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How Florida Destinations Can Help You Incorporate Unique Wellness Activities Into Meetings

Eco tour on jet skis at Alligator Reef, Florida Keys

Techonomy, a multi-day event and retreat dedicated to exploring the intersection of business, social progress and technology, has been held in Silicon Valley in California for the past decade. However, in November, the retreat moved to Lake Nona, a 17-square-mile mixed-use planned community within the city limits of Orlando, southeast of Orlando International Airport.  

Why? This visionary "Living Lab" community combines the best of business, technology and wellness. It’s home to companies like KPMG, Lilium and Verizon, and attracts organizations and entrepreneurs who convene to initiate and test big ideas. Lake Nona's culture of collaboration provides a robust learning experience, from pre-K to Ph.D/M.D. with four colleges and universities within five miles. Here, the legendary Deepak Chopra helped design a community that encourages an active lifestyle. Even residents are offered yoga in their own community gardens! 

Renowned for its natural surroundings, 40% of the community is for open space, including parks, trails and lakes, all designed to emphasize wellness and health.  

It's just one example of the robust wellness offerings Florida has for events.

More on Techonomy and Lake Nona

Techonomy speakers on stage, Lake Nona Wave Hotel
Techonomy, Lake Nona Wave Hotel. Credit Worth Media Group

Techonomy 23's agenda included dynamic speakers such as businessman and 2020 presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, and White House science and technology policy advisor, Arati Prabhakar. Recreation options at the event included a VIP tennis clinic with Lindsay Davenport, pickleball in partnership with PCKL (pickleball paddles, balls and more), and workouts with Joe De Sena, founder and CEO of Spartan at the Lake Nona Performance Club, that featured spin and sunrise yoga. 

Lake Nona Wave Hotel is regarded as one of the United States' most technologically advanced hotels and served as the conference's host hotel. Guests at the property have access to the Chopra Mind Body Zone and Spa, one of the most comprehensive wellness centers in the country. Here guests can participate in several different classes: barre, pilates, breathwork and meditation. The Lake Nona Performance Club, a state-of-the-art health and fitness center, invites guests to take part in programs such as the "Know Your Body" package that measures and evaluates metabolic rate and other fitness assessments. Customized diet and workout plans are created for guests to follow when they return home after their meeting. 

"Lake Nona Wave Hotel is the gateway to a range of unique experiences," said James Tattersall, area director of sales and marketing. "This is where groups can go beyond the ordinary," he added, citing group aerial yoga, climbing tutorials at Lake Nona Performance Club, casual and upscale offsite dining options footsteps from the hotel, to tasting the future at the Wellness Home of Innovation and Technology.    

"When it comes to wellness, our multitude of offerings starts with the extensive Lake Nona Performance Club. Here, all our hotel guests get complimentary access to 100-plus fitness classes; Deepak Chopra's first Mind-Body Zone and Spa; TechnoGym's most extensive gym floor; expert advice on nutrition, metabolism, posture and sleep; and so much more. From an in-depth executive fitness reset to a simple candlelit yoga class, groups can surround their whole program around the expertise of this destination. There are so many ways to take groups beyond the boardroom," Tattersall said.  

[Related: The Latest Meeting News in Florida]

The Increasing Importance of Wellness at Meetings

These days, groups are boldly asking for more health and wellness options for their meetings. According to the 2024 Meetings Today Trends Survey, when planners were asked, "Which of the following activities do you often incorporate into your meetings?" A sizable 35.1% of planners cited a wellness component. 

Indeed, Las Vegas-based Michael Ferreira, owner, founder and CEO, Meetings Made Easy, agrees.  

"The world now knows work is not number one. Do you want to look back and say, I'm glad I worked this hard? People want to put their health first. I think the pandemic was a giant wakeup call and companies are being more lenient and taking care of their human beings. It's amazing when you can incorporate wellness into the meeting," he said. 

"I think people are more conscious today that work isn't 24/7 and that keeping healthy and getting a good night's sleep is just as important. It's also great when we're staying at a hotel with amenities in the room that help attendees with relaxation," Ferreira added. 

On a recent trip to the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, one group participated in an affirmation meditation at âme Spa & Wellness Collective. This guided experience called Journey to Wellness is a specialized detoxification and balancing treatment that starts with the group lying comfortably on mats as the instructor uses sound bowls to make light sounds and vibrations that are used as a form of healing. After about 20 minutes of this relaxing and refreshing therapy (where fighting sleep is undoubtedly the most challenging aspect about the treatment), guests can move on to skin brushing and a lymphatic drainage treatment to purify the body.  

How about that after a long day of meetings? 

For a more rigorous workout, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry's outdoor Full Functional Fitness Course enables hotel guests to work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 6-9 a.m. with guidance from a coach, who helps guests learn how to strengthen their balance and core through a series of exercises. This 30-minute workout is complimentary for hotel guests. 

"We are seeing the growth of wellness since the pandemic. People want to be out doing things before, during and after the

Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa pickleball
Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa pickleball

 meeting," said Callie Strouse, recreation director, Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. "We actually had a group ask us if they could turn our cabanas into small meeting spaces, while another rented six jet skis to take his group out as a break from the meeting." 

While younger groups may want more competitive sports, the resort also caters to those who want to relax on the private beach, Strouse said. 

The hotel offers yoga classes several times each morning and tennis courts, a basketball court and new pickleball courts. 

"We were getting so many inquiries on pickleball that we now have six courts so we can set up a tournament for a group," Strouse said. “For one recent group, pickleball pro, Andy Rubenstein, was hired to give the group a lesson in serving, hitting and scoring—thoroughly enjoyed by all!” 

Jennifer Woods, director of spa and wellness, Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, works closely with meeting planners looking to add wellness options to their itinerary. 

"Spa buyouts are always a great way to treat clients and guests. Not only do they enjoy a spa service, but they can also take advantage of our spa amenities, such as the hot tub, sauna and steam room. 

"Here at The Spa at Shingle Creek, we offer a variety of services for our guests. We take wellness seriously and my team of highly trained professionals go above and beyond to make sure every guest leaves feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. I also arrange activities from 5K fun runs, sunrise yoga, body boot camp or water aerobics, to name a few. What's been so exciting for us is the huge increase in wellness activity requests over the last few years," Woods said.

Creative Wellness Activities 

Eco jet ski tour around Alligator Reef, Florida Keys
Eco tour on jet skis, Florida Keys. Photo courtesy of Islamorada Resort Collection

"Companies are now prioritizing employees' mental health and looking at how that plays into the program," noted Jessica James, director of sales at destination management company PRA. "We do a lot of 'zen dens' as part of the hospitality experience, and we can set up hand and chair massages for attendee check-in at the start of their wellness experience." 

At PRA, they have some out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to wellness, too.  

"We have done puppy petting, chair massages (using essential oils), flamingo yoga and later in the day, moon-bathing experiences on the beach while watching the sun set. It's a practice where you soak up the energy of the moon," James said. 

Whether it's spas at hotels or standalone fitness centers, companies understand the importance of wellness and actively work to facilitate its experience for their employees. 

"At Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, we can identify and incorporate the ideal wellness activities that will work best for each meeting or corporate event," said Shanelle Lucas, spa director, Serenity by the Sea Spa at Hilton Sandestin. "Home to a full-service spa and salon, our team works with each group to identify the right additions—from a wellness perspective—into their itinerary. 

"Whether that entails scheduling a series of mini spa breaks for group members to take a digital detox (with a massage or body treatment), or a beachfront yoga class, groups will bond over health-focused activities. And our culinary team will develop a more health-focused menu with granola and berry parfait, fresh salads with grouper and more," she added. 

Nancy Thielman, spa director of Westin Sarasota, says attendees delight in their sunrise and sunset rooftop yoga, treatments in the spa and, of course, facials and body treatments (on amethyst crystal mats, no less!). They also enjoy exploring the area and incorporating exercise whenever possible.  

"We've taken groups for morning walks over the Ringling Bridge with its adjacent park and beach with city views,” Thielman said. “Morning walks are easy because many of these groups have a packed agenda. This is a beautiful way to set intentions and pace for the day because frankly, we sometimes over feed them and under move our attendees!" 

Three Waters Resort & Marina, a Tribute Portfolio Resort in the Florida Keys, opens in the fall with sister properties Amara Cay Resort and La Siesta Resort & Villas. Taking advantage of Islamorada's bucolic surroundings, groups have numerous ways to get moving and become one with nature that includes watersports, biking, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing adventures and much more. 

A 26-mile eco-tour experience on jet skis is likely the perfect way to relish the Florida weather and wildlife surrounding the Alligator Reef Lighthouse. Professional tour guides share their knowledge of the Keys’ history and unique ecosystems while leading riders through hidden mangrove tunnels, past pristine state parks and out to the country's largest coral reef with a stop at the world-famous Islamorada sandbar. 

Stacey Peringer, complex director of guest experiences, says the resorts offer a wide variety of authentic and upscale experiences for guests' peace of mind and well-being. 

"We offer yoga, sound healing and Reiki. We can also bring in a nutritionist to guide our executive chef during healthy cooking classes in one of our tiki huts right on the beach,” Peringer said. 

"Today's groups are trying to find more of a balance. They don't want to come to The Keys solely to meet. They want to experience the beauty of the Everglades, the ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.” 

Catch up on all the latest news in the Sunshine State and read the 2024 edition of Meetings Today Florida

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Jennifer Juergens | Contributing Content Developer, Florida and Caribbean