by Lori Capullo
Updated 5 yearss ago
The sprawling Harbor Beach is close to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, making it convenient for business travelers. “Once the conference portion is done,” says Jay Marsella, director of sales and marketing, “we can set up group excursions outside of the hotel, in addition to offering many on-property activities such as water sports, spa treatments and fitness activities like yoga, spinning and beach boot camp.”
Business: More than 30 meeting rooms; indoor and outdoor terrace meeting space.
Pleasures: 200,000 square feet of private beach; Aloha Watersports Shack offers parasailing, wave runners and paddleboards; the Intracoastal Water Taxi can whisk guests to the city’s main drag, Las Olas Boulevard, for shopping, dining and nightlife; the hotel’s spa is one of the city’s best.
Bonus: The private Club at Harbor Beach, where members can network and entertain for business, not just at the Fort Lauderdale resort but at club partners in Arizona as well as in other locations in Florida; 3030 Ocean, a Florida Trend Golden Spoon award winner.
Rustic, elegant White Oak Plantation, which comprises nearly 100 buildings on the banks of the St. Mary’s River, was created by Howard Gilman to promote creativity among business and political leaders, who come from around the world. White Oak has hosted numerous luminaries, including President Bill Clinton, along with corporate leaders from CSX, Wells Fargo and other companies. “We build the agenda for them based on when they want to meet and when they want down time,” says guest relations manager Jamie Rogers.
Business: White Oak can host small seminars or conferences of up to 100 people.
Pleasures: “We can put together golf outings, sporting clay shoots, boat rides and more,” Rogers says.
Bonus: A conservation center with education and conference facilities and animals, including giraffes and cheetahs; a residency program where dance companies and choreographers can come to develop new work (among them, the American Ballet Theatre).
Next page: Westin Diplomat Resort and Sandpearl Resort are profiled.
The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa has a rich history. Once a playground for the rich and famous (Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and others), today, after many millions of dollars worth of renovations and the continuous additions of programs, it’s one of the most popular business hotels in south Florida. “We have many repeat groups,” says Director of Sales Tiffanie Story. The resort understands that fun is part of the equation. “We can arrange recreation such as golf, spa, tennis for our group guests here on property,” says Story. “If they choose to do an outside event, we can recommend a local vendor for anything from Everglades tours to charitable events.”
Business: Westin has new meeting facilities indoors and out, with many connecting to a convention center adjacent to the hotel.
Pleasures: Heavenly Spa; a championship golf course; a hotel-owned yacht at the resident marina to which guests have access.
Bonus: For $5, guest can get a New Balance tote filled with exercise gear, new socks and sneakers delivered to their door, eliminating the need to stuff carry-on bags with all of the above.
The colorful beachside property is big on environmental preservation.
“Sandpearl’s visitors are approximately 30% group travelers, of which 75% are corporate business and meetings travelers,” says General Manager Eric Waltz. “It’s not unusual for our business travelers to return after their meetings with their families and friends for a relaxing vacation.”
Business: Beachside team-building activities and mid-meeting “spa breaks.”
Pleasures: “We’ve arranged for everything from a fishing tournament from our boat docks to beach Olympics, cooking classes, spa treatments and ocean excursions,” says Waltz.
Bonus: Caretta on the Gulf, the hotel’s restaurant, is the only four diamond eatery in town; sailing expeditions aboard a 60-foot windjammer, during which the six guests on board at a time get to pitch in and steer or raise the main sail.