Hotels: Reclaiming the Corporate Retreat Business.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 18th April 2012
Back in the days, before the sinking economy and Wall Street scandals, corporations treated their employees to annual retreats.

The focus was on re-energizing teams, brainstorming new concepts, team-building with new and veteran employees, and yes, enjoying a little a down time on the company dime. Then the economy took a dive, which forced corporations around the world to cut frivolous spending, including the corporate retreat.

In 2008, AIG bucked the trend during one of the worst economic years on the books and treated employees to a half-million dollar retreat filled will booze, entertainment and debauchery (so it was reported) following an $85 billion federal bailout, and the public outcry was intensely global.

The result: for fear of being labeled a "bad business", corporations around the world took the annual employee trips off the books, much to the dismay of employees and their families (who often got to tag along), and kept the meetings confined to headquarter space.

However, it seems businesses are bringing the idea of corporate retreats back. According to Forbes Travel Guide, companies are slowing resuming the retreats at luxury locations around the world.

Joseph Bates of the Global Business Travel Association told Forbes that group travel has been slower to rebound than individual business travel, but that's changing. Group travel spending went up nearly 8 percent in 2011 and is expected to continue to rise in 2012, he said.

China's Ctrip.com International, a booking agency focused on the China market, said corporate travel increased more than 32 percent in 2011. For the year ending 2011, Ctrip reported corporate travel revenue of approximately $26 million, 25 percent more than in 2010.

So where are business booking their corporate retreats?

Forbes cites Las Vegas as one of the top spots for business group travel. While Las Vegas is typically perceived as more of a playground than a place to do business, it is one of the more economically-friendly places to host these retreats thanks to full-service hotels and resorts that confine everything into their four walls (and sometimes their rooftops). Slightly less glitzy, but equally as glam, are resorts off the strip and in the mountains.

The Broadmoor, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., claim 60 percent of its business is corporate retreats. In California, luxury corporate travel is making waves at coastal resorts, thanks to their expansive space.

In China, hot spot locations like Sanya and Shanghai are sweeping the corporate group travel crowd. Thanks to Sanya's endless beaches, water sports and stunning scenery, businesses can keep employees motivated during the day (even when they're stuck indoors) while providing endless beachside entertainment at night. The resorts here are so grand you rarely have to leave the property for a new view.

Shanghai's Pudong district is fast becoming the spotlight of Shanghai. Now that the World Expo is over and more luxury hotels are opening their doors in Pudong, more businesses are booking luxury hotels in the trendy district for corporate retreats thanks to their proximity to Shanghai's finest restaurants and nightlife.

The one constant among all these places? Their activities.

Hotels and resorts looking to host these cash-cow corporate retreats must have an abundance of activities to keep everyone engaged and interested.

Golf courses, beach access or a plethora of pools, high-tech boardrooms, 24-hour business centers, spas, on-site restaurant options and nearby "team building" spots (think: rock climbing, sailing or hiking), are essentials to winning this business.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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