges, it’s been the need to think differently, to reimagine destination amenities. As Garber says, “During this pandemic, the Boulders has had to think even more creatively with out-of-the-box ideas for safe meetings. We’ve all been forced to think out of the box more than ever, and that is exciting to us.”
Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Curio Collection by Hilton
Named a “Best Arizona Resort for Luxury Travelers” by Travel + Leisure and “Best Golf Resort in the Southwest” by Golf Digest, the Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale is framed by the beautiful backdrop of ancient boulder formations in the Sonoran Desert. Despite some limited availability in services since last year, golf courses have remained open during the pandemic according to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s guidelines. Consequently, the Boulders, with 36 holes of championship golf, is attractive to planners seeking a variety of venues for small meetings, intimate social day events, and micro-weddings. Coupled with “Arizona sunshine and blue skies 95% of the year, four swimming pools, five restaurants, tennis gardens and pickle ball courts,” Garber says, meeting organizers have a virtual playground for creating unforgettable team events.
The 1,300-acre resort offers more than 50,000 sf of combined indoor and outdoor event space designed to accommodate meetings of all sizes. Flexible indoor meeting spaces capitalize on the spellbinding outdoor views with floor-to-ceiling windows, while outdoor gathering spots take full advantage of the property’s singular, expansive meeting spaces, such as Promise Rock and the organic garden. Seasonally, from September through May, expert guides also offer boulder climbing, scenic hikes, and mountain biking to elevate the unique outdoor Boulder experience.
The Boulders follows the rigorous cleaning protocols of Hilton’s CleanStay program to “clean, disinfect, and seal” each guest room prior to arrival. In the second phase of Hilton’s CleanStay program, Hilton EventReady expands upon the sanitation standards to include all touchpoints of the meeting experience, from maintaining advanced cleaning protocols in function spaces to offering meeting planners flexibility in pricing, space and contract terms. The process includes complete inspection for each event, plus a designated individual to assist planners in ensuring health and safety standards throughout the meeting.
Beyond wide open spaces that lend themselves to best health and safety practices during the pandemic, golf and spa resorts such as the Boulders have implemented additional comprehensive protocols and procedures that expand upon CDC and state guidelines to ensure guest safety. “We’ve added special touches that enhance the attendee experience, in particular outdoor exterior private entrances, with plenty of space to spread outdoors and indoors,” Garber says. Also, “The Boulders golf staff has special procedures in place to schedule tee times and golf cart sanitation, and assist in tournament planning. We also added space for the events with varied meeting set ups that offered more distancing and flexibility. For one event, we used crescent rounds with fewer people at a table [or one person every 6 feet for classroom meetings].” Garber continues, “We have added service staffing, more food stations with added staff but with less staff interaction, and staff training. All meal functions are either plated or chef station-prepared meals. Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the property.”
Currently, the 33,000-sf spa remains closed in accordance with the governor’s guidelines, while the 2,000-sf fitness center has reopened. Two restaurants are open for both in-dining and take-out. Garber says they’re ready for any meeting. “I would definitely still plan to hold the event,” she says. “Let us help you think ‘out of the box’ with events that work well with the Boulders property. Our experts thrive in offering very unique and memorable experiences.”
Located in Colorado Springs near the southern part of the Rocky Mountains, the Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond golf & spa resort offers authentic western adventures in luxurious surroundings. Spanning more than 5,000 acres of pristine Colorado wilderness, the full-service historic hotel features abundant amenities and a trio of unique experiences in self-contained, secluded settings. Whether enjoying Cloud Camp positioned at 3,000 feet above the resort and presenting 360-degree panoramic views, The Ranch at Emerald Valley or a private retreat at Fly Fishing Camp, attendees of The Broadmoor can expect exceptional service.
As for golf, The Broadmoor Golf Club offers two courses for players of all skill levels — the East Course and the West Course — as well as professional instruction. For additional splendor, nearby Seven Falls offers scenic vistas of a series of waterfalls with a 181-foot drop.
The Broadmoor hosts 10 restaurants and 10 cafés on-site, ranging from fine dining to casual poolside fare. Operating under current El Paso County’s COVID-19 protocols has limited inside dining to 25% capacity or fewer than 50 people, inspiring innovative dining solutions for small-scale client events. “Our clients have loved our bento box meals in particular, which allows for a three- or four-course meal to be served in a beautiful bento box that an attendee can carry to an outside patio, their meeting room, or their guest room,” says Pepper Dombroski, The Broadmoor’s director of sales. “We have also moved as many meal functions outside as possible; it lets guests enjoy the Colorado weather and helps them feel safe. The Broadmoor’s outstanding outdoor spaces help make that easy during the warmer months, and our ample indoor spaces of more than 90 meeting rooms of assorted shapes and sizes allow meetings to be spread out for social distancing, creating a safe and productive meeting environment.”
Last year, The Broadmoor welcomed the new 125,000-sf Bartolin Hall. Together with Broadmoor Hall, International Center, and Colorado Hall, the four conference spaces form “The Convention Center at Broadmoor,” offering a total of 184,500 sf of flexible exhibit and meeting space. This brings The Broadmoor’s total function space to 315,000 sf. In the spring, the grand reopening is set for The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, a $100 million renovation project of the highest railway in America at 14,115 feet above sea level.
The Broadmoor has sought innovative solutions for hosting meetings in today’s unique environment, “We have attempted to create the same elevated, engaging Broadmoor experience,” Dombroski says. “To accomplish this, we have customized each meeting and meal so they complement each other. For example, we designed our meeting room sets with a residential, airy feel. Because we are lucky enough to have an array of meeting rooms with natural light and adjacent patios, this was fairly easy for us to do. With a focus on our primary meeting area, ensuring it is a safe and inviting environment, attendees can also enjoy their bento-style lunch in the same space where they have already gained a level of comfort. Our baseline approach is: How will the most concerned attendee feel?”
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa
For Britt Robinson, senior global account executive with Andavo Meetings & Incentives, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa presented just the right venue for a large oil and gas client before the pandemic. Initially, however, her client voiced doubts about the location. “It was a new destination for not only the client, but also most of the 250 seasoned-traveler sales force. Most had never been to New Mexico. It was never even on the radar as a planner. The site visit was a necessity with the client, and they quickly realized how special Tamaya is,” says Robinson.
Located on the Native American Santa Ana Pueblo between the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande River, the 550-acre property features 350 guest rooms, including 23 suites, and 54,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Amenities include five restaurants, three heated outdoor pools and a whirlpool, plus a 24-hour StayFit Gym, and the Twin Warriors Golf Club with an 18-hole championship course. Although the hotel has currently suspended operations temporarily due to COVID-19, the hotel is accepting room reservations for stays after March 1. The hotel follows Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment for enhanced guest safety and health measures.
Robinson’s selection of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa focused on a few different factors: “We chose this particular property because we wanted something we could ‘own’ and have full use of the space,” she says. “The hotel was extremely flexible in allowing us to take over the lobby, the bar, the terrace, the restaurant outlets – all areas that many hotels will not allow groups to use exclusively.” Besides the hotel’s flexibility, Robinson was impressed by the genuine care and attention of the employees on-site. “It is such a special place. The staff takes such pride in delivering exceptional customer service. It is not often a hotel has heart. Tamaya has heart and soul, and you feel it from the moment you arrive. It is the people who make it so special. Most of the employees have longevity of [more than] 10 years, and you can tell they are Tamaya. The staff welcomed the group with a large sign in the lobby that they all signed and wrote welcome notes and thanked us for selecting Tamaya. It was extremely heartfelt,“ as was “the corn necklace welcome from the Tamaya local tribe.”
Among the many other personal touches Robinson’s group enjoyed were “morning exercise programs with the spa staff in the special outdoor surroundings; bringing a very large semi-truck into the porte cochere for the client, which was a big plus for their marketing efforts; and use of the lobby, bar and terrace nightly, for s’more fun and games, with tarot card readers and entertainers from Santa Fe and local areas. Plus, we were able to plan tethered hot air balloon rides right off the back terrace for our welcome night.”
By the end of the weeklong meeting, Robinson’s attendees expressed their appreciation for Robinson’s site choice. “Many sought me out at the end of the event to tell me how special the event was and it was the best company sales and marketing meeting ever held. They all agreed it was a home run.” As a result, “We do plan to return with this same client in the future.” For any planners who may be considering this property for future meetings, Robinson says, “Go for it. I feel like the Hyatt Tamaya is a secret gem; and it has been around for more than a decade. Planners get in a rut of the same old places. Take a chance, and you will be pleasantly surprised. It is a fantastic value for the money, and they deliver an amazing experience.”
Colonial Williamsburg Resorts
Known as the largest-living outdoor museum in the United States at 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg provides an authentic, immersive 18th-century experience. Located on the same campus, Colonial Williamsburg Resorts is within walking distance of outdoor Merchant Square with more than 40 shops and restaurants. Fourteen food and beverage outlets, ranging from quick grab and go to fine dining, span the campus. To enhance the visitor experience, the resort offers attendees five different hotel types, including one branded hotel and another Five Star/Five Diamond property, each with its own separate meeting spaces. The property also features an on-site spa, multiple golf courses, a fitness center, historic museums and multiple swimming pools.
The elegant and luxurious Williamsburg Inn is fit for a queen, as evidenced by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s stay here in 1957. Guests can select from a variety of rooms in Regency decor, including redesigned signature themed suites such as the Queen, Churchill and Rockefeller suites. For events, planners can customize meetings within 9,000 sf. of available space. The Williamsburg Lodge, a member of the Marriott Autograph Collection, offers 45,000 sf of flexible indoor meeting space. The lobby and dog-friendly guest rooms have recently been renovated, and a coffee shop added. The Griffin Hotel, Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, and Colonial Houses round out the Colonial Williamsburg Resorts collection.
When it comes to events, Kathleen Hinger, conference services manager for Colonial Williamsburg Resorts, says: “We see a healthy mix of meeting types ranging from corporate, incentive, association, government, tour/travel and social. The same goes for the meeting sizes ranging anywhere from two people to 1,000 people. Our wide variety of conference space and style allows us to accommodate these various groups.” As such, Hinger notes several ways the property has adapted to meet CDC guidelines and protocols in the past year. For starters, “We have divided our conference center hallways to clearly allow for two-way traffic and encourage social distancing while traveling through the facility. Utilizing floor stickers reminds attendees of both traffic flow directions and 6-foot spacing particularly around any F&B stations or registration areas.” Space expansions and reduced seating capacities, “such as one attendee per 6-foot classroom table, allow for increased social distancing in event setups.” Hinger also mentions “the use of Plexiglas dividers at bars and F&B stations to further protect staff and attendees” while “identifying dedicated enter and exit doors to event space minimizes traffic jams and reduces opportunities for reduced social distancing.”
Beyond the general adaptations to public and meeting spaces, Hinger describes additional ways the property has enhanced the meeting experience. These include “working with our in-house A/V provider, The AV Company, to develop hybrid meeting solutions, [such as] the use of robotic cameras, which can rotate to various speakers, and allow for a more interactive and engaged experience for at-home attendees, versus a single, static wide view – adapting our food and beverage offerings to come up with creative and prepackaged break assortments that can be served individually to attendees to reduce cross-contamination; adapted and expanded outdoor locations for both food and beverage events, as well as meetings; and identifying and implementing specific room sets to promote social distancing throughout all of our conference spaces.”
Innisbrook, A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort
Set within Florida’s abundant natural beauty, Innisbrook, in Palm Harbor near Tampa, invites rest, fun and relaxation. With four championship golf courses, is it any wonder that here is where the golf pros play and host events such as the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, an official 72-hole event in April?
Ramona Herald, director of public relations & membership for Innisbrook, explains the timeless appeal of the property and how the resort can host small socially distanced gatherings: “Innisbrook is located on 900 acres, which is perfectly suited to provide spacious options for all types of gatherings, making social distancing rules easier to accommodate and exceed. Our suite accommodations [with rooms ranging from 225 sf to 1,400 sf] are spread throughout the resort in 28 lodges, meaning guests never find themselves in a crowded lobby environment,” she says. Herald also cites the “numerous outdoor options and three spacious conference areas with multiple breakout rooms and patio overlooking the golf courses that provide multiple options for socially distanced functions.” Team-building activities on the large lawn areas and golf are popular group events.
The many standards and policies the resort has implemented to ensure guest health and safety include rigorous cleaning protocols, physical distancing, guest and back-of-house reminder signage, hand sanitizer stations, contactless guest services and temperature testing for all service personnel. Though “our spa and salon were closed for six months,” Herald says, “We are now slowly bringing back specific services that can be completed safely, while making sure our salon is taking appointments one at a time.”
Salamander Spa features 12,000 sf of indoor and outdoor spa and wellness space, 12 treatment rooms, and the resort has a 4,000-sf fitness center. For food and beverage, “We have limited inside seating according to guidelines, and increased outdoor seating while making sure all tables are social distanced. Menus can be accessed via QR codes on the table for no-touch ordering.”
To familiarize meeting planners with the resort, Herald offers: “Our staff will gladly talk with you initially via our virtual tours around the resort to show you the many options you might like to consider so you have a great idea of how our space can work for you before traveling for a personal tour.” C&IT