As all-inclusive properties in Mexico, the Caribbean and beyond trend toward luxury experiences, meeting groups are taking advantage of the added amenities in addition to the convenience and cost-savings.
“Meeting professionals are increasingly considering all-inclusive resorts for group programming as they offer a wide variety of on-site activities and dining options, while providing cost efficiency and consistency,” said Vera Manoukian, global head and senior vice president of Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
“For both the planner and hotel team, it is easy to determine total budgeting for a program when the majority of services and offerings are included in the base rate for each guest,” she said.
We asked Manoukian for her take on all-inclusive trends at Hilton properties, as well as representatives from Fiesta Americana Grand Meetings Mexico, under the Grupo Posadas parent company, as well as Travaasa Experiential Resorts, which includes Travaasa Hana in Maui, Hawaii.
Though not a traditional all-inclusive, the property does offer groups all-inclusive packages that include breakfast, lunch, dinner and a $175 resort credit per day that can go toward activities or its spa.
Vera Manoukian, global head and senior vice president, Hilton Hotels & Resorts
What are some of the current trends you are seeing in groups at your all-inclusive properties?
Customization has become key for group business. We are seeing a heightened desire for personalized services within our all-inclusive resorts, from a welcome cocktail reception to a private lunch incorporated into the all-inclusive costs. These customizations have enabled planners to create seamless and budget-friendly options based on their attendees’ needs.
We are consistently exploring ways to give planners turnkey options that can be adapted and changed to better meet the needs and preferences of individual groups.
At Hilton Hotels & Resorts, we recently surveyed young professionals ages 23 to 35 and found that this next generation of road warriors often has a tough time balancing wellness while traveling for business. In fact, 58 percent reported that they sacrifice sleep and wellness while on work trips.
In line with those survey results, on property, our teams have noticed an increase in requests for expanded health and wellness offerings. And while many all-inclusive resorts charge for extra activities, including spa services, there are often complimentary options, such as beachside yoga or pool activities, that can be offered to attendees as a value add to their on-property experience.
How is Hilton changing its programs and facilities to meet the demand?
At Hilton, we continue to adapt our meetings and events business to better meet the demand for unique, health-conscious offerings. An example of this theory in practice is our ‘Meet with Purpose’ initiative, which was created to help meeting professionals address the growing desire for wellness.
This program aims to inspire meeting professionals to think outside of the box with one-of-a-kind menus and innovative breakout sessions like ‘Yoga and Yogurt,’ which provides attendees a chance to participate in a yoga class then enjoy a gourmet yogurt parfait.
Hilton continues to keep a pulse on the all-inclusive market, exploring how to most effectively expand and enhance our footprint in this space. We currently welcome guests at a select portfolio of all-inclusive properties in markets such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey.
What are some interesting ways groups have utilized the all-inclusive aspect?
Our team at Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort created successful dine-around experiences for several recent groups, offering a la carte dinners to six to eight of their on-property specialty restaurants.
Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa [in Jamaica] leverages its outstanding seaside location to create memorable programming for meeting attendees. For example, planners can host cocktail parties or lunches set up at the edge of the ocean, with tables and chairs set up in the shallow area of the ocean so that attendees can feel the tide beneath their feet.
As an added element, we have had planners arrange surprises, such as ‘mermaids’ coming up out of the water or boats with ‘fishermen’ strategically placed to carry through an event’s theme.
The team at Hilton Rose Hall has also noticed the industry-wide shift in preference toward healthier dining and activity offerings. As a result, the hotel has created a number of wellness offerings, including special spa parties with neck and back massages, reflexology and other treatments suitable for a variety of group sizes.
Paloma Bravo, international group sales manager, Fiesta Americana Grand Meetings Mexico
What are some of the current group trends you are seeing at your all-inclusive properties?
Lately we have seen greater interest in our clients trying to integrate environmental aspects in their programs that will improve our society and planet. For example, more and more customers are asking us for environmental certifications (The Green Key, Crystal International Standards, etc.), offering alternatives for activities with social responsibility (providing school supplies to a local rural school, etc.), integrating activities that develop human skills (private group yoga lessons, etc.) and above all options that support the guests in caring for their health and well-being during their stay at the hotel.
How is Fiesta Americana changing its programs and facilities to meet the demand?
We have integrated some activities into our programs such as yoga and meditation lessons. We have improved our menus in which we have incorporated options such as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, among others. We also offer salad stations and smoothie stations at a few of our restaurants.
Can you give specific examples of unique ways groups have utilized the all-inclusive aspect?
We hosted a large group that had scattered arrivals, so for their welcome reception, instead of offering a set menu or a regular buffet, we offered several food stations spread throughout the venue. The stations consisted of appetizers and heavy hors d’oeuvres with different specialties from different parts of the world.
Erika Burnham, sales and events manager, Travaasa Experiential Resorts
What are some of the current trends you are seeing in groups at Travaasa Hana?
We are seeing an increase in groups that are looking for unique experiences and meeting and dining spaces outside of the typical conference room. Most of the groups that come to Travaasa are looking to really immerse themselves in the Hana lifestyle, meaning they start to adapt to a slower pace, take breaks from their devices to explore outdoors and reset their focus.
Our most popular spaces requested by groups are our beautiful yoga studio, which offers a panoramic view of our infinity pool, bungalows and the Pacific, and our Plantation Guest House, which is rich with history of our community. We have also seen a high demand by groups that want to learn more about our local culture. For these groups, we offer cultural activities including traditional hula lessons, lei making and a variety of other activities.
How is Travaasa changing its programs and facilities to meet the demand?
We have been tasked with getting more creative when we make our custom itineraries for groups. Tailoring each experience that can highlight both the group’s goals, such as teambuilding, communication, etc., while really getting them outdoors to connect with nature—and each other.
Our devices that make us so accessible can also be prohibitive to these things. The remote nature of Hana has a natural ability to help people unwind, unplug and really detox from the digital world.
What are some interesting ways groups have utilized the all-inclusive aspect?
When groups build in individual downtime, we see the most use of the all-inclusive component of their stay. The spa is typically the most popular way to utilize this offering.
However, we also see individuals become adventurous outside of the group setting, trying a new skill and really getting outside their comfort zone while they have this opportunity to do so.