MAY 2016

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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M A Y 2 0 1 6 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 23 RESORT MEETINGS an uptick in off-site activities such as scaven- ger hunts at Disney Springs and education pro- grams delivered by The Disney Institute. Schuler has also seen planners seek out more unique touches to add engagement to their meetings, such as providing specialty room drops that are themed to the destination or ending a long day of meetings with a bonfire on the beach. "Special touches like room drops make attendees feel valued, enhancing their engagement," she said. "Fun group events, like the beach bonfire, also give attendees a casual setting to continue topics discussed in the meeting room and learn more about their colleagues." More meetings are also incorporating recre- ational and leisure options before, during and after meetings. "Some groups are making time in the agenda for 'organized leisure' rather than simply giving free time, otherwise many attendees would just go back to their room and check emails," said Banning. Resorts are es- pecially equipped to offer these activities with amenities such as on-site golf courses; outdoor recreation including biking and kayaking; and on-site spas offering group blocks. Schuler said that it's "more important than ever" to get out of the meeting room and get the most out of your in-person time as a company. "We recommend asking your event manager for 'off-menu' ideas," she said. "We are constantly creating new team-building activities and events. Many of these aren't published yet so you may not find them on your own." For Tina Harlow, general manager at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas, the popularity of planning activities outside meetings lends itself to creating many new offerings at the resort, such as a new series of water-related activities called The Ripple Effect that begin in May. Groups can now take Stand-Up Paddle-boarding (SUP) outings on a new 10-person SUP Grande board, take a spin on hydro-bikes or take advantage of other water-themed spa treatments or classes. "We find that our groups also want more take-home activities, meaning they want to experience something at the resort that will have a lasting effect when they return to their busy lives at home," she said. "Some examples are a Power of Positivity session, a cooking class, or a healthy-eating-habits discussion." Hotel Supply Increasing In the end, the forecast for negotiating meet- ings in 2017 is leaning more in favor of the planner than is the case in 2016. The U.S. Commerce Department projected a nearly 40 percent year-over-year increase in hotel con- struction would occur in the third quarter of 2015 and PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that hotel room supply will most likely increase by 1.8 percent by 2017. n

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