Plenty of your attendees have done beach Olympics, but how many have built and launched a rocket, raced cars through the desert, golfed on a frozen lake or woven alpaca wool? For truly memorable group activities, look for experiences unique to a property's location or natural surroundings. For inspiration, consider these examples (and see Short Cuts for more).
Dye and weave alpaca wool
Groups that check in to Peru's JW Marriott Cusco, above left, receive a cultural and historical education just by entering the hotel. The 153-room luxury property, two blocks from the main plaza, is built on the grounds of the 16th-century San Agustín Convent. The hotel was constructed around an impressive amount of the pre-Inca walls and architecture that remained, ensuring that guests never really forget where they are. Stunning stone archways and ancient walls are present throughout the resort, and guided tours can be taken around the grounds.
The hotel offers nearly 1,500 square feet of meeting space, including the 872-square-foot Gallery Courtyard, which is the very same open-air courtyard of the original convent. For sit-down banquets for up to 350 people, the Inca theme can be carried through to the menu, with traditional dishes and regional specialties such as quinoa, local vegetables and roast alpaca. Because potatoes are such a staple of the Peruvian diet - more than 3,000 varieties are grown in the country - a menu can be built around them, from appetizers to even cocktails and desserts.
As for the llama-like alpacas, they aren't just an item on the dinner menu. They provide the wool for traditional Inca textiles. For weaving demonstrations and wool-dyeing team-building exercises, the hotel brings in a local artisan. Or, group excursions can be arranged to a nearby district that is home to several weaving cooperatives. For a slightly longer excursion - and more strenuous team building - Machu Picchu is three hours away by train.
JW Marriott Cusco, (011) 51-84-582200; marriott.com/hotels/event-planning/travel/cuzmc-jw-marriott-hotel-cusco
Make your own wine
Rustic luxury: The Vines Resort & Spa sits among 1,500 acres of vineyards at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Small groups at the resort, as well as those who invest in a private vineyard, can participate in the winemaking process.
The Vines Resort & Spa, tucked in among 1,500 acres of vineyards at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina, offers out-of-the-way luxury for oenophiles. Small groups (the property features 22 one- and two-bedroom villas) can work in the vineyards alongside acclaimed consulting winemaker Santiago Achaval, on hand to share secrets and explain all aspects of the vineal process.
The property's in-house experts know of what they speak: The Vines of Mendoza-produced Recuerdo wines received high marks from Wine Spectator, with 91 points going to the 2011 Gran Corte and 92 points awarded to the 2011 Reserva.
Indoor gatherings, whether wine-related or not, can be accommodated in the resort's private event space. The property also offers a spa, an infinity pool, horseback tours, bike trails, yoga, and private soaking tubs and plunge pools, among other draws.
The particularly oenophilic and well-heeled among the group even have the option to invest in their own private vineyard, a 3- to 10-acre plot to be professionally managed and maintained by the Vines experts. The experience can be as hands-on or -off as owners wish, but they make all the executive decisions - and get their own private-label small-batch wine as a result.The Vines Resort & Spa, (011) 54-261-461-3900 or (707) 737-0222 in the U.S.; vinesresortandspa.com