by Bruce Myint | December 01, 2003

"In the past year, we noticed breaks were getting boring,” says Bob Eyton-Jones, an activity organizer at the Fairmont Tremblant in Québec. In an attempt to reduce costs, he says, planners were opting for the bare minimum of coffee pit stops. But such breaks often tired rather than inspired attendees. That’s when Eyton-Jones thought of doing something flyee, French for “off the wall.”
    Now, just as meetings begin to get draggy, planners at the Fairmont Tremblant can arrange for troops of cheerleaders and band members to burst into the conference room and lead attendees outside where a tailgate party awaits, complete with gingham tablecloths and lemonade.
    It might sound unusual, but that’s exactly what Eyton-Jones wants people to think. “With everything going on, life is so complicated,” he says. “You have to have fun and laugh.”
    The Fairmont Tremblant isn’t the only venue offering creative breaks. To distinguish themselves, hotels in all corners of the world have been racing to invent their own kinds of pick-me-ups. Here’s a sampling.

10-minute massage
The Hilton Waikoloa Village is taking a hands-on approach to creative breaks. Craig Pagaduan, director of catering, meetings and conventions, says attendees rave about short massage sessions. 
    Once a meeting is in recess, up to 20 massage therapists arrive at the break area along with a raft of massage chairs, incense, fruit smoothies and nutrition bars. Guests are invited to sit for 10 minutes and choose from a selection of styles, including shiatsu, Thai and the uniquely Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.
    “Massages give the attendees a quiet moment of relaxation before they have to head back and conduct their business,” says Pagaduan. One caveat: “Sometimes they don’t want to go back to the meeting.”

Fixing flats
One of the Hotel Monaco Denver’s most intriguing breaks actually was invented by a meeting planner having a bad morning at the property. After discovering her car had a flat tire, the planner asked Bruce Mangual, the hotel’s catering and conference services director, to come out to the parking lot and help her. As they were jacking up the car, they had a sudden brainstorm and a new tradition was born.
    About once a month, Mangual arranges a Pit Stop Break, a 20-minute session during which meeting attendees practice changing flat tires and jumping dead batteries on a pair of old Subarus at the hotel.
    “The most common mistake is when people forget to loosen the bolts before jacking up the car,” says Mangual. After the hands-on demonstration, guests reconvene to the conference room to find a car-themed snack bar, complete with tire-shaped cookies and tables decorated with hubcaps and tire tread-stained linens.