Corporate Retreat Ideas: What Small Properties Offer Exclusive Groups

Small properties that cater to corporate groups offer privacy and special amenities for meetings and retreats.

By Amy Gordon July 12, 2016, 7:15 AM EDT

Dunton Hot Springs

Photo: Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs

When meeting planners need exclusive use of a venue for corporate meetings or retreats, not all hotels and resorts are created equal. “Buyouts are an amazing experience for guests when the program’s needs and what the venue can offer are closely aligned,” says Lori Louis, director of sales at the Allison Inn & Spa in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which draws interest in buyouts from corporate groups all over the country.

Privacy Please
A top reason for a full buyout is the privacy that it allows, particularly for meetings that require a high level of confidentiality. While urban hotels often offer proximity to corporate headquarters, they are also quite visible. Remote properties, on the other hand, provide ideal settings for high-profile deals or board meetings that require secrecy. Azuridge Estate Hotel, a 13-suite resort set on 13 acres in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada, is also tucked away from the public eye. The property is a go-to location for corporations looking for a getaway when making major decisions. “I’ve never seen so many shredders,” general manager Clarence McLeod recalls of a recent corporate group that bought out Azuridge to discuss restructuring.

At Dunton Hot Springs in Dunton, Colorado, groups can reserve more than just the property’s accommodations for as many as 44 guests; they can book the entire town. Once buyout guests cross a gated bridge, the entire restored ghost town of Dunton—which includes a saloon, a dance hall, and a spa—is off-limits to outsiders.

Located within the larger planned development of Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Fearrington House Inn is only 30 minutes from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and easily accessible from North Carolina’s Research Triangle. For this reason, the property often attracts groups from nearby pharmaceutical and IT companies. But while Fearrington is conveniently located, it is also somewhat secluded and surrounded by acres of pastures. “You still feel like you’re on a very remote farm,” says Juan David Cure, director of sales and marketing. “That’s one of the biggest reasons people from nearby come here for corporate retreats: to feel like they’re away from their busy lives.”

Focus on Facilities 
Groups at Dunton Hot Springs have unlimited use of the hot springs, library, and mountain bikes. The property also sources much of its food locally—from organic produce to grass-fed meats to foraged mushrooms—which appeals to groups that value a healthy culinary program.

At Azuridge, groups have access to several meeting spaces including a private boardroom equipped with a smart board and projector, three larger meeting rooms, and a screening room. For entertaining, it offers a 12-seat chef’s table as well as a three-story gazebo with a built-in bar and a kitchen that holds as many as 80 for receptions or 60 for seated dinners. Another selling point for corporate groups is the variety of suite sizes, with top executives placed in the largest rooms. While the range of accommodations at such an intimate retreat may seem trivial to an outsider, “it’s more needed than not,” McLeod says. “C.E.O. and C.F.O. egos get stroked when they get bigger rooms.”

Having space for social events after a meeting is essential at properties in the business of corporate retreats. Within Fearrington Village, a spa and a fine-dining outlet with a garden terrace are both available for planners to reserve throughout a group’s stay at Fearrington House Inn. Planners that book the 32-room hotel can also make use of a venue for larger events of as many as 320 people, enabling them to bring in guests who are not staying on the property.

The 85-room Allison offers 12,000 square feet of private indoor space and two outdoor garden areas. The abundance of venues relative to the number of guest rooms allows planners to take advantage of a variety of settings for meetings, breakouts, and social gatherings.

Secret Service
Perhaps the most important piece of the buyout package is not the property itself, but the staff. At Fearrington House Inn, the intimate atmosphere lends itself to personalized service. “We work closely with the guests,” says Cure. “Within half 
a day, the staff and guests all know each other by name.”

High-level corporate retreats require a service team that specializes in catering to V.I.P. guests. “Be a step ahead, be tactful, and be discreet,” advises McLeod. “You’re seeing and hearing very confidential things, but you can’t say anything.” A signature feature of Azuridge’s service is its butler program, which is committed to providing guests care, discretion, and attention to detail. During the high season, the property might employ as many as 10 butlers to attend to the 13 suites. Many of the property’s corporate guests are dealing with very stressful deals and decisions, and impeccable service makes their jobs easier. Adds McLeod: “[Butlers] see everything, and we know everything. We are always a step ahead.”

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