By Maura Keller
As meeting and event attendees become more health-conscious, crave nutritious foods and request meetings that don’t require sitting for hours at a time, meeting venues and planners alike are working hard to incorporate health and wellness components into their offerings.
According to the recent “Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study” by the Incentive Research Foundation, 87 percent of planners polled said wellness is a critical focus for their company when planning events, and more than 90 percent of corporate planners were “personally enthusiastic about wellness.”
According to Harold Fehr, director of catering and conference services at Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, “today’s meeting planners have seen it all, so it’s increasingly more challenging to create fresh, new wellness experiences that will help to inspire and energize attendees. By adding healthy eating options, it keeps attendees well-fueled and at their physical best.”
The Boulders offers a variety of corporate wellness programs to enhance their meeting capabilities and is the perfect way for companies to invest in their teams’ wellbeing. Amenities include wellness lectures, personal training and even spa gift cards that are awarded to further encourage wellness. Vickie Loucks, the spa’s certified nutritionist, has even customized a program for busy executives: it includes a tailored weight loss, life coaching and a brain health program that includes specific exercises to improve the activity of both sides of the brain.
Beyond that, the Boulders’ expansive 5,400-square-foot organic garden offers meeting guests a venue where they can indulge in healthy, fresh aperitifs prepared with just-picked plantings from the garden, which also serves as a venue for sunset dinners, organic wine tastings and tours with the Boulders’ master gardener. The “Enlightened Garden Lunch” allows meeting guests to enjoy a midday meal in the garden, while chefs conduct organic cooking demonstrations and interactive classes.
According to Julie Garber, director of sales and marketing at the resort, “Meeting guests that participate in our wellness programs—and indulge in healthy eating during their stay—have reported significant improvement in self-awareness, creativity and renewed energy. We have seen a high percentage of return groups that specifically request a wellness component as part of their meeting agenda.”
FOOD AS FUEL
Meeting planners are incorporating wellness aspects into their programming by choosing healthy food items on their menus and providing options for group members to get some exercise. For instance, at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, they have seen an uptick in meeting planners who are choosing nutritious breakfasts.
“Meeting planners are choosing healthier options to help keep their attendees both happier and more focused during their meetings,” says Alexandra Van Leer, conference service manager at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. “Many guests try to stick to their diet and exercise routines when they travel, and by selecting these options, meeting planners are helping them feel better. Some companies are trying to instill their company culture when away from the office. If wellness is important there, it’s important to them here, too.”
Rather than heavier breakfast items and pastries, the Four Seasons’ spa breakfast menu features fresh juices, fruit, yogurt, granola, appleflaxseed muffins, salmon flatbread, oatmeal, scrambled egg whites and chicken-apple sausage.
For snacks, consider offering natural choices. This can be as simple as substituting granola for cookies and coconut water for soda, or creating a “superfoods break” with freshmade smoothies, super grains and antioxidant shooters.
“All groups are looking to include health-inspired menus—not only as a way to address growing dietary trends but also to ensure they are fueling their meetings by providing fresh, clean meals that keep their attendees energized and focused,” says Lindsay Curry, corporate director of sales for the Enchantment Group.
A creative “healthy eating” teambuilding activity could also feature a mini breakout session with a nutritionist, followed by a team building activity whereby attendees split up in small groups and use various ingredients to compete for the healthiest and tastiest break snacks. They then present and vote on best break foods created by each group.
Even cocktails can be thoughtfully incorporated into the overall wellness picture. The Boulders offers a popular meeting program called the Mixer Mixology, which gives meeting guests the opportunity to craft their own cocktail concoction with a bevy of garden fresh aromatics and herbs snipped from the resort’s own organic garden. Supervised by the resort’s resident mixologist, the program is a perfect ice-breaker, vibe-enhancer and conversation starter for meeting groups, offering a welcome twist to the requisite pre-dinner cocktail hour, or post-meeting mixer.
“Due to the increasing use of these wellness offerings by meeting planners when planning programs with us, we believe they are well-received by guests,” Van Leer says. “It seems that the more a guest can keep to their diet and exercise plans when traveling, the happier they are.”
REFRESH AND RECHARGE
The tricky part about adding a wellness activity is finding the time to incorporate it into a meeting or event. But that’s the goal of getting everyone to meet out of the normal office environment—to “hit the reset button” and recharge. Allowing time in the morning or afternoon for attendees to relax at a group yoga/meditation class or a group bike ride helps everyone bond, collaborate and come into the next meeting with their blood pumping and ideas flowing. From 15-minute nature hikes to meditation sessions and geocaching, Arizona resorts have helped plan healthy breaks and team building activities, with an emphasis on outdoor activities.
The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale offers meeting planners healthy menu options (one is super foods-focused) as well as spa treatments, fitness classes and desert hikes to their attendees. The resort is adjacent to Pinnacle Peak Park, which has a well-maintained and popular hiking trail accessible from the property. Resort staff can direct meeting-goers to try out fitness hikes or their Zen Hike, a stroll that incorporates yoga stops along the way.
“All of our wellness options are fully customizable to the group’s needs,” the Four Seasons’ Van Leer says. One popular option lately has been the Four Season’s Spa Tapas, in which guests are able to participate in small samples of treatments— chair massages, anti-aging hand treatments, foot massages—when they check in for their program.
“It gets the whole program off on the right foot,” Van Leer says. “I’m also seeing a lot of our programs organize private yoga classes or hikes in the early morning so their attendees have the option of working out with colleagues if they choose to.”
WORKING IN WELLNESS
The power of holistic approaches to reducing stress can’t be overstated—especially for onthe-go workers. We all know that travel can either be restful or burdensome—and the latter is not typically associated with vacations, but with business travel. Fortunately, organizations are paying more attention to employee health as studies show the benefits of doing so, and it’s changing the dynamic of today’s meetings.
Enchantment Resort, set amidst the natural beauty of Sedona, is an ideal location for a productive, yet wellness-focused meeting. In addition to more than 13,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, the resort offers abundant wellness offerings to revitalize and inspire a group. The property’s intimate destination spa offers enriching and unique services and treatments, including various energy-focused and mindfulness workshops, Native American-inspired therapies, and fitness and nutrition counseling. Your group may want to try out a group breathing exercise, meditation session or take an outdoor active break here. This year as a meeting add-on, Enchantment started offering outdoor, movement-inducing breaks, including Woga, a signature activity combining walking and yoga. Exploring the resort grounds, this class stops at scenic points in the canyon to engage in nature-inspired yoga postures.
“ROI is hugely important to every company and organization investing in meetings and executive retreats,” says Enchantment’s Curry. “To spend the time and resources to gather associates in an inspirational environment but not pay mind to those individuals’ productivity during the event simply does not make sense.”
Wellness best practices shouldn’t stop after your meeting or event. Here are some tips to take back to the office or your next event, too.
Foster the Feeling: The room or venue a meeting or event is held in is also paramount to the meetinggoer’s experience. Is the room too hot or too cold? Is there enough light? Also think about extending overall sustainable practices like recycling during your meeting, which helps attendees think about what can carry through to your organizational culture.
Get Up and Moving: There are varying schools of thought on this, but presentations, talks or discussions should be no more than 50 minutes without some type of movement, which should last at least five to 10 minutes.
Maura Keller is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor who frequently writes about meeting and event topics.