And with this expectation comes an aura of possibility and loads of new challenges. We spoke with Wendy Blaney, chief sales officer at Atlantis Paradise Island, on how her team is meeting this demand in positive and meaningful ways.
Atlantis Paradise Island Q&A
How are you helping attendees experience local culture without them ever having to leave the hotel or resort?
Atlantis Paradise Island has embarked on a new chapter tied to a meaningful connection with the ocean, Bahamian culture and the spirit of the resort’s 7,500+ employees (our mantra is about authenticity and truly being “Bahamas at heart”). The resort’s new programming connects attendees to the rich history, art, people, food and festivities of The Bahamas. Atlantis is fully committed to nurturing the local creative and entrepreneurial community and immersing attendees in the most authentic experiences.
Local Culinary Experiences: five new outposts of beloved Bahamian restaurants have opened giving attendees the opportunity to enjoy the same authentic flavors inside the resort, while also providing local business owners with a platform to share the various tastes, culture and spirit of the country with meeting attendees. They include: Sip Sip (from Harbour Island) located at The Cove, Sun & Ice (ice cream parlor) in the lobby of The Coral and McKenzie’s Conch Shack, Frankie Gone Bananas and the Pirate Republic Brewery Tap Room in Marina Village. All offer fresh ingredients from local farmers and fishermen. This spring, the resort will welcome its latest restaurant and cocktail bar, FISH, helmed by renowned Master Chef Jose Andres. Patrons of these new restaurants and experiences can live like a “tru tru” local without having to physically leave the resort.
Cultural Traditions: Atlantis Paradise Island invites companies to bring their events to life with the integration of a Bahamian “Junkanoo Fest & Feast” team building program, designed to immerse participants in the colorful local culture. Junkanoo is a 500-year-old Bahamian tradition that celebrates life with music, dancing and costumes. The resort works with some of the most renowned Junkanoo troops (and some of our very own staff who participate in these!) to help create the most authentic, local experience for group guests, complete with drum circles and fire dancers.
Art & Sculpture: The resort has created a forum for local, renowned artists, like Antonius Roberts and Allan Wallace, to display their meaningful works of art (in honor of their country) throughout the resort. Atlantis Paradise Island also hosts Art Walk at Marina Village, a market that takes place twice a month where guests can support local Bahamian artisans, as well as sample locally grown and made products.
What experiences can conscientious attendees, or those interested in sustainability, givebacks and mindful meetings expect this year?
Atlantis Paradise Island is committed to sustainability, revitalization and education on the thriving waters and marine life in The Bahamas. Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, the resort’s private non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to saving marine species and their extraordinary habits throughout The Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean seas. It accomplishes these goals by funding scientific research, conservation and education programs, and through community outreach efforts.
The foundation gets its funding through every guest & group stay at the resort and a portion of the proceeds from all of Atlantis’ marine programs. Since its inception, more than $5 million dollars has been generated to support environmental conservation.
Group events and meeting activities are always specially-curated based on the needs of the client, whether it is exploring the diverse marine life habitats on-property (one of the largest open air marine habitats in the world, encompassing 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of ocean water and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species) and “snorkeling the ruins,” participating in the resort’s official sea turtle releases and experiencing the new programs at Dolphin Cay, the 14-acre habitat and education center that is home to 17 stranded dolphins and 14 sea lions whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Group attendees can experience everything from paddleboarding and kayaking to group “Sunrise Fitness” classes in the magical sanctuary that belongs to the Dolphins. Attendees can also participate in “Hang Time,” one of the resort’s newest programs with the on-property Dolphin Behaviorists, to feed, enrich, learn about and care for the incredible marine mammals. Each group participant can experience a private behind the scenes training session and assist the expert behaviorists in maintaining optimal physical health and mental well-being for the animals.
Additionally, a visit can be set up for attendees to go to the resort’s Coral Reef Nursery. Atlantis Paradise Island is committed to rehabilitating damaged coral reefs by growing small coral fragments (on-property) to repopulate reefs that have been eliminated through disease, hurricanes, or bleaching. To date, the foundation has assisted in several coral reef out plantings on New Providence & Paradise Island.
The evolution of the hyperlocal experience seems to be heading toward community-minded events that allow attendees to participate in telling the story of their meeting or incentive. How are you catering to this expectation?
When meeting and group event attendees come to the resort, they are able to see a completely transformed experience compared to what they may have been accustomed to in the past. Meetings now are about doing away with the traditional idea of sitting in a boardroom or conference space the entire time they are on-property. Atlantis Paradise Island allows attendees to taste, feel and see the local culture come alive extremely naturally. They come away with not just an impactful story, regarding what they learned about during their personal organization’s meeting discussions, but the locally infused activities they participate in, on- and off-property, are actually educational and invite them to write their own story about who they are as people and how these experiences impact them.
When attendees participate in a Junkanoo fest and feast night, for example, they are able to merge their own experiences with a completely new, cultural perspective. They come back from the meetings recharged and diversified, with a journey that can’t always be told through a presentation deck. The 7,500 Bahamian employees at the resort become part of these meeting, as they always ensure they are sharing their own Bahamian traditions (as a result of their upbringings, the culinary flavors they know and love, their Junkanoo creativity and personalities, among others) and showing that the art of being one’s authentic “self” is powerful (Bahamas at heart).
Biophilic design and nature-inspired incentive experiences are high on the to-do for today’s attendees. In what ways can groups mindfully experience nature both on- and off-site?
Authentic Bahamian Art: Groups are able to interact with local artists and creative visionaries right on-property, depending on the type of experience they are looking for. This can range from a discussion of local art and sculpture to meditation and spirituality exercises. The Cove Atlantis recently debuted a permanent art installation on the tip of The Cove’s peninsula by Antonius Roberts, a renowned Bahamian artist and sculptor. Sacred Space, a sculpture series, represents seven dancing women who each represent the intention of triumph, hope and determination and a vision to help conserve Bahamian heritage over that which is discarded or destroyed in the name of progress. Each figure was sculpted using local Madeira Trees, and born out of the artist’s deep-seated respect for the environment, the sanctity and signiﬁcance of the country’s trees and forests. Antonius Roberts also has a local studio (known as the “Hillside House”) that groups are able to schedule visits to meet with the Artist at (if they prefer an off-site adventure) following time at Sacred Space.
Marine Life & Ocean-Themed Experiences: Atlantis & the Blue Project Foundation’s mission is to protect the waters, as well as its vast marine wildlife, ensuring that The Bahamas will remain a haven for marine life and animals for generations to come. Group events and activities on-property can be customized to not only create giveback experiences, but also ensure that the beauty of the surrounding ocean and Bahamian environment are part of the authentic island journey. While on-property, it is magical to walk the five miles of resort paradise beach, visit the home of the rescued Hurricane Katrina dolphins at Dolphin Cay and do yoga as the sun rises, and also “snorkel the ruins,” with some of the most spectacular sleek sharks, spotted rays and tropical fish.
Aside from the beauty of the sea and marine life at the resort, guests are able to participate in out-island experiences that actually tie back to the resort. Whether it is a local boat trip, river ride or a visit to the island of Andros to see the coral reef restoration work and the marine protected area work (one million + acres were added to the water park that protects the entire western side of the island) the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation and partners have done, guests become immersed in the authenticity of the resort and country’s passion for preserving the oceans and beaches.