Proven, and profitable, ideas from three resort properties were included among the Achievement Awards announced in June by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). The achievement awards, part of the association’s annual Stars of the Industry Industry awards program, honor standout initiatives at hotel and resort properties in eleven categories. Here are the resort properties that earned recognition this year, and details of their award-winning concepts:
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Ariz., was the winner in the Special Events, ongoing, small property category. Seven years ago, the Sanctuary decided to get creative to keep guests and locals coming through its doors during the hot summer months, and also to heighten awareness of the resort staff’s high-end culinary expertise. The Saturday Lunch & Learn program was born, with cooking demonstrations and wine and cocktail pairings adding a dash of education to a delicious three-course lunch. Executive Chef Beau MacMillan leads the sessions, which also draw in notable culinary “guest stars,” including accomplished chefs such as Ming Tsai and Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appetit magazine. Kicking off seven years ago in a first session that had about 30 attendees, Lunch & Learn now averages between 60 and 100 participants each week of both locals and out-of-town guests. Not only has this program gained rave reviews and favorable press, it’s also garnered estimated revenues of about $30,000 for the property during its slowest season.
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., (“Growing a Rich Variety of Attractions at Reynolds Plantation, C&RB, July 2008), won in the Special Events, ongoing award, large property category, for its annual Lighting of the Lodge event. This is the property’s annual benefit for the Greensboro Dreamers, an organization that empowers children in low-income communities to achieve higher education. It has become one of the most well-known and well-attended events in the region, as a huge celebration of the holiday season for the property’s guests and local community residents. A live nativity scene, petting zoo, the “largest gingerbread in the south,” live music, and 1.5 million white lights set the stage for visitors. The icing on the cake each year is Santa’s surprise arrival by a new mode of transportation each year—in past years he’s made the scene via hot-air balloon, hang-glider, and on the back of a Marine Corps, 7-ton truck. Last year, Santa was joined by more than 2,500 visitors who helped raised $38,000 for Greensboro Dreamers and other local charities.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., won in the Special Events, one-time only, large property category. The Christmas spirit also inspired this property’s winning idea, as the resort decided to honor the 50th birthday of the famous Dr. Suess book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A team of world-renowned artists was brought in to chisel away at several million pounds of ice and create a one-of-a-kind, interactive ice sculpture featuring all of the favorite characters in “Who-ville.” The popular attraction, which was kept on display for almost two months, boosted group sales to the highest they’d been in six years, increased sales at the retail store next to the attraction by 29 percent, and spurred the sale of 30,000 cups of gourmet hot chocolate by visitors. The event created a major media buzz nationally, especially when Dr. Suess’ widow toured the exhibit. Even those who may not have attended the celebration reaped the benefits – the Gaylord used this event as an occasion to donate Grinch books to local libraries and also adopt a dog from a local animal shelter to be the Grinch’s best friend, Max, at press events.
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