by Jonathan Vatner | November 01, 2006

MiravalThe front entrance to Miraval, a top destination spa in the Tucson, Ariz., area

When Beth Shoshan was given the go-ahead to hold a regional sales meeting for the 16 reps under her supervision, she searched for a place that would keep them stimulated for the duration of the session. “It’s very hard to put a team in an indoor environment and not be bored after an hour,” says Shoshan, regional vice president, Northeast, for Bentley Prince Street, a commercial carpet manufacturer based in New York City. She had been to Canyon Ranch, the landmark destination spa in Tucson, Ariz., and decided to try its cousin in Lenox, Mass.

Canyon Ranch is a destination spa, defined by the Lexington, Ky.-based International Spa Association as “a facility with the primary purpose of guiding individual spa-goers to develop healthy habits.” These properties offer treatments, exercise classes, education and healthful food to accomplish their wellness goals.

What many meeting planners don’t know is that most destination spas get a small but significant portion -- about 5 percent in Canyon Ranch’s case -- of their business from corporate meetings. The groups usually are no smaller than eight attendees and no larger than 40.

“Some corporations could be a little tentative about coming to Canyon Ranch,” admits Laura Orley, sales manager for the Lenox property, “but I think after they get here, they’re very pleasantly surprised. They start to try things that they might not have tried in their office and home environments.”

Canyon Ranch, as is typical with destination spas, offers three-, four- and seven-night packages, rather than nightly rates. Shoshan’s group only had time (and funding) for two nights, however, and the property was flexible enough to accommodate that -- and even added an extra half-day at no charge. Time was too short for a lot of scheduled wellness activities, but as part of the meeting, Shoshan did include a session introducing the group to Canyon Ranch, a morning walk, a stretching/yoga activity and a cooking demonstration with a nutritionist. To Shoshan’s surprise, the president of the company tried yoga for the first time. “I think he walked away a little bit richer for it,” she says.

To give her attendees a chance to experience the property, Shoshan gave them free time from 2 to 6 p.m. and then resumed the meetings after dinner, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. -- something she had never done before. She found it worked very well.

Shoshan was thrilled about the event. “Everyone left feeling energized, and they thought about what they were doing in their lives personally as well as professionally,” she says. “I’m glad I made the choice to bring them there.”

Out of the ordinary

After visiting Miraval, another famed destination spa in the Tucson area, Carol Y. Ost, owner of C.Y.Ost Consulting, a meeting planning company in Los Angeles, decided it was the ideal choice for a small meeting she was arranging this year for 11 marketing professionals for a medical device company. The vice president of marketing at the company initially dismissed the venue because he thought it would be too expensive, but Ost helped him realize that the rate included not just the room but also meals and activities.

“If you’re really looking for something that will take you out of your [usual] comfort zone, then Miraval is the place,” says Ost. “I think that’s really what he was looking for.”

Miraval offers a number of programs that appeal to corporate groups, such as The Golf Connection, an inspirational golf clinic taught by renowned coach Fred Shoemaker. For Ost’s group, the property customized other activities, including a “desert journey,” a trust- and communication-building exercise in which one person leads another blindfolded through the desert, communicating only through touch. The group meal function was a chili cook-off, which fired up the attendees’ competitive natures.

Most of the participants were men, not typical destination spa customers, but everyone enjoyed Miraval, according to Ost. “People who hadn’t been there before commented to me afterward that it was a wonderful selection because it was so different,” she says.