Caribbean & Islands


June 2017

Bahamian culture and outdoor pursuits entice small groups

by Carolyn Blackburn

  • Atlantis Paradise Island

    Atlantis Paradise Island


    Atlantis Paradise Island

    Atlantis Paradise Island
  • Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

    Grand Hyatt Baha Mar


    Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

    Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
  • Hartford Wing Courtyard

    Hartford Wing Courtyard


    Hartford Wing Courtyard

    Hartford Wing Courtyard

Crystal blue waters, shimmering sand, swaying palm trees and a tropical climate that’s matched by the warmth of the people who live here are enough to make the Bahamas a destination that will thrill any group.

The exotic surroundings and friendly locals, plus an immersion in Bahamian culture and intriguing activities that attendees won’t find on other meeting itineraries, makes the Bahamas a particularly wonderful destination for small incentive groups.

“As an archipelago of 700 islands and cays, the Bahamas offers a chance for international events and incentive meeting groups to utilize different island locations,” said Bradley Bosfield, general manager, group services for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. “There is so much to see and do during a Bahamas experience that other destinations cannot offer.”

On Exuma Island, for example, Bosfield said groups can swim with the island’s resident pigs, on Eleuthera Island they can book a teambuilding activity centered on the Glass Window Bridge, an amazing spot that separates the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and from Nassau and Paradise Island it’s easy to visit Blue Lagoon Island for a dolphin encounter.  

When meeting on the group-friendly Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, Fred Lounsberry, CEO of Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, recommended an outing via Powerboat Adventures, during which attendees will snorkel crystal reefs and feed stingrays, as well as two edible experiences, a foodie tour including tastes at downtown Nassau’s popular eateries with Tru Bahamian Tours, and a tour/tasting at John Watling’s Distillery, a purveyor of rum.

Keeping in mind that attendees will need somewhere to hang their sun hats, the Bahamas offers many outstanding resorts that promise an array of on-site amenities that promote both fun and relaxation, luxury accommodations and meeting space that accommodates small incentive groups.

“We have an activities department on-site that is equipped to put on a show for you,” said Dwayne Turnquest, senior group sales manager at Melia Nassau Beach - All Inclusive. “Junkanoo rush-outs and salsa nights are great options to break the ice upon your welcome to Nassau.” 

Turnquest added the property is located next door to the newly opened Baha Mar, and shuttle service is provided so groups can take advantage of golf, tennis and gambling at the Caribbean’s newest and largest casino. 

In April, the first phase of Baha Mar was revealed, including the casino, Royal Blue Golf Club, Baha Mar Convention, Art and Entertainment Center, and Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, which was designed to become a preferred venue for international incentive groups, according to Yvette Edwards, the property’s director of sales and marketing.

“The tropical location is filled with eco-attractions that cater to small incentive groups,” she said, and cited a swim-up aquarium and a sea life sanctuary filled with adopted nurse sharks, stingrays and tropical fish.

She added the resort also provides intimate spaces for small groups, including outdoor options like gazebos and breakout rooms with patios that accommodate meal functions complete with views of show fountains.

Another host for small incentive groups in Nassau is Graycliff Hotel, where according to Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board’s Lounsberry, attendees can become torcedors in just a few hours at the Graycliff Cigar Company. There, they will learn the steps to rolling a great cigar, and at the on-site Graycliff Chocolatier, they can learn how to pair chocolate with various premium spirits, including rum, whiskey and port.

Groups can also enjoy a Bahamian feast at Graycliff Restaurant, which offers private dining and a chef-guided cooking class featuring signature recipes and fresh ingredients. A typical lunch menu created by the group will include conch chowder, broiled snapper, peas and rice, and guava duff for dessert.

Paradise Island is another group hotspot, and home to Atlantis, Paradise Island, where Lounsberry said small groups can snorkel and interact with on-site marine animals, including feeding nurse sharks and cownose rays.

According to Wendy Blaney, chief sales officer at Atlantis, golf, spa time and a brand-new swim-with-the-dolphins experience at Dolphin Cay are also popular group activities.

“While Atlantis has the ability to cater to the largest incentive groups, smaller groups remain a priority,” she added, and said there are outdoor spaces with ocean views and those surrounded by beautiful Caribbean foliage that small groups enjoy. “The endless venue options and expansive landscape of the property allows groups to truly take over the space that they’re in.”

Also on Paradise Island is One&Only Ocean Club, which also specializes in working with small meetings and incentive groups, according to Nancy Brenner, the property’s director of weddings, celebrations and events.  

Among the opportunities for off-session time here are one-on-one lessons at Ocean Club Paradise Island Golf Course, spa time, martini classes at the on-site Library Bar, and either cooking classes or a meal at Dune, the acclaimed on-site restaurant with ocean views.

“Groups have also enjoyed activities such as private island excursions, luxury yacht charters, sunset catamaran cocktail parties, art classes with Jane Waterous, as well as underwater explorations,” Brenner said, and added there is a boardroom, a beach deck and pool terrace that all accommodate small group gatherings.

And on the group-friendly Grand Bahama Island is Grand Lucayan, an all-inclusive resort where small groups book indoor spaces including Little Harbour Cay, a room that seats up to 50 guests and offers water views.

“For those looking to enjoy the Bahamian breeze, the Grand Lucayan team can create outdoor vignettes on the beach or on the pool deck,” said Patricia Bradley, the resort’s national sales manager. 

She added groups enjoy infusing Bahamian style into events, from specialty food and post-meeting rum tastings to an entire Junkanoo parade, complete with professional dancers and musicians dressed in costume. 

“Grand Lucayan also offers teambuilding exercises on-site such as a boat-building competition where two teams are given an identical kit and race to see which team can build the sea-worthy vessel first,” Bradley said. “Off-site, the team can arrange Jeep island tours complete with a scavenger hunt, culminating with lunch on the beach.” 

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