breakout rooms where people can rotate
through during the meeting,” said Justin
Gephart, director of sales and conference
services at the property.
Kohler recently extended this con-
Take a Breath
cept by bringing certified trainers from
its fitness facility to conduct sessions for
groups meeting at the American Club. The
trainers conduct morning “Rise and Grind”
exercise classes in the hotel meeting rooms
with music and build-your-own breakfast
“We found that attendance at classes
held at the fitness center was only so-so,
but it really jumped when we brought
the classes to the hotel,” Gephart said. “It
gets people revved up in the morning and
doesn’t cut into the meeting sessions. Or-
ganizations want to promote healthy eating
and fitness, but they usually can’t spend
half a day on it.”
Sessions to promote better breathing and
relaxation are part of the extensive wellness
offerings for groups at Stoweflake Mountain
Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vt., where spa director Surinda Oberai Cavanaugh leads breathing sessions, healthy cooking classes and
walks in the resort’s labyrinthine meditation
garden planted with herbs and berries.
“We offer simple breathing exercises that
people can do everyday—it’s a takeaway
where they feel the benefit right away,”
Cavanaugh said. “It’s something that can
easily be done during a five-minute break
during the meeting.”
Stoweflake also takes advantage of its
spectacular mountain setting to offer
seasonal activities that enable groups to
unwind in a pristine environment, said
Scott Baraw, vice president of sales.
“We can do things like an evening snowshoe tour with a bonfire at the edge of the
woods,” he said. “A lot of groups are looking
for stress reduction and we can offer them
solutions that don’t take a lot of time.”
At the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, a wellness agenda can begin at
the registration desk with an aromatherapy
bar stocked with jars of various herbs and
spices such as lavender and chamomile,
said Marissa Bernal, spa manager at the
“People can smell the different aromas,
some of which promote better sleep, and
create sachets for takeaway gifts,” she said.
“You can stock the sachet in your pillow to
enjoy the aromatherapy while you sleep.
Other herbs are good for keeping you calm
or making you alert—they all have different
The aromatherapy bar can also be part
of spa-themed events held at the Hashani
Spa, with other mini stations that in-
clude chair massages, yoga stretches and
customized herbal teas created by a tea
“It’s a nice way to introduce attendees to
what we offer—kind of like speed dating for
KOHLER WATERS SPA, KOHLER, WIS.
Tips for a WELLNESS Agenda
While spa services and activities add lasting value to resort meetings, they do require careful planning and a can-do attitude. Here is what resort sales and spa managers recommend.
Plan Ahead: It’s never too early to start planning the spa component of a meeting, particularly
at resorts where the spa is a star attraction, advised Justin Gephart, director of sales and conference services for Destination Kohler in Kohler, Wis.
“Our spa books up quickly, so it’s critical to sit down with the group coordinator as far in ad-
vance as possible,” he said. “We encourage groups to take advantage of our hydrotherapy water
treatments, but only so many can be given at one time.”
Joyce Owens, spa director at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va., agrees that
advance planning is essential. She noted that while attendees can book individual treatments
on their own, special services for groups need to be worked into the hotel contract.
“If you want to nail something down in the contract, that needs to be pre-booked,” she said.
“If attendees are just booking treatments on their own, we can be more flexible.”
Communicate Objectives: Planners need to let spa and conference services managers know
about the wellness objectives of the meeting and work closely with them to set a schedule that
helps meet those goals, said Leslie Johnson, spa director for the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in
“It’s important to determine a desired outcome right away in order to create an itinerary
that is dynamic and allows for creativity and movement,” she said. “Be sure to outline the
importance of wellness and the company’s wellness philosophies during any pre-conference
Think Outside the Box: Planners are often surprised at how innovative and flexible resort spas
can be when it comes to providing customized services and amenities for meetings, according
to Marissa Bernal, spa manager for the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson,
“If you have an idea of what you would like to introduce to your attendees, just go ahead and
ask for it,” she said. “We love to be flexible and do things that are out of the ordinary for us. If
you want sunrise yoga for 200 people, we will make it happen. No request is inconceivable.”
Jennifer Edwards, spa group sales manager for the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake
Geneva, Wis., has a similar take.
“Planners should not be afraid to ask for extras and things beyond the norm,” she said. “Do
you want private classes, an early opening of the spa or customized healthy meals? We can do a
lot of things for groups that are not available to the regular hotel guests.”
OMNI HOMESTEAD RESORT, HOT SPRINGS, VA.
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