by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 17, 2011

La CostaThis week, over a private lunch in New York City, KSL executives brought me up to speed on the company's small but impressive portfolio of seven luxury properties, which includes the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego; The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.; and Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. They also dished on a new program they had rolled out just hours earlier -- Meeting Planner Incentive Program & Reward Certificates -- designed to entice planners looking to place short-term corporate group business, and then hopefully make them loyal followers. "We have companies that have been coming every year for 40 years to the same property, and that's terrific," says Arthur Berg, vice president of marketing. "But we see this as a way of injecting new interest, of bringing in new customers. If we can increase group business at the participating properties by 10 to 15 percent, that's huge."

Here's how it works. Planners who book a meeting by June 20, 2011, at one of KSL's resorts and meet by year's end will be rewarded by a Site Inspection Reward Certificate entitling them to a complimentary visit at another property. The program is three-tiered (Gold, Silver and Platinum). The greater the number of group room nights booked (including pre- and post-meeting discounted staff rooms), the more lavish the award in terms of length of stay (two to five nights) and other goodies, such as spa treatments, in-room amenities and golf. You get the picture.

Unlike other group-booking incentive awards that dangle everything from free iPads to diamonds (yes, diamonds), KSL wants to keep theirs strictly educational and directed only at meeting planners. Not only are the reward certificates non-transferable, they will not be awarded to third parties. (If, however, a planner wants to kick an award upstairs to the big gun who signed off on the meeting, that will be taken into consideration, says Berg.) "We tried very carefully to walk the ethical line and stay aboveboard," Berg notes. "What we are giving them is a reward for giving us their business, yes, but it's also really about getting them to explore the rest of the portfolio. If they like what they see, we hope they'll give us a chance."

Planners who take up KSL's incentive offer should note these developments at the property level. The 611-room La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., which several years ago wrapped up a $150 million renovation, is at it again with another $50 million makeover. This time, however, it's all about the meeting space. Not only will the resort's conference center be getting a complete overhaul and new name -- the Coastal Events Center (you heard it here first) -- the hotel is adding five meeting planner suites, über guest rooms with built-in, fully loaded offices. That alone might warrant a site inspection. For more information on KSL's Meeting Planner Incentive Program & Reward Certificates, including rules and regulations, visit