Have it all: Tucson’s Miraval Resort runs buyouts every
When Kelly Connolly needed nearly 600 rooms for
a training meeting last November, she could have picked a larger
property than the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, whose 584
rooms would just barely fit the group.
But meeting at the midsize hotel had its advantages. By buying
out the entire property, Connolly, manager of meeting services at
Global Planners in Bordentown, N.J., would be given free rein over
the hotel’s meeting space. She would have access to all 62 suites
as well as the hotel staff’s undivided focus. The two-year-old
property had never experienced a buyout before, but the
Ritz-Carlton pulled it off beautifully.
“Our client [from a major financial company] said the training
was the best in the years he’s attended it,” beams Connolly.
Because it was such a success, she’s doing it again this
Many resorts are amenable to buyouts for high-end meetings that
demand extra privacy or simply for groups that need a lot of rooms.
But buying out a resort isn’t for every group. It’s important to
take the time to understand the perks and the caveats before
considering a takeover.
Should you buy out?
Unless most of the following are true of your meeting, it’s
probably wiser to buy a chunk of rooms in a larger hotel.
" You need almost all the rooms. When a
meeting promises almost full occupancy, it’s beneficial to both
parties to make it exclusive. For example, Teresa Williams, the
Atlanta-based director of facilities and data information for
GMAC-Residential Funding Corp., needed 40 rooms for an advisory
board meeting of mortgage company CEOs last May. The 48-room
Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Va., had been offering buyouts as
part of the Elite Retreat Buyout program, promoted by the
Washington, D.C.-based Associated Luxury Hotels, to which Keswick
Despite the fact that she would have to pay for all the rooms,
Williams agreed on a buyout because it didn’t make sense to share
the property with just eight nonmeeting guests.
“When it got down to it, who is going to want to be in those
eight rooms?” asks Williams. “You’re going to feel out of place if
you’re up with your wife for the weekend and we’re taking up almost
the whole property.”
" You need all the meeting space. Giving a
planner the keys to all the meeting rooms is the buyout’s main
selling point, according to Donald Stamets, director of catering
and conference services for the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
“The flexibility we’re able to give to the customer inside our
convention center is greatly to their advantage,” he says. “It’s
definitely the perception of the customer that all the meeting
space inside and out belongs to them.”
" The meeting isn’t likely to cancel. Since
the hotel will be depending on you for most if not all of its
revenue during your meeting, cancellation penalties will be
" You are meeting during low season. The Four
Seasons Resort, Nevis (West Indies), requires buyouts to use 180 of
the 196 rooms if the meeting is held in late spring (shoulder
season), but only 140 in September (low season). The property
doesn’t allow buyouts in winter.
" Your attendees need special treatment.
Properties that can do a bang-up job on a buyout are probably the
same ones that treat any and all guests exceedingly well. However,
the buyout allows the hotel to focus its attentions on your group,
says Patti Giles, president and CEO of CLT Meetings/Publicis
Events, based in Orlando. “When you buy out a hotel, you’re not a
small fish in a big pond,” she notes.
" Lots of leisure is on the agenda. It helps
if the spa, golf course and restaurants are all yours.
" You want attendees to bond. When everyone at
the property is part of your group, a community atmosphere sets
" Privacy is a major perk. When it’s all you,
there’s no need to worry about other guests at the hotel sneaking
into private events or complaining about noise on the beach at 10
" The meeting is going to be long. Some
properties enforce a minimum-stay requirement for buyouts.
" Your company has dollars to spare. Nobody
ever said a buyout would be a bargain, though they’re usually not
" You are not going to a major tourist
destination. Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip probably would
not allow a buyout, since many of their rooms are contracted out to
wholesalers and high-rollers, says Robert Purdy, former director of
sales and marketing for the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas and now
executive director of sales for Hyatt Resorts. In Lake Las Vegas, a
resort community in Henderson, Nev., 20 minutes from the Strip,
hotels are more open to buyouts because tourists typically don’t