An Incentive Research Foundation survey of planners found that health and wellness practices at meetings fall short of stated company goals.

The survey concluded that many emerging wellness trends should become standard practice as planners design meetings, signifying that the wellness factor is not a fad.

As planners work to merge wellness and meetings into healthier, more productive experiences, hotels and resorts are increasing their menus of offerings.

And ideas like fitness/spa access and healthier food options are especially prevalent in the Caribbean, where wellness and renewal are in the hotel DNA.

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In fact, the Caribbean Tourism Organization dubbed 2018 “The Year of Wellness and Rejuvenation.” With that mindset, island hotels from Aruba to Jamaica are leading the wellness charge, catering to both vacationers and meeting attendees.

We've selected a host of Caribbean hotels and resorts that are going above and beyond to offer planners ways to weave wellness practices into their meeting agendas.

1. Aruba: Paddleboard Yoga and Aloe Cocktails

"Wellness in travel is something that our hotel has seen become more popular not only with our leisure guests but with our groups, too,” said Carolina Voullieme, director of sales and marketing at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.

“We've done everything from creating a specialty welcome cocktail that incorporates aloe—a local ingredient that hydrates the body and contains antioxidants—to serving health-conscious meals, like a breakfast bar with smoothies, overnight oat bowls and chia bowls,” she added.

SUP Yoga, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

With its powdery white sand beaches and near-perfect weather, Voullieme says activities like yoga on Aruba’s beaches that promote wellness and teambuilding skills are increasingly popular with groups meeting at the resort.

Planners can arrange a private paddleboarding class, where groups paddle out 40 feet from the shore to a dedicated SUP (stand-up paddbleboard) yoga section of the ocean. There, the instructor tethers the guests' boards to underwater weights to keep them in place. The one-hour sessions challenge guests to keep their balance as the calm current ripples below.

2. Cancun: Beachfront Soccer and Natural Spa Therapy

At the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Mexico, the aim of the NAUM Wellness & Spa is to help guests return to their natural balance by incorporating natural ingredients into their spa experiences and help attendees unwind after back-to-back meetings.

The spa recently introduced an apothecary bar where guests can create their own massage oils, body scrubs and even hair masks using herbs, spices and natural oils.

Their calming concoctions are then applied during the spa service.

Apothecary Bar at Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya
Apothecary Bar at Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya

At the nearby all-inclusive Panama Jack Resorts Cancun, the Aura Spa offers complimentary hydrotherapy and a variety of culturally indigenous spa treatments, such as a warm Mayan mud wrap and detoxifying chocolatherapy rituals.

Active groups that seek exercise can participate in beachfront yoga and soccer at the resort or hop in the water for aqua aerobics and aquadance. Snorkeling, kayak outings and beach walks to nearby Mayan ruins are fun options planners can arrange.

3. Jamaica: Farm Tours and Rhythmic Dancing

In Jamaica, planners will find Bluefields Bay Villas, a collection of six private, luxury all-inclusive villas, ideal for small groups and corporate retreats. The property offers a host of wellness experiences including paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving and yoga.

Farm tours are available with Jamaican chefs who show guests where local, organic produce comes from, including tomatoes, peppers and an array of herbs used in the Bluefields kitchens.

Bluefields Bay Villas Jamaica Farm Tour Excursion
Bluefields Bay Villas Jamaica Farm Tour Excursion

For groups searching for a fitness activity outside typical beach yoga, rhythmic Reggaelates at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa is a uniquely Jamaican experience.

It’s a combination of Jamaica’s native music and dance, Pilates and yoga, based on core strength and rhythmic movements.

Sometimes, a slower pace is key to wellness.

For groups that would rather slow down and relax, the Jewel Grande is also home to Jamaica’s first quartz therapy ritual room. Glowing with pink and white Himalayan salt bricks, guests can meet, meditate or host a breakout session in the signature Himalayan salt room or bask in the comfort of warm golden quartz sand on the spa’s signature MLX Quartz bed with zero gravity.

4. Barbados: Sand Massage

The Hilton Barbados Resort’s Eforea Spa is home to the first quartz sand bed for massage treatments in the Caribbean. The sand massage is based on the ancient Greek concept “psammotherapy.” Though limited research is done on this type of therapy, which envelopes the body in hot sand, it’s said to potentially alleviate pain and promote comfort.

Attendees looking for relaxation will likely find a hot sand massage soothing after the workday, and as a bonus, it may be a potential aid for muscle tightness and tension.

Individuals can try this, among many services offered at the spa like hydrating body treatments and hot stone massages.

5. Nevis: Healthy, Tropical Menus and Group Sports

"More and more, we are noticing our group clients requesting special menus with a focus on healthy eating,” said Samuel Faggetti, executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis, a small island in the West Indies.

“In Nevis, we have easy access to a lot of healthy food, with a plethora of tropical fruits and produce, fresh fish and a fantastic selection of herbs that are easily accessible and sourced naturally throughout the island,” Faggetti said.

“We take great pride in cooking with local ingredients from our land and waters and are happy to share that with our health-conscious guests,” he added.

Faggetti mentioned that healthy menus can be customized for groups. There’s also a juice and smoothie bar, an herb garden on site and interactive salad stations, where rooted lettuces can be cut to order and tossed in front of guests with local produce and healthier dressings.

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In addition to its food offerings, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis can arrange fitness activities for groups before or after meetings including:

  • Yoga on the pier or beach
  • Morning runs or bike rides around the property led by one of the staff members
  • Golf on the Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course
  • Tennis tournaments

Make sure you communicate with your group before selecting a fitness activity.

In the Incentive Research Foundation survey, one planner said that knowing your audience is important, citing that for certain groups “morning Zumba classes aren't nearly as popular as group runs or yoga.”

6. Puerto Rico: Native Ingredients and Rejuvenation

Puerto Rico is making its comeback after the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, with resorts re-opening and new ones sprouting up all over the island. The meetings-friendly St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort re-opened at the end of 2018, and its Iridium Spa is primed to give attendees the same rejuvenation Puerto Rico itself is experiencing in 2019 and beyond.

The spa includes 10 secluded massage villas overlooking the spa’s fire garden. Treatments range from facials and massages to hair and nail treatments, many of which incorporate the use of organic native ingredients like coffee, coconut and sugar cane.

Similarly, healing indigenous ingredients are at the forefront of the Spa Botánico’s practices at Puerto Rico’s restored Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. The spa uses local plants in their spa products, and the services take place outdoors within a lush pineapple garden.

Body scrubs are blended in the spa’s kitchen and combine coconut oil, shea butter and healing ingredients native to the island.

7. Cayman Islands: Botanical Spa Treatments

The Cayman Islands are just an hour plane ride away from Miami and less than three hours from other southern U.S. locations like Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston, making it an accessible paradise locale for meetings. Contemporary event venues at Five-Star Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa in Grand Cayman provide a tropical backdrop for events, and there are also plenty of opportunities for relaxation time between sessions at the resort, especially at its spa.

Kimpton Seafire Grand Cayman Spa Pool Area
Kimpton Seafire Grand Cayman Spa Pool Area

The ocean blue Seafire Spa incorporates botanicals into their body treatments, according to Audrey Hartman, a public relations representative for the hotel. Attendees can choose from a volcanic ash exfoliation and a detox treatment using oils infused with basil, lemon, anise, mandarin and vitamin E, among other body scrubs, massages and facials.

The Future of Wellness and Meetings

According to the Incentive Research Foundation survey, meeting planners reported “high rates of personal enthusiasm for health and wellness in their meetings.

Perhaps even more importantly, planners reported that their clients and companies would agree wellness is a critical focus.”

[Related Content: 3 U.S. All-Inclusive Resorts That Cater to Corporate Groups]

Wellness activities like these offered by Caribbean destinations are almost certain to become not just desired but required at meetings, as savvy planners continue to push the wellness factor forward. Make your next meeting a blueprint for healthier meetings in the future.

Caribbean Hotel and Resort Updates and Openings

La Blanc Spa Resort Cancun one of the top all-inclusive resorts by Palace Resorts, underwent a $30 million renovation that added refreshed rooms, a renovated lobby and new dining options. The hotel has 260 rooms and 8,115 square feet of meeting space.

The Caribe Hilton reopened May 15 and debuted a $150 million renovation. It has 65,000 square feet of meeting and event space including 24 smaller spaces, 11 conference rooms, two ballrooms and 15,700 square feet of exhibition hall space.

There’s also a Kosher kitchen on property.

Cancun’s Live Aqua Beach Resort underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that included a reimagination of its 371 guestrooms, an upgraded Aqua Club, new and improved dining venues, revamped meeting spaces and refurbished beach and pool areas.

The resort’s newly remodeled restaurants include Azul Restaurant and Siete, the latter featuring a new outdoor seating area; MB, which offers a new wine cellar; the AKA bar, which features a new mixologist, and the brand new Inlaa’Kech restaurant.

The Grand Aqua Ballroom has more than 13,000 square feet.

Having just opened its doors in June, 220-room AC Hotel Kingston property operated by Sandals Resorts International is geared toward modern travelers.

With the international AC lounge and fully stocked bar, guests can enjoy tapas and full meals topped off with creative cocktails, wines and ales prepared by expert bartenders.

The new hotel also features an outdoor lounge pool and a 24-fitness center. The hotel has seven event rooms, 57,920 square feet of event space and has capacity for up to 1,000.

The 120-room S Hotel Montego Bay had its official opening in January.

Rock Steady, the hotel’s main restaurant overlooking the pool is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring artisanal Jamaican and international cuisine with a custom selection of wines, champagnes and a full range of specialty house-made local elixirs. The Market, an all-day dining venue on site, features fresh locally driven buffet offerings.

The hotel has 6,653 square feet of meeting space.

Caribbean CVB Contact Information

Discover Puerto Rico
787.957.8880

Aruba Convention Bureau
297.582.3777

Visit Barbados
246.535.3700

Caribe Mexicano
+52 998.881.9000

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
345.949.0623

Jamaica Tourist Board
800.526.2422

Nevis Tourism Authority
407.287.5204