A ski lodge with no snow or a beach resort with rainy weather might not seem like ideal accommodations, but when it comes to booking a company meeting or corporate retreat those circumstances can be big incentives for planners. Industry experts discuss the pros and cons and offer advice for organizing a destination meeting during off-peak seasons:
Costs are lower across the board.
The biggest advantage to planning a company meeting during the off-season is undoubtedly the savings, especially in terms of room rates. For example, Erik Dombroski, director of sales and strategy for Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, explains that group rates, which are in the low $300s during peak times, can go as low as $149 during the off-season. Vendors in the Jackson Hole area also offer increased group discounts, while many local restaurants run off-peak specials. Overall, meeting planners have the upper hand when negotiating concessions and food and beverage packages during these times.
Resorts are less crowded.
Off-peak meeting attendees also won’t have to compete with as many visitors and guests. “It can be a bit crowded during our peak seasons, so groups will feel like they have the whole valley and mountain to themselves,” says Dombroski. (May through the first week of June and October through the second week of December are considered off-peak times for the Jackson Hole area.)
And smaller crowds mean more availability in terms of booking dates and meeting spaces, adds Frank Cavella, director of sales and marketing at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida, which considers June through October off-peak. “Off-season meetings also allow for a more intimate feel for the group and company, more availability for larger blocks, and a great opportunity for ‘bleisure’ meetings,” he explains, referring to a new trend the combines business and leisure travel.
Weather may be a factor.
“I always remind meeting planners when planning off-peak meetings to think about the weather because that is usually oftentimes what’s driving it to be off-peak,” says Cindy Y. Lo, director of communications for the Association of Destination Management Executives International and owner of Red Velvet Events in Austin, Texas.
“For example, if you are planning an event in Austin in July, which is low season for us, we’ll suggest a custom ice cream sandwich bar mid-afternoon or incorporating a paper fan that doubles up as an agenda or map for a fun evening out on the town. These details pay off as creative and show that you care about the attendees’ comfortability,” she adds.
Hotels could be short staffed.
During the off season, hotels and venues trim back on labor and staffing, warns Brian Rerrell, president of Factor 110, a destination management company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He recommends working with the venue to ensure they are properly staffed and their additional food outlets and venues are open.
Explore area activities.
While the most popular tourist activity might not be available, such as skiing in Jackson Hole, meeting planners should investigate other seasonal options that are just as fun. For example, the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park are open May 15 to November 1 during Jackson Hole’s off-peak season. Other warm-weather activities include rafting, fly fishing, road and mountain biking, wildlife tours, gallery tours, wine tasting, astronomy viewing, hiking, golf, and horseback rides.
In addition, groups might be able to score deals on local activities at this period as well. “The whole city hurts during these times, so everything is more available and cheaper,” such as Broadway shows and TV show tapings, says Rob DelliBovi, vice president of sales for Dream Hotels in New York, adding that January and February are the slowest months of the year in the city.
Plus, there may be some unknown perks. Gabriela van der Lee, director of sales and marketing at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, which classifies its off season as August and September, explains that the ocean waters are warmest during this time, allowing guests to enjoy paddleboarding, swimming, and deep sea fishing more easily. Also, those months are prime time for turtle season, when guests can experience the spawning of sea turtles next to the resort’s beach.