BizBash - Fall 2017 - 32

Spousal
Support
Planners are offering unique,
customizable, and gender-neutral
activities for spouses at meetings.
By ADELE CH
CHAPIN

P

rofessional photography lessons, architectural
tours, and even songwriting sessions with a
Nashville music pro aren't typically what you
would find in spousal programs available at meetings
or conferences. But beyond simple lunches or spa days,
unique activities for meeting attendants' guests have
evolved into unique and local experiences planners
hope leave a lasting impact.
"A Miami city tour sitting on a motor coach is not
going to drag someone away from sitting on their
laptop. It's not something that we offer," says Whitney
Kirkland, partner at destination management company Firebrand Event Productions in Miami.
About 85 percent of Kirkland's clients book spousal programs, and Kirkland plans everything from

PHOTO: COURTESY OF PAWS UP

MEETINGS

activities. "We want to make sure that everyone gets to
"Someone has to stay home and run the family while
the one who the meeting is centered around has to go participate in his or her dream activity, and we realize
that spouses like to do different things, too," Stanley
for business reasons. Our [spousal] programs are not
says. "There are going to be horseback riders, cattle
nearly what they were probably 15 years ago."
herders, fly-fishers, ATV enthusiasts, and, of course,
But for incentive trips and retreats, planners at
spagoers. We just want our guests to have the time
resorts are noting that companies are encouraging
Local Flavor. Creative experiences for spousal proof their lives, and I think giving them different options
attendees to bring their significant other or family
grams are what planners are asking for now, ideally
helps to make that a reality."
ones that showcase a destination's local flavor. At new and make a vacation out of it. Erin Medina, director of
One thing is a definite when planning spousal
events at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa,
hotel the Main in Norfolk, Virginia, planners can set
programs in 2017: Don't make any gender assumpsays she's booking more spousal programs now than
up guided kayaking tours of the downtown watertions. "I think a big thing to note with a spousal profront's Elizabeth River for plus-ones. Across the country when she first joined the resort three years ago.
gram is you need to go gender-neutral," says Norfleet.
at L'Auberge de Sedona in Arizona, spousal activities
include private stargazing outings, inner-peace-proCustom Content. Medina tries to find out as much "Spouses are both men and women. Thinking you can
send a group of folks on a shopping trip is long dated.
moting forest bathing meditation sessions, or sound
information about attending spouses from planners
healing meditation with crystal bowls.
beforehand. "Tell me about the spouses: Do they know Don't assume that women don't want to go fishing
"I have a group coming up to do the sound healing each other? Or is this going to be the first time they're and men don't want to go for a facial."
in January. We're excited because we think it's going to meeting each other? Those
be the one item while they're here they'll never forget
kinds of things are really
they experienced at L'Auberge," says Megan Kulfan, the important to us to help us
resort's sales manager for corporate groups. "Sedona
recommend [an activity],"
is kind of all about inner peace and yoga, meditation,
she says. For a recent group
finding yourself, so it really works well with what we're of spouses who knew each
known for here."
other well, she planned a
Kulfan has noticed more and more groups book
bookclass at a nearby glass-blowing spousal programs in recent years. "We're seeing a
ing facility. "You definitely
lot of return groups who decided it just wasn't long
have more fun in more of an
enough the last time. They came for two days for a
intimate setting when you
meeting, and now we're seeing them extend to four
know the other people and
or five days so that they can bring their spouses and
can let down your guard and
enjoy what Sedona has to offer," Kulfan says.
have a good time."
Meanwhile, Graham
At the Paws Up
Stanley, director of group
For the Whole Family. Not everyone is seeing an
ranch in Montana,
uptick in spousal programs, however. "We've seen such sales at luxury Montana
spousal programs
ranch and resort Paws Up, ala shift in convention attendance, because both husinclude activities
ways tries to give spouses the
bands and wives work," says Carol A. Norfleet, execusuch as horseback
riding.
freedom to choose their own
tive vice president and C.O.O. at Destination Nashville.
acrobatics classes overlooking Biscayne Bay to wading
in the Everglades with a naturalist-things that even
people who have visited Miami before likely haven't
done. "Unique is the name of the game," he says.



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