Over the last few years, it’s been a popular trend in leisure travel where hotels offer their guests local “insider” programs. Properties partner with community venues and entertainment to offer a more authentic travel experience within a specific destination, both on-property and offsite.
However, due simply to the size of groups and the many different personalities of attendees, the trend hasn’t really shifted into the group market in any significant way, except maybe at the very top end of the rate scale.
For a large corporate brand, Renaissance Hotels was an early adopter of creating local experiences for its guests. Their “RLifeLIVE” events bring trendy musicians, DJs and bands to perform in the lobbies on various nights of the week. Renaissance was also one of the first major hotel groups to create a certain style of concierges—called “Navigators”—familiar with the indie-style music, fashion, food and cultural scenes popular in their specific city.
Last year, Renaissance morphed these innovations into a new group-oriented program called R.E.N. Meetings. It’s designed to provide planners with enhanced meeting ROI/ROE through three initiatives: Renaissance Sensory Meeting Experience, Entertainment/Networking with RLife LIVE and Navigator Services.
INSPIRING THE SENSES
The Renaissance Sensory Meeting Experience focuses on high-concept group environments through creative tablescaping, music, scents, lighting and local F&B.
The Entertainment/Networking with RLife LIVE component offers customized options for attendees to interact with both colleagues and locals during nightly events, ranging from concerts to live mixology demos.
For the third phase, planners work one-on-one with the Navigators to create unique city itineraries.
“With R.E.N. Meetings, we add value to the meeting experience by creating a stimulating environment to conduct business in,” says David Keamy, senior director of sales/marketing for Renaissance Hotels. “The more senses that you can engage in a learning environment, the more robust and memorable the learning experience will be.”
Keamy explains that this focus on localism has always been part of the Renaissance DNA, so the creative community spirit and local networks are already established. The hotels are also typically designed and operated to complement the local scene, ranging from the breezy nautical theme at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel to the sweet potato pancakes with Jack Daniels maple syrup at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa in Alabama.
Inside the Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette Hotel, we attended a fascinating Mint Julep-making class. The bartender lovingly recited a long winding poem about the history of the iconic drink while making a bunch of them.
“At the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, we’ve had DJs with live drummers, wine tastings, art lectures and glass blowing as part of RLife LIVE events,” says Keamy. “With the right size group and enough lead time, we can customize those to incorporate the group and create something special.”
For example in Boston, the Navigators can create a private group experience in the Red Sox locker room at Fenway Park. They’ll also create a city guide personalized for your people.
“We can easily create a local Navigator guide for any group with advance notice, but what’s really interesting, we can create it to that special week and customize it to include any special events in the city,” says Keamy. “And then we’ll deliver that electronically to attendees before they arrive in the destination to start building excitement among the group.”