Major resorts that do it all
This is only a studied guess, but it seems life’s most anxiety-inducing event is either childbirth or the anticipation of clearing airport screening. When I travel for business, I look forward to checking into a resort where I can check out from recent memories of three-ounce liquid limits, baggage carousels and an urban traffic obstacle course, knowing that everything’s ready and waiting when I arrive.
With that in mind, I found four Orlando resorts that alleviate travel and planning pressures by providing a comprehensive environment for business and convention needs. From arrival to departure, you can relax with the certainty that a team has addressed transportation (van, bus, town car or limousine), recreation, meals, entertainment and more. Plus, from any of these resorts, a network of toll roads and freeways makes reaching the Orlando International Airport, theme parks and Orange County Convention Center fast and simple.
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate
About five miles southwest of Walt Disney World, this Four-Diamond resort is “close to the theme parks, but just far enough away to be a true Florida destination resort,” says Managing Director Mike Magnelli. Tobias Cox, director of catering and conference services, notes that every member of his team has worked in at least two other departments, so the combined knowledge of conference services is magnified exponentially. The experienced staff can help with everything from transfers and group housing to F&B and team building.
“Our team touches every part of the resort,” says Cox. “And we become partners with every client from the first onsite inspection to the end of their meeting and then afterward as we discuss their stay and plan for the future. It’s a one-stop shop.”
It’s worth noting that a popular attraction tucked between the Omni’s two highly honored Greg Norman-designed golf courses is Champions 9—a par-3, nine-hole course that offers the unique experience of golfing at night. The resort’s recreation team also customizes events such as the Omni Survivor Challenge and glow-in-the-dark volleyball. The renowned David Leadbetter Golf Academy is onsite and offers group golf lessons and individual evaluations.
The Peabody Orlando
The largest convention center outside Chicago is right across the street from this destination hotel. That fact, plus more than 1,641 rooms and suites, an unbelievable 300,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space on three levels and 105 breakout rooms, suggests the staff is accustomed to taking care of your business.
Gregg Herning, vice president of sales and marketing of Peabody Hotels, knows the resort is too vast for a single meeting planner to fathom. That’s why the convention-services team steps in to cover all the details, enhancements and logistics related to banquets, special programs, meeting-room requirements and office-equipment rentals. They can simultaneously arrange daytime activities such as spa services, golf, fishing and buyouts of local venues (including theme parks) for private parties. Never ridden an airboat? The folks at the Peabody can fix that. This sort of service explains why the Cvent Supplier Network placed The Peabody Orlando atop its list of America’s finest meeting hotels.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
When a resort’s name is synonymous with superior service, you have to believe it will impress. Michelle Valle, director of public relations for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC & Marriott International at Grande Lakes (the 500-acre estate that includes the 582-room luxury Ritz-Carlton and neighboring 998-room JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes), explains that “once a group is confirmed as a definite, they are assigned an individual meetings and special events manager who takes care of every detail, including transportation, banquet orders, working with chefs to customize menus and creating themed events.
“They’ll help plan group golf outings at our onsite course, arrange experiences in our onsite spa, and coordinate eco-tours and fly-fishing seminars and tours that are also onsite. They can hire our in-house destination services company to help with themed decor and off-site events. That relationship, too, is handled via the event manager to ensure this is truly a one-stop-shopping experience for meeting planners.”
A $50 million resort renovation would turn nearly anyone’s head, but it’s of special interest to meeting planners instrumental in the redesign of venues and networking environments within the Gaylord Palms’ 400,000 sq. ft. of flexible convention, exhibition and pre-function meeting space.
Johann Krieger, the resort’s senior vice president and general manager, notes that the design of the new space is based in part on recommendations from meeting planners who shared their thoughts on what would maximize the resort’s convention space. It’s quite likely these same planners will work with the convention services manager, who is the liaison to the banquets manager and conference coordinator. The convention services manager arranges menus and schedules ground transportation, golf tournaments and sessions—all with the assistance of the Teal Coats, conference coordinators whose teal-colored jackets let attendees know Gaylord’s got you covered.
The 1,406-room property also features a new adult pool and water park, a new group event lawn, five distinct dining options and a cafe, including a new private dining room for 18 at Old Hickory Steakhouse, and a Four-Star 20,000-square-foot spa. One-stop planning and self-contained attractions at their best.
Orlando resident Gary McKechnie is the author of National Geographic’s USA 101 as well as Great American Motorcycle Tours.