Unlike the average machine, most people need to unplug in order to recharge. And some pampering at a spa can help them do just that.
Many resort-based spas have evolved so far beyond the massage-and-manicure treatments of yore they could pass as complete destinations in themselves, with locations far removed from the bustle of the main property and activity options that would take days, or even weeks, to complete. Miami’s Spa at Doral, for one, set within the 650-acre Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa, is home to a Pritikin Longevity Center, which has its own accommodations and restaurant, with programs ranging in duration from two weeks to two months.
While that might work as an incentive, and with many planners still struggling to fit a three- or four-day conference into two, some might wonder if there’s even time in the schedule for downtime. Yet there’s no denying that mixing a little pleasure with business can greatly benefit both the attendee and the conference itself.
“I think companies are recognizing the value of giving people time to clear their heads,” says Geoffrey Michel, owner of The Met Day Spa & Salon in Sarasota. “Companies are definitely paying more attention to wellness.”
“We all need a little recess from concentration. It helps us focus,” agrees Arielle Feinberg, spa director of the Relache Spa & Salon at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee. “I think it also helps morale. People feel the company is taking care of them.
“Health is so important,” she adds. “We need to be aware of it and take care of ourselves.”
Take a Break
To that end, Relache has formulated a variety of ways to fit a spa intermission into a busy convention agenda, from setting up chair massages outside conference halls to providing 10-minute stretch classes during breaks and offering aromatherapy and inhalation treatments as a quick pick-me-up between sessions.
“People don’t have a lot of time to come down to the spa, so now we go to them,” Feinberg says.
Though if attendees do manage to squeeze in some free time, Relache is ready with lounges and sanctuary areas that give convention-goers their moment of zen during the day.
Energizing attendees—and teaching them how to enjoy their own spa “moments” when they leave—is the goal at the Spa at Amelia Island Plantation in Northeast Florida, where group classes include tips on stretching with the use of ordinary office chairs.
“We work with a lot of groups and most of them are ‘road warriors,’ so the ability to do chair stretches and other things is important to staying fit and healthy while traveling,” says Liz Hutto, spa director at the property.
In fact, stretching techniques were part of a program that Hutto put together for a recent meeting that built a 45-minute spa break into its conference schedule. Instead of one large session, though, the group of about 120 rotated among five different stations, learning about relaxation through massage and tips for staying fit in the office, including at-your-desk yoga. Other stations offered mini-seminars on aromatherapy and its physical and psychological benefits, natural and effective ways to enhance sleep, and how to concoct a do-it-yourself facial with ordinary items from the fridge, including yogurt and cucumbers.
“The lower the number in your group, the more intense each station can be,” Hutto notes.
Wellness education is also the motivation behind programs at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa west of Tampa, home to a 50,000-square-foot spa with pools and Jacuzzis that are all fed by natural mineral springs.
“We just had a group here that was doing some training,” says Debra Love Smith, Safety Harbor’s membership and spa group sales manager. “These were engineers who sit all day and never get any exercise. We sent our wellness educator up there to do some stretching and talk to them about good eating habits.”
In Orlando, the Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center took note of guest demand for more wellness-oriented options and unveiled the Island Spa last summer. “We’d been providing a selection of spa services for the past few years, and we’ve seen a tremendous increase in demand for these services,” says the hotel’s general manager, Gerald Urquiola. Set near the main pool and fitness center, the boutique-style spa offers private treatment rooms for massage, facial cleanses and other services.
Meanwhile, “express” is the key word when it comes to blending meeting schedules and spa services at Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek, where the Spa at Shingle Creek developed a Meeting Escape package that includes 25-minute express massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. The entire package lasts about two hours or it can be broken up as desired, according to Guillermo Reyes, spa director at the property.
“Our convention groups are pretty booked up,” he says. “Sometimes 25 minutes is all they have.”
Those with more time, however, can opt for 5K runs, volleyball, tennis or basketball, and Shingle Creek will cordon off certain areas for group tournaments, Reyes says.
Positioned for Fitness
Spread across 2,400 acres and straddling both the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Northwest Florida has plenty of outdoor space to keep groups on the move.
“We have a 3.2-mile loop if you want to get all your people on a walk-run,” says Penny Jackson, Sandestin’s director of sales. “We have massage tables waiting afterward. It’s a nice way to get everyone up and active.”
In addition to a full spa and fitness center, Sandestin also offers sunrise yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi sessions on a grand lawn overlooking the bay, which leaves attendees “more engaged and able to absorb more during the day,” Jackson says.
Morning yoga and stretching starts the day at Miami’s Biltmore Hotel as well, with groups gathering in the courtyard fronting the property’s Conference Center of the Americas, surrounded by the terraces, loggias and fountains that distinguish the landmark 1926 property.
The hotel offers more than 80 fitness classes per week in its fitness center, and the experience can be completely tailored to a group’s needs, according to Catherine Davalle, the Biltmore’s director of spa and fitness.
“For example, some want a Zumba class at the end of the day to reenergize everyone,” she notes, referring to the Latin-inspired fitness craze that combines dance and aerobic elements. “We also have Star Dance Fit, a new class that’s like a hip-hop version of Zumba.”
In addition to fitness classes, Davalle says the spa can stage “interventions” at the convention center and in hotel meeting space during the day.
“[These treatments] open the senses so that meeting delegates are ready to go back to the hard-core sessions,” she says. “We also teach relaxation techniques to people who work at their computers all day.”
Attending yoga classes is never a problem when the yoga comes to you, which is what Yoga Downtown Tampa does for meetings and conventions gathering in this riverfront metropolis.
“I’ve sent instructors over to hotels for meditation and yoga sessions, says Francine Messano, owner of the company. “Depending on the venue and if we have the space, we can teach as many as want to come. It’s a great stress reliever for mind and body.”
Messano says her studio is within walking distance of some of the downtown convention hotels, so if you send a group there instead, she can accommodate yoga classes of up to 30. Also at the studio are yoga swings, which is a way of increasing strength and flexibility, according to Messano.
“There are things people can’t do in a regular yoga class that they can do with the swing,” she says. “We hang upside down from it, we stretch with it, we use it to get into positions. Sometimes we just swing back and forth and have a good time.”
Attendees also can join the weekly yoga class Messano leads every Sunday. With an average of 100 people, it is the largest in Tampa, she says.
“Anyone who practices yoga on a regular basis knows all the benefits,” Messano adds.
Indeed, yoga—and the idea of wellness in general—is gaining in popularity at a number of Florida venues, including the Stillwater Spa and Salon at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs.
“We have seen a major increase in guests and meeting planners asking about wellness programs,” says Jennifer Licciardi, the property’s spa director. “In past years, we would get requests for yoga classes or chair massage at breakout sessions once or twice a year. This past year, we were getting weekly requests for them. Yoga seems to be the most popular.”
Penny Jackson of Sandestin is seeing the same trend in wellness awareness.
“People want to be healthy, so they’re incorporating wellness into all areas of their lives,” she says. “I think you’re seeing more emphasis on health now.”
Part of maintaining health, of course, is a balanced, nutritious diet, and spas across Florida either offer their own separate menus or work with the property’s restaurants to offer healthier choices.
The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club near St. Augustine, for one, has its own separate dining room, where a dedicated chef prepares fresh and healthy spa cuisine daily.
At the Hilton Longboat Key, a meeting package called Reach for the Beach includes healthy options for breakfast, lunch and breaks, including veggies, fruit, whole-grain muffins, hummus and stuffed grape leaves.
Meanwhile, the Hilton has partnered with one of Sarasota’s premier spas, The Met, which offers complimentary door-to-door service and allows guests to make spa appointments in advance and charge back to the master account. In addition to signature services that include massages, facials, anti-aging manicures and raw-earth pedicures, The Met can arrange a private lunch for up to 14, bringing in selections from the surrounding restaurants of St. Armand’s Circle, a popular shopping and dining enclave.
“It all flows together, the spa and the dining,” says Geoffrey Michel, owner of The Met. “Feeling good and looking good are important to job success as well as personal success. Walking into a room full of compliments is a great experience.”