Meet­ings Beyond Amaz­ing

Ten re­mark­able meet­ing des­ti­na­tions mix the heights of lux­ury with ex­hil­a­rat­ing ad­ven­ture

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael An­dré Adams

Imag­ine your­self plan­ning your next ex­ec­u­tive re­treat or cor­po­rate meet­ing at a venue that is so over the top and com­pletely at­tuned to your group’s needs, that you can an­tic­i­pate each mem­ber of your team hav­ing lit­er­ally the event of a lifetime. Now take it another step for­ward and imag­ine the look of as­ton­ish­ment on your at­ten­dees’ faces at their first sight of this jaw-drop­pingly stun­ning space.

Do such places ac­tu­ally ex­ist? Well, yes – and in abun­dance.

Dubai’s op­u­lent Burj Al Arab is one such venue. Built lit­er­ally in the mid­dle of the Per­sian Gulf on a man made is­land of its own, its grace­ful curve is rem­i­nis­cent of a bil­low­ing sail. At ev­ery turn, both the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior views are de­signed to evoke a sense of won­der­ment and in­spi­ra­tion in the minds of all its guests, many of whom ar­rive ei­ther via he­li­copter or Rolls Royce air­port trans­fers.

Next let your imag­i­na­tion pro­pel your meet­ing suc­cess to another level by adding a day or two of Richard Branson style fun with, for ex­am­ple, the Aqua­fari ex­cur­sion at the Santa Bar­bara Beach & Golf Re­sort in Cu­ra­cao.

Your team mem­bers get to jet set along­side marine habi­tat 20-feet be­low the sea in a self pro­pelled, un­sink­able un­der­wa­ter scooter. The 90-minute ses­sion is com­plete with all the oxy­gen you’ll need, mi­nus any cum­ber­some tanks on your back, thanks to a bell-shaped glass con­tainer that sup­plies oxy­gen from a SCUBA tank at­tached to the scooter.

To com­bine the two – stun­ning scenery with the thrill of ad­ven­ture – is to cre­ate a near fan­tasy event set­ting that’s sure to leave an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion in the minds of your meet­ing par­tic­i­pants. To help you find that next beyond-amaz­ing meet­ing spot, we’ve as­sem­bled a hot list of op­tions with that just-right com­bi­na­tion of ex­cite­ment and in­dul­gence.

1 THE BILT­MORE ES­TATE, ASHEVILLE, NC

George Van­der­bilt’s spec­tac­u­lar French Re­nais­sance-style Bilt­more House is billed as the largest pri­vate home in Amer­ica, and it’s cer­tainly among the most lux­u­ri­ous. The 250-room man­sion, along with the 8,000 acres sur­round­ing it, ap­pear to have been per­fectly painted into the Blue Ridge Moun­tains as though it were heaven.

The prop­erty of­fers a va­ri­ety of ma­jes­tic venues for turn-key meet­ings and events for up to 450 guests. The most spec­tac­u­lar open spa­ces by far in­clude the front lawn, the Ital­ian Gar­den and the in­com­pa­ra­ble South Ter­race.

But for a com­plete par­a­digm shift from op­u­lence to adren­a­line, try the on­site Land Rover Off Road Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence.

Although to most city dwellers, Range Rover is merely a lux­ury sedan, the brand made its mark off-road, where it per­forms ex­trav­a­gantly. With the op­tion to spend hours or days, the Land Rover ex­pe­ri­ence will take you through the Blue Ridge Moun­tains where you will master the art of driv­ing through mud, deep ruts – deep

To com­bine stun­ning scenery with the thrill of ad­ven­ture is to cre­ate a near fan­tasy event

enough to turn the ve­hi­cle side­ways with two wheels in the air and two on the ground – wa­ter nearly up to the front wind­shield and all sorts of chal­leng­ing ma­neu­vers. All along the way, you get to drive the most cur­rent model that Land Rover has to of­fer with a highly skilled coach at your side for added safety.

Visit bilt­more.com for de­tails.

2 THE FAIR­MONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE, AL­BERTA, CANADA

One look at the soar­ing moun­tain peaks, the Vic­to­ria Glacier and the emer­ald green lake that form the glis­ten­ing, larger-thanlife back­drop for the Fair­mont Chateau Lake Louise, and you’re likely to aban­don your iPhone, iPad, Black­berry and lap­top to take in ev­ery ounce of the beauty that nei­ther words nor pic­tures will ever ad­e­quately cap­ture.

A UNESCO World Her­itage Site in the heart of Al­berta’s Banff Na­tional Park, the 100 year-old prop­erty is not only ideal for meet­ings and events, but also of­fers some of the most in­vig­o­rat­ing out­door recre­ation imag­in­able. Op­tions in­clude down­hill ski­ing and snow­board­ing, cross-coun­try ski­ing, ice skat­ing, snow­shoe­ing, snow­mo­bil­ing, horse drawn sleigh rides, dog sled­ding tours and more – and that’s just in the win­ter. Sum­mer ad­ven­tures in­clude river raft­ing, ca­noe­ing, hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, fish­ing and more.

Visit fair­mont.com/lake-louise to

3 II SALVI­ATINO, FLORENCE, ITALY

Tucked in the Tus­can hill­side over­look­ing the city of Florence (a short 10-minute drive away), the 45-room, fresco laden Il Salvi­atino villa is ide­ally lo­cated within a half-hour of both the Florence air­port and the cel­e­brated Chi­anti wine grow­ing re­gion.

Since the 14th cen­tury, when it was orig­i­nally a pri­vately owned home, the villa has served as a cul­tural gath­er­ing place for artists, per­form­ers and in­tel­lec­tu­als. Its sit­u­a­tion – sur­rounded by a 12-and-a-half acre pri­vate park – con­tin­ues to pro­vide all the pri­vacy those high-level con­fer­ences re­quire as at­ten­dees gather along the villa’s multi-level ter­race. In dra­matic fash­ion, the ter­race opens onto the lav­ish Ital­ian gar­dens over­look­ing Florence; thus as a set­ting for a meet­ing or event, it de­fies any sug­ges­tion of mun­dane.

The ic­ing on the cake comes in two fla­vors: white truffles and Fer­raris.

From Septem­ber through Novem­ber – the height of white truf­fle sea­son, the villa’s Tus­cany lo­ca­tion pro­vides the per­fect truf­fle hunt­ing ex­cur­sion with an ed­u­ca­tion on ori­gin, clas­si­fi­ca­tion, va­ri­eties, prepa­ra­tion and stor­age. After the hunt, guests en­joy a spe­cial truf­fle tast­ing menu fol­lowed by truf­fle clean­ing and a spe­cial truf­fle­laden lunch.

How­ever, for those who may find truf­fle hunt­ing a bit placid, the good news is, the villa is close to Maranello, Italy. And what, you may ask, is so spe­cial about Maranello? It’s the head­quar­ters of Fer­rari, that’s what, and you can only get there if you’re pur­chas­ing a Fer­rrari. But groups of up to 20 guests at a time can get be­hind the wheel to drive them­selves, with or with­out the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of a Fer­rari pro­fes­sional, through the wind­ing roads of the nearby Tus­can coun­try­side. And in the Fer­rari Chal­lenge, the villa will ar­range for guests to drive pro­fes­sional com­pe­ti­tion ve­hi­cles on a nearby track along­side a rac­ing pro­fes­sional for in­struc­tion, where they can let it rip full bore.

Visit salvi­atino.com for de­tails.

4 ROME CAVA­LIERI, ROME ITALY

Over­look­ing the city of Rome on 15-acres of Mediter­ranean park land, the 370 room Rome Cava­lieri pro­claims it­self to be the only Euro­pean 5-star ho­tel, and posses­sor of the world’s most pres­ti­gious art col­lec­tion housed within a ho­tel. If re­gal suits you, this is it.

And when it’s all said and done, when in Rome, you get to do as the Ro­mans.

The Gla­di­a­tor les­son is an in­spir­ing team­build­ing ac­tiv­ity where in­struc­tors from Rome’s Glad­i­a­to­rial School in­struct guests in an­cient com­bat tech­niques while

pro­vid­ing in­sight into the life and times of a true gla­di­a­tor. Par­tic­i­pants don the usual gla­di­a­tor garb in­clud­ing the tra­di­tional tu­nic, Ro­man san­dals, belt, pro­tec­tive gloves, and wield a wooden train­ing sword. For groups of up to 100 par­tic­i­pants, the ex­pe­ri­ence is made avail­able ei­ther at the ho­tel, or the nearby Gla­di­a­tor School.

Visit wal­dor­fas­to­ria3.hil­ton.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

5 SANDY LANE, BAR­BA­DOS, WEST INDIES

The leg­endary Sandy Lane is the premiere lux­ury re­sort on the is­land of Bar­ba­dos. Poised along the white sandy shores of the Caribbean side of the is­land, the 112-room prop­erty has an avail­able 7,300-square-foot pri­vate villa that’s likely to make the choice of an event in­doors, ver­sus sea­side, quite the tri­umph.

For the golf afi­cionado, the chance to play on the world renowned 18-hole Tom Fazio-de­signed Green Mon­key golf course will be the high point of the event. Carved out of a rock quarry, beau­ti­fully land­scaped greens sit­u­ated high above a spec­tac­u­lar ocean view are the stuff of golf­ing legend. The once in a lifetime ex­pe­ri­ence is ex­clu­sive to ho­tel guests with very strict tee times and caddy re­quire­ments.

Af­ter­wards, the re­sort’s com­pli­men­tary air­port trans­fers via Mercedes and BMW ve­hi­cles may sim­ply never do, which is why for an ad­di­tional sur­charge, ser­vice via Bent­ley or Rolls Royce is avail­able.

For de­tails visit sandy­lane.com.

With no strings at­tached, you must then leap into your new world — both prac­ti­cally and metaphor­i­cally

6 MI­RAVAL RE­SORT & SPA, TUC­SON, AZ

For­merly known as Mi­raval Life In Bal­ance, this re­sort’s heav­enly views of the ad­ja­cent Catalina Moun­tains are one of many rea­sons celebri­ties like Oprah Win­frey tout it as their ab­so­lute fa­vorite.

An abun­dant choice of out­door/in­door meet­ing and event ar­eas af­fords guests the op­por­tu­nity to cap­ture the beauty, and de­part with a new mind­set.

For ex­am­ple, Quantum Leap, one of the many ex­clu­sive chal­lenge cour­ses, presents guests with the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss tran­si­tions and let­ting go as the jour­ney be­gins with a 25-foot climb to the top of a pole. With noth­ing to hold on to, guests are en­cour­aged to de­clare their aban­don­ment of some­thing or some­one. With that in mind and with no strings at­tached, you must then leap into your new world – both prac­ti­cally and metaphor­i­cally.

Another un­for­get­table op­por­tu­nity is the Equine Ex­pe­ri­ence. De­signed to im­prove per­son-to-per­son com­mu­ni­ca­tion, guests are given a com­mand to ex­e­cute in di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a horse, less the use of words. Suc­cess in the process sug­gests great in­tu­itive com­mu­ni­ca­tion. On standby are coun­selors to en­sure that ev­ery­one even­tu­ally suc­ceeds through in­di­vid­ual coach­ing de­signed to pro­mote clear and con­cise com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills with peo­ple – both with and with­out the use of words.

More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at mi­raval­re­sorts.com.

7 BOCA RA­TON RE­SORT & CLUB, BOCA RA­TON, FL

This Wal­dorf As­to­ria prop­erty sit­u­ated on 356 acres of Florida’s Gold Coast of­fer views that range from the At­lantic Ocean, the In­tra­coastal Water­way, the iconic pink Tower or along the edge of the his­toric golf course.

For some, an event atop the his­toric tower will do. For oth­ers, beach­front on the At­lantic Ocean is the way to go. Then there’s the Wal­dorf As­to­ria Spa. Built to re­sem­ble The Al­ham­bra Palace in Spain, the area of­fers over 50,000 square feet of grand arches, elab­o­rate mo­saics and op­u­lent sur­round­ings.

Meet­ing and event at­ten­dees can choose to go “bad boy” and “bad girl” with tat­too artists and graf­fiti walls. Also nearby is Palm Beach Speed­way’s op­por­tu­nity for ex­otic race car driv­ing. Nearby hot air bal­loon and he­li­copter rides add fur­ther fla­vor as well.

But the real fun is set to be­gin in Oc­to­ber when the re­sort is set to de­but South Florida’s first Flow House. The dual-sided Flow Rider wave sim­u­la­tor for flow and body­board­ing is an all new des­ti­na­tion for

A com­bi­na­tion of vol­un­teer­ing and team-build­ing helps groups plan ac­tiv­i­ties that ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity

group events where smaller groups can also se­lect team build­ing surf lessons, plus soon to come, lessons with pro­fes­sional Flow board­ers as well. Af­ter­wards, kick back to a Cirque-es­que ex­pe­ri­ence on the beach, en­joy­ing per­for­mances un­der the di­rec­tion of Neil Gold­berg, a pro­ducer on Broad­way’s Cirque Dreams.

Find out more at bo­care­sort.com/ Things-to-do/Wal­dorf-As­to­ria-Spa.

8 CAPELLA PE­DRE­GAL, CABO SAN LU­CAS, MEX­ICO

From iconic hote­lier Horst Schulze. co-founder of The Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Company, comes the Capella Group, with prop­er­ties now open in such far-flung places as Wash­ing­ton, DC, and Sin­ga­pore. New prop­er­ties are also com­ing soon to Ja­pan, Thai­land and St Lu­cia.

Mean­while, Cabo’s Capella Pe­dre­gal has been gar­ner­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the top re­sorts in Mex­ico thanks to its spell­bind­ing in­te­rior de­sign and equally mes­mer­iz­ing ex­te­rior views.

Built into an ocean­front cliff, ac­cess is granted only through a tun­nel bur­rowed into a moun­tain­side to pro­vide pri­vacy, cin­e­matic wa­ter views of the Pa­cific Ocean and cus­tom­ized ser­vice.

After be­ing swept away and into the lap of lux­ury, per­haps noth­ing could be more well suited than a tequila tast­ing fol­lowed by a wind down at the re­sort’s Auriga Spa, which in 2012 was voted “Best Spa in the World.”

For de­tails visit capel­la­ho­tels.com/cabosanlucas.

9 BACARA RE­SORT & SPA, SANTA BAR­BARA, CA

Un­der the radar with an ex­clu­sive beach­front set­ting, Bacara Re­sort & Spa is lo­cated on the Amer­i­can Riviera – one of Cal­i­for­nia’s last re­main­ing un­touched coast­lines. The 360-room Span­ish-style dwelling is framed by the ar­rival court­yard paved with nearly 70,000 cob­ble­stone bricks im­ported from Europe – and that’s just the be­gin­ning of the prop­erty’s beauty.

After your event, your at­ten­dees can taste the fruits of their labors with the “Bacara Crush,” an ad­ven­ture that takes wine mak­ing to new depths.

Of­fered Septem­ber through Novem­ber, it’s a hands-on wine­mak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where par­tic­i­pants work along­side Santa Bar­bara County wine­mak­ers and pro­duc­ers. It’s in­ter­ac­tive, ed­u­ca­tional and there is no short­age of tast­ings. Par­tic­i­pat­ing area winer­ies in­clude Fire­stone Vine­yard, Fo­ley, Brewer - Clifton, Carhartt Vine­yard and Har­ri­son Clarke.

Find out more at bacararesort.com.

10 THE RITZ-CARL­TON LOS AN­GE­LES

“Lo­cated on the en­ter­tain­ment cam­pus of L.A. LIVE, steps from Sta­ples Cen­ter arena, Grammy Mu­seum and the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, plan­ners like to in­cor­po­rate the mix of sports, en­ter­tain­ment and culi­nary op­tions of L.A. LIVE into their planned group ac­tiv­i­ties, for a very mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence,” ex­plains Peter Psi­has, di­rec­tor of group sales at The Ritz-Carl­ton, Los An­ge­les, JW Mar­riott Los An­ge­les L.A. LIVE.

The 54-story tower fea­tures views that, on a clear day, span from down­town to the ocean. It houses both the JW Mar­riott Los An­ge­les L.A. LIVE and the The Ritz- Carl­ton Los An­ge­les. It is there­fore easy to imag­ine the pre­mium set­ups avail­able for meet­ings or events, rang­ing from rooftop pool­side, to glass en­closed rooms with daz­zling night time views.

In a city where in­dul­gence is al­ways flaunted, the Ritz-Carl­ton Los An­ge­les makes the process of giv­ing as easy as re­ceiv­ing. This op­por­tu­nity falls un­der the Ritz-Carl­ton Vol­unTeam­ing ini­tia­tive, a com­bi­na­tion of vol­un­teer­ing and team­build­ing which helps groups plan ac­tiv­i­ties that ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity, such as a day of vol­un­teer­ing at the L. A. Food Bank.

“Re­sponse is al­ways over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive from our par­tic­i­pants,”says Psi­has. “Guests feel they have made a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence to the lo­cal com­mu­nity, and walk away with an un­der­stand­ing of how hunger can im­pact any per­son.”

Visit ritzcarl­ton.com for more in­for­ma­tion. BT

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