With free time at meetings often in short supply these days, many resorts are getting creative in the ways that planners can weave spa and wellness activities into even the most packed agendas. Along with bringing spa services into the meeting room, resorts are devising sports, fitness, therapeutic and cultural experiences designed to help attendees banish stress and find renewal.

In doing so, resorts are responding to increasing demand from meeting groups for wellness activities with lasting value, according to Leslie Johnson, spa director at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., a 600-room resort known for its award-winning spa and the Chopra Center, a research facility that offers yoga, meditation and fitness sessions.

“Companies of all sizes are now seeking extraordinary ways to unveil new dimensions and innovation during conferences and incentive trips,” she said. “They are investing in their employees’ health and wellness and want them to leave with something intangible they can incorporate into their everyday lives.”

While golf and spa treatments remain popular resort options, many organizations and their attendees are looking for a broader approach to recreation and wellness, said Jennifer Edwards, spa group sales manager at the Lake Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“People are coming to us because they want something new to offer their team when there’s a couple of hours of free time,” she said. “It could be skiing or mountain biking, even something like a basketball or volleyball component.”

Spa in the Meeting Room
When free time for attendees is limited, properties such as Destination Kohler, a resort complex that includes the 241-room American Club and Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wis., bring spa and fitness activities to the meeting room.

“Some groups just don’t have the time to properly attend the spa or have a tranquil experience, so we take the spa to them with things like chair massages in the breakout rooms where people can rotate through during the meeting,” said Justin Gephart, director of sales and conference services at the property.

Kohler recently extended this concept by bringing certified trainers from its fitness facility to conduct sessions for groups meeting at the American Club. The trainers conduct morning “Rise and Grind” exercise classes in the hotel meeting rooms with music and build-your-own breakfast parfaits

“We found that attendance at classes held at the fitness center was only so-so, but it really jumped when we brought the classes to the hotel,” Gephart said. “It gets people revved up in the morning and doesn’t cut into the meeting sessions. Organizations want to promote healthy eating and fitness, but they usually can’t spend half a day on it.”

Take a Breath
Sessions to promote better breathing and relaxation are part of the extensive wellness offerings for groups at Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vt., where spa director Surinda Oberai Cavanaugh leads breathing sessions, healthy cooking classes and walks in the resort’s labyrinthine meditation garden planted with herbs and berries.

“We offer simple breathing exercises that people can do everyday—it’s a takeaway where they feel the benefit right away,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s something that can easily be done during a five-minute break during the meeting.”

Stoweflake also takes advantage of its spectacular mountain setting to offer seasonal activities that enable groups to unwind in a pristine environment, said Scott Baraw, vice president of sales.

“We can do things like an evening snowshoe tour with a bonfire at the edge of the woods,” he said. “A lot of groups are looking for stress reduction and we can offer them solutions that don’t take a lot of time.”