Hotels and convention bureaus are often untapped resources for event planners. They have their ears to the ground and can help identify a myriad of ways to make conferences, business and corporate events unforgettable. The key is to ask the right questions:
Ask About Opportunities to Give Back to the Community: Some resorts support local charities or schools. Others have community gardens. There may be an opportunity to build a Corporate Social Responsibility element into the agenda.
Inquire about Special Culinary Offerings: Chef's tables, cooking classes, wine tastings and garden tours can add a layer to your event.
Examples: Fairmont Royal York in Toronto has an herbal garden on the roof and they sometimes offer tours. Jumeirah Frankfurt has bees on the rooftop that provide honey for the hotel. A member of the hotel team can speak to your group about this.
Find out "What's On." It may be worth sliding your dates or extending your stay if an important event is taking place.
I learned the importance of asking this question on a trip to Kyoto when I noticed that a Noh stage was being constructed at a shrine. If I had asked the right questions, I could have extended my stay by a few days. So always ask about sporting events, theater, concerts, equestrian events, polo tournaments, county fairs and festivals.
Inquire about celebrities who are nearby: Sometimes local or international celebrities live nearby or they are visiting. If they are frequent guests at the hotel, it may be possible to surprise your client with a celebrity appearance.
Example: One of my clients was staying at a resort in Halliburton, Ontario. Dogsledding was on their agenda. Through a casual conversation with resort staff, I discovered that the Jamaica Dogsled Team was training nearby. After speaking with the CEO and determining that he was interested in surprising the other executives, I was able to connect with the Jamaica Dogsled Team and arrange a visit.
- Find out about the hobbies and interests of your clients and broaden your scope:
- Etiquette Classes: Are there children's etiquette or business protocol classes? (Some Four Seasons properties offer them.)
- Art Facilities: Some resorts and boutique hotel owners add personal touches based on their own interests. It's worth it to slide your dates to just before or just after special offerings are available so that members of your party can arrive early or extend their stay. Examples: Sally Henzell of Jakes Hotel in Jamaica is an artist. It is not surprising that there are art facilities and art classes offered on property. Fern Resort in Ontario offers watercolour classes and guitar lessons. At a Japanese ryokan where I have stayed, there were complimentary koto and flute recitals.
- Theaters: One of our clients had a lot of soccer fans. They stayed at a Dubai hotel last year when a key game between Real Madrid and Barcelona was scheduled. It turned out that the hotel had a very nice theater where the group could watch the game.
- Sports Fields: For an executive retreat that I was facilitating, I had planned to do a short soccer warm-up on the beach as a metaphor for a model. I arrived a few days ahead of the group. I arrived in Oman a few days ahead of the group. One day, I ended up taking the staff bus back to the hotel and noticed a full-sized soccer field. The resort had set it up for the staff but they were happy to let my client to use it. (One of the resorts my company uses in Jamaica, has a soccer field that is used by the local community. It isn't promoted but hotel guests are welcome to join in the pick-up games.)
To get the best fit for your meetings, always include important questions when you send RFPs through the Cvent Supplier Network.