92 Meetings & Conventions • mcmag.com March 2018
IF YOU DEEM LOCAVORE FARE and culture-driven team building
as old school buzzwords, it’s time to reboot. While these catch terms
are now rooted in meeting professional lexicon, 2018 reveals innovative
spins that broaden their definitions.
Factor in ramped up demand for experiential outings, head-to-toe
wellness philosophies and CSR programs with life-altering impact, and
you’re primed for a new normal that’s off the charts.
This year’s industry trends are both reactive and forward-thinking as
they inspire delegates to be enthusiastic about attending, remain in the
conversation and return home satisfied that their time investment paid off
in high dividends.
#1 RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
As the craving for cultural immersion has yet to peak, expect a laser focus
on peeling back layers to reach a destination’s core. It all rolls out from
iconic settings to grassroots culinary approaches.
As you target dynamic agendas that stay within budget, rely on the
creativity of your hotel suppliers for delivering solutions with “oomph.”
Curtis Young, director of catering and conference services at Fairmont
Kea Lani, Maui, notes that planners are high on natural settings and
environments. In that vein, he lauds the resort’s shift from traditional
banquet spreads to chef action stations showcasing locally sourced bites.
“In 2018, we’re taking this further by putting greater emphasis on
emotional connections and the storytelling component of the event—be it the
food and where the chef’s inspiration comes from, cultural connection of the
musicians, or even the story on ingredients used in local spirits and brews.”
At Kona Kai Resort & Spa, San Diego’s casual disposition and colorful
harbor surroundings continue to wow. Radical Communicators Network
(RadComms) conference, “Unconvening,” tapped the island-style property
with its private marina for an inaugural gathering of 100 progressive
communications pros from across the U.S.
“The planners wanted to surround attendees in a fun and relaxing
environment to help them both decompress from the day’s programming
and have a great networking opportunity,” says Gloria Grijalva, conference
services manager, Noble House Hotels & Resorts.
Grijalva points to Kona Kai’s vast outdoor spaces coupled with the epic
Southern California climate. “RadComms took advantage of our private
beach to roast s’mores at bonfire pits, while enjoying live music and bonding
with their fellow attendees. It created a unique memory for the guests
through enjoying such an intimate, distinctive San Diego experience.”
“This year, it’s all about team building and incorporating a celebrity chef
into group events,” says Kelbert Fleming, director of events and catering.
Merging a network component with spirit-infused entertainment, the
self-contained resort stirs attendees with mojito crafting guided by a
mixology guru well versed in rums.
The Diplomat also curates personalized gastronomy via the celebrity chef
concepts of Geoffrey Zakarian and Michael Schulson, who helm the property’s
Point Royal and Monkitail, respectively. “We’ll provide a variety of smaller
portions that are not just tasty, but visually appealing as well,” says Fleming.
Offsetting Las Vegas glitz with a Western swagger, South Point Hotel &
Spa ropes in everything from quarter horse shows to rodeos at its 4,600-
seat Arena & Equestrian Center. Attendees can graze at barbecues hosted
in the arena concourse before plugging into the action.
Network and team options range from poker tournaments to late-night
bowling at the 64-lane center. “We also have theatre bookings at our 16-screen
Cinemark Theatres for showings specific to their group,” says Maureen Robinson, director of sales at the 2,163-room property geared toward associations.
Robinson adds that the off-strip location is another perk. “If you’re
here for business, you don’t want your attendees wandering out. But
we’re still close enough to the Strip to make it convenient.”
Creative session breaks continue to climb the relevance chart. While Palm
Springs, California’s hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club plays into the desert oasis’
vintage scene with bicycle powered scavenger hunts, its “Big Easy” counterpart is all about fusing Cajun and Creole culture.
“We work with our insanely talented culinary staff and great partners in
creating stand-out breaks that include healthy and decadent twists on New
Orleans cuisine,” says Dawn Ledet, director of sales and marketing at Ace
Hotel New Orleans.
“We’ll pair this with tarot card readings and a short second-line parade
through the spaces with a live brass band.” Two-stepping lessons and
crawfish peeling classes add further spice.
2018 EVENT TRENDS RAISE THE BAR
ON AUTHENTIC, HEALTHY ENCOUNTERS
—BY DAWNA L. ROBERTSON