Meeting-Friendly Golf and Spa ResortsJune 1, 2016

The Sweet Spot for Reward and Incentive Programs By
June 1, 2016

Meeting-Friendly Golf and Spa Resorts

The Sweet Spot for Reward and Incentive Programs
An aerial view of Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s famous “Island 9th” hole; and a shirodhara treatment at Spa at the Boulders Resort & Spa — a 33,000-sf award-winning luxury spa.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s famous “Island 9th” hole; and a shirodhara treatment at Spa at the Boulders Resort & Spa.

The media like to mention when well-known corporations take employees to high-end resorts. What the stories don’t include is how critical to a company’s bottom line these gatherings are, and how teambuilding programs, rewards and incentive trips boost productivity, bond team members, increase employee retention and significantly decrease costs associated with having to constantly train new workers.

Meeting-friendly golf and spa resorts are the sweet spot for reward and incentive programs, and for meetings that strategically combine achieving corporate business goals with time for employees (and perhaps spouses and families) to play and relax.

The Value of Meetings

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a meeting-friendly golf and spa resort and understands the value of meetings. It offers a resort campus that meets the needs of employers and employees on every level, and is less than 30 minutes from the city’s airport.

“The Broadmoor definitely gave us the best rates for rooms and golf, and were additionally situated perfectly for a May golf trip.”
— Amanda Polewski

All of that made it the right choice for Amanda Polewski, marketing coordinator for Plano, Texas-based Montgomery Coscia Greilich LLP, a firm that offers strategy and management consulting in addition to traditional accounting services. Polewski was tasked with remotely planning the company’s May 2016 client appreciation trip, which meant she had to trust and depend on her contacts at the resort. The process was a success.

Without the benefit of site visits, Polewski went with recommendations from within the firm for potential resorts. “The Broadmoor was one of the resorts recommended by a partner in our firm who has done multiple similar trips. The trip needed to be short — two days maximum — and because of that, we couldn’t afford to lose much time in transit from the airport. Other factors during the RFP/proposal process were cost, weather and hours of daylight.”

When all was said and done, Polewski found that The Broadmoor, a five-diamond, five-star resort, provided the most competitive rates. “The Broadmoor definitely gave us the best rates for rooms and golf, and were additionally situated perfectly for a May golf trip,” she points out. “The other recommended resorts were on the coasts, and in addition to being higher in cost they were also looking like they would be much more crowded and hot due to location and time of year.”

Even when there were problems, Polewski says the resort knew what to do. “Jeff Overgaard was my main point of contact and handled all of the Broadmoor-side planning for us. He handled all of my questions with patience and set up everything we needed.

“Communication is obviously limited when you’re planning remotely, so that can be a challenge the bigger the group and the more requirements,” she adds. “When we ran into problems with the group being separated and possibly missing the first tee time, it was frustrating trying to redirect everything remotely from all involved parties. But The Broadmoor was responsive as soon as I let Jeff know the situation, rescheduling everything for the day as needed. For our group’s purposes, I would say that planning remotely was as effective as meeting with key Broadmoor representatives beforehand and planning with the benefit of onsite tours would have been.”

Because the focus of this event was golf and dining, the golf experience was important. The attendees — all golfers — used two of The Broadmoor’s three championship courses (the Mountain Course is not open in May) and thoroughly enjoyed both, as well as the rest of the resort. “They said it was a great trip, a great location and facilitated all around by The Broadmoor staff,” Polewski notes.

The most serious problem was related to missed flights on the way out, which was beyond anyone’s control but still had to be dealt with. The Broadmoor’s location just an hour and a half from the Denver airport allowed those attendees to be rebooked on a Denver flight. While the resort has shuttles to and from both the Denver and Colorado Springs airports, that group chose to drive down from Denver, which Polewski says “worked out well.”

In the end, Polewski wouldn’t have changed much thanks to the ease of planning with The Broadmoor staff. “The only thing I would have done differently is made sure I got everyone booked on the group flight out. That situation worked out in the end, but the planning process would have been easier if everyone’s flight information was the same. I don’t wish — and I don’t think our group wishes — that The Broadmoor would have done anything differently. They made things pretty easy on us.”

The Broadmoor doesn’t just offer exceptional golf. It also offers an expansive spa and programs with high appeal for corporate executives and incentive award qualifiers, including its fishing school, located at a picturesque pond and Adirondack-style lodge and dock on the resort’s East golf course. With its dining table for 20, the lodge is an ideal venue for private functions before or after fishing instruction. The resort also will arrange guided fishing trips for small groups.

Everything a Group Needs

Another golf and spa resort with an eclectic selection of activities for corporate and incentive groups is Streamsong, which opened in 2013 in Central Florida, almost equidistant between Tampa and Orlando. Like the Broadmoor, Streamsong has everything a group needs on its extensive property including 216 accommodations and 24,600-plus sf of flexible function space. In addition to two magnificent golf courses built on the dunes and craters of a landscape once dominated by phosphate mines, the resort offers guided bass fishing, sport shooting, archery, hiking and an opulent full-service spa, all easily incorporated into meeting and incentive programs.

The resort’s much-anticipated third course will open in fall 2017, giving golfers even more to experience. Designed by Gil Hanse, architect of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Streamsong Black should be exceptional. “Streamsong is about an authentic golf experience,” Hanse says, “and the natural environment and landscape at Streamsong is simply like nothing we’ve experienced. It’s one of the very best.” Golf-loving corporate and incentive groups can find out for themselves next year.

World-Class Golf at a Historic Resort

Melding a grand historic presence with every modern amenity a group could want, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, has welcomed discerning groups and VIPs for more than two centuries. This meeting-friendly golf and spa resort was an easy choice for Rick Eisenman, president and CEO of Richmond, Virginia-based Eisenman & Associates Inc., which brought its 2015 Client Appreciation Outing to the Greenbrier last May. “We chose The Greenbrier for its easy access, unique accommodations, excellent food and service and, of course, world-class golf. There are lots of great people there,” he says, “but Greg Furlong and Hill Herrick stand out. Greg was great to work with to book the event, and Hill went out of his way to make sure the golf experience was flawless.”

Eisenman’s group spent two days playing on two of the resort’s five courses. “They loved the Old White, of course, but they also really enjoyed the Greenbrier Course, which I for one don’t think gets its due respect,” Eisenman says.

In addition to more than 55 available activities, the resort offers extensive meeting and function space. “The Greenbrier not only has a lot of space but it has a lot of unique space, from bright, colorful and ornate ballrooms to the rustic atmosphere at Kate’s Mountain Lodge and Howard’s Creek Lodge.” Eisenman says groups should plan some outside events so that attendees can “experience the beauty of the area,” not the least of which is the surrounding Allegheny Mountains.

In spite of its away-from-it-all feel, The Greenbrier offers surprising ease of access. “Most of my clients are from the mid-Atlantic area so most drove in,” Eisenman says. “Those that had to fly had no trouble getting into the Lewisburg airport. And the Greenbrier has a shuttle so you don’t need to rent a car.”
There were many highlights of the event, and dinner at Prime 44 West, the resort’s upscale steakhouse, was definitely one of them. “The meal was sensational, and the wine selection was amazing. Also, one of my clients winning at the casino was pretty cool as well,” Eisenman says.

If he were to do one thing differently the next time, it would be to extend the time at the resort. “I wish I would have made the event a half or full day longer. There is so much to see and do that two days really wasn’t enough, especially when you are playing golf each day.”

He advises planners considering The Greenbrier to be flexible. “If you can come during a shoulder season or an off pattern (we did a Sunday to Tuesday) it will not only save you some money but the outlets and recreation amenities won’t be as crowded.”

Easy Access
to Complete Resort Complex

Florida’s Panhandle is in many ways unlike the rest of the state. In terms of geography, weather and vibe, it’s closer to its neighbors to the north and west than to southern Florida. No wonder it’s a favorite destination for companies in the South. Newk’s Eatery, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, and comprised of more than 100 restaurants to date, welcomed 325 of its franchise owners, operators, general managers, marketing, catering and support center staff to the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa for the company’s annual convention in April 2016. Located within the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, Florida, this meeting-friendly golf and spa resort is tucked in-between the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay.

“Hilton Sandestin offers the key components to support a successful conference: layout and ample meeting space, up-to-date audio-visual technology, comfortable guest rooms and plenty of onsite activities,” says Cynthia P. Baxter, executive assistant with Newk’s Eatery and a corporate conference planner with more than 12 years of experience.

And it’s easy to get to. “The drive is not complicated coming from Central Mississippi or neighboring states to Florida,” she says. “If flying, there are three airports within a 35- to 70-minute drive time.”

Baxter has high praise for the hotel’s event and banquet managers. “They were part of our team. They knew every aspect of our agenda. Also, the meeting space layout was very convenient. Even though we used multiple conference rooms, all of our meetings were in one central location.”

Baxter notes that “efficiency is the key to daily setup,” and the space the group used was perfect. “The Coastal Foyer offers a registration desk with a closet and a separate storage room. It’s the perfect setup for registration, storing and moving material to the daily sessions.”

The staff, too, was efficient enough to handle the group’s busy schedule and the need to shift gears for each event. “The third day was our busiest,” Baxter says. “We started out with a general session, rotating round tables, lunch with a guest speaker and an afternoon training session. That evening we hosted a reception, awards dinner and closed the evening with a band. The resort was able to flip the meeting space for a seamless transition from each session and event.”

Sandestin Resort’s golf facilities, close to the Hilton, were also part of the meeting. “On Monday afternoon, we offered a golf tourney at the Raven. The teams enjoyed the beautiful course and the challenge.”

While attendees were in meetings, some spouses accessed the resort’s other amenities, including the spa. In fact, the Hilton Sandestin and surrounding resort area offer so much, Baxter says one thing she would do differently next time is add to the event. “I would include up to a three-day pre- or post-conference rate to reward attendees before or after the conference,” she says.

And she’d make another change as well. “I would have a post-conference meeting with the resort staff. It’s important to receive feedback when it’s fresh on everyone’s mind.”

For other planners, Baxter has these words of advice: “Communicate the group’s vision and expectations in order to pull off a successful conference. Always ask questions and never assume the property knows what’s important to you.”

Inspiring Setting and Intriguing Activities

Out in Carefree, 27 miles north of Scottsdale, Arizona, Boulders Resort & Spa provides planners with an inspiring setting and a slew of intriguing activities to bond or motivate attendees. This meeting friendly golf and spa resort has more than 50,000 sf of indoor and outdoor function space and can accommodate 10 to 400 corporate guests. Golf and an opulent spa await attendees, as well as opportunities for rock climbing, horseback riding, exploring the desert via Hummer or ATV and stargazing with a professional astronomer.

The resort has a variety of options specifically for meeting guests, including a spiritual and uplifting shamanic experience, mixology classes during which attendees craft their own cocktails and a cowboy-for-a-day adventure. At the spa, attendees can choose their preferred scent at the Aroma Blend Bar and take away a body product with that specific scent.

Another Scottsdale area resort of note is Talking Stick Resort, which at 15 stories high is the tallest building in Scottsdale and provides spectacular views of the city and the surrounding mountains from guest rooms and the top floor Orange Sky Restaurant.

California-based Lynette Owens & Associates’s Vice President of Sales Debbie Grassi recently booked a client at the property and says Talking Stick Resort “offers great rooms, meeting facilities, and golf and spa amenities for many of our clients, plus it offers a casino that is as nice as any casino hotel in Las Vegas. The meeting space at Talking Stick is centralized and easy to get to, and outside function space and their Degree 270 venue offer great views of the Scottsdale Valley and beautiful sunset views of the Arizona mountains. Golf is on-property, which makes easy coordination for tournaments and other golf events.”

The Talking Stick Golf Club, adjacent to the resort, offers two professional courses managed by Troon Golf. The North course is a Scottish links-style course with deep bunkers, while the more traditional South course has tree-lined fairways and four holes with water hazards.

The 496-room resort offers nightly entertainment, excellent dining venues, spa services, a popular casino, and cultural displays of the Pima and Maricopa tribes.

Resorts across the country offer groups and planners many activities to choose from. Golf and spa options are always at the top of the list. But planners working with amenity-rich resorts will find more engaging activities and programs to incorporate into their meetings than they can possibly use — not a bad situation to be in.

In the end, though, it’s all about boosting business, and these resorts help planners do exactly that. C&IT

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