Tag Archives: Florida meetings

Helping Hands in Haiti

High-end amenities abound at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which earlier this year completed a $50 million renovation. Players in the National Football League Pro Bowl were among the first guests following the renovation.

For meeting professionals, the resort increased indoor meeting space to 48,000 square feet, doubled the size of the fitness center, and offers more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, some overlooking its private beach.

But these luxuries and big spaces were far from the minds of the hotel’s executives when six of them plus two Haitian employees traveled to Haiti this past August to help the Haitian people recover from the recent devastating earthquake.

We caught up with Director of Sales and Marketing Jay Marsella and asked him about the trip.

What prompted you to go to Haiti?

We employ over 250 Haitian associates, and all were affected by the tragedy. Some lost entire families to the earthquake. It is part of Marriott’s culture to take care of our associates, and as a team, we felt this was an investment more important than any teambuilding we could do. We wanted to make a difference in some way, and decided what better way than to open up our hearts to a place that not only needed it, but is connected to us personally through our associates.

Who went along on the trip?

Six of us, including our General Manager. We also took two Haitian hourly associates from human resources and our laundry department. Our human resources associate, who is 30 years old, was reunited with his mother after more than 20 years. A truly special moment.

What did you do there?

We went on a trip to support the Great Commission Alliance www.gcanet.org whose work there focuses on the people that need it most. The focus was on education and supporting orphanages. Basically, the future of Haiti lies with the youth there and they need support to feed and educate them. We assisted in the distribution of food and clothing to many families and orphans, assisted building a home of a widowed mother of two girls, donated classroom-style chairs, built a canopy school, and anything else we could do.

How did the trip help your executive team in addition to the help you provided to the people of Haiti?

It was the ultimate teambuilding event for us. It was an emotional trip and each of us were very much touched by the experience. We saw personal sides of each other that you would never see at a typical “retreat.” We were housed in small rooms with bunk beds for six people and shared a bathroom with an additional six people. Far from staying at our luxury brands! There was no housekeeping, air conditioning was hit or miss, we were always on guard to avoid any type of sickness, and food was prepared in conditions that were far from the comforts of home. We learned about the people of Haiti and a great deal about ourselves and each other. It was one of the most rewarding trips we have ever made.

What was the most challenging part of the trip and the work you did?

Two things come to mind. First, trying to stay somewhat emotionally unattached when you are helping kids who are hungry and sick – some are visibly malnourished. It is definitely sad to see what we saw. Second was the heat – we worked all day and even though we are from south Florida, it was pretty hot and humid.

What surprised you the most about Haiti?

The spirit of the people. After all the devastation, they were happy, friendly, faithful, and welcoming.

A World of Golf and Excellent Meeting Options

The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village recently underwent an extensive renovation.

The World Golf Hall of Fame, located at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, are becoming an increasingly popular meeting destination.

To learn more about it, we interviewed Scott Selvaggi, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.

St. Augustine is a major golf destination with the World Golf Village and the World Gold Hall of Fame. How has this changed the city and what is it doing to enhance it as a meeting destination?

World Golf Village and the World Golf Hall of Fame give St. Johns County another enhancement for leisure travelers and groups. In addition to the World Golf Village, St. Johns County also offers travelers the Historic District in downtown St. Augustine, a variety of beaches, and beautiful Ponte Vedra. World Golf Village offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy the PGA Tour Academy, the PGA Tour Stop (Florida’s Largest Golf Store), and various activities for golfers and non-golfers. The World Golf Village offers exceptional lodging including the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.

Tell us about the $10 million property-wide renovation that the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village completed last year.

This project captured the “Best Renovation of the Year Award” for a franchised property at the recent 2008 Marriott International National Association (MINA) conference. Located next to the impressive World Golf Hall of Fame, The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village remodeled all 301 guest rooms and suites, dramatically changed the lobby atrium and entry area, remodeled all guest room corridors, expanded and enhanced its fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, remodeled its billiard room, enhanced its meeting space with new carpet, and renovated its business center. In addition, the resort also remodeled its restaurant and bar, which opened in April 2008 as a new restaurant and bar called 500 South, An American Grill.

What type and size of meetings are best for your property?

We cater to all groups and sizes. In addition to meetings and conferences, we also cater to weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversary and birthday parties. We can cater up to a 1,500 person sit-down dinner and one group may occupy all 301 guest rooms. We have 14 meeting rooms and our St. Augustine Ballroom is very large at 26,880 square feet. It is the largest hotel/convention center combination between Orlando and Atlanta.

What type of golf experiences are near your resort and how can they enhance meetings?

Featuring a wealth of recreational offerings that appeal to golfers and non-golfers alike, the resort enables you to play golf on two of the country’s finest golf courses (King & Bear, and Slammer & Squire), experience the renowned PGA TOUR Golf Academy, and explore the wonders of America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. On-site offerings at The Renaissance Resort include a professional golf simulator, a sauna, pool, and hot tub. Guests also are an easy walk to The World Golf Hall of Fame’s 18-hole putting course, the 132-yard Island Challenge Hole, an IMAX® Theater, and the Walk of Champions. Onsite meetings may take advantage of team-building activities through tournament play on one of our golf courses. Additional team-building activities may be organized at our 18-hole putting course or the 132-yard Island Challenge Hole.

What other attractions does your resort and the surrounding area offer that most people don’t think of when they are considering your property for a meeting?

One will find that beautiful historic St. Augustine offers everything from upscale boutiques and historic antiques to fine art and Florida kitsch. If you have a passion for the old-fashioned – including blown glass and handmade chocolates – St. Augustine is the spot for you. In addition to perusing clothes, shoes, household goods, and unique gifts from around the world in St. Augustine, there are more than 160 outlet stores within minutes of the resort. You’ll find upwards of 85 stores at the Premium Outlets and 75+ stores at the nearby Prime Outlet Center, both within five miles of The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village. Likewise, World Golf Village has the 30,000 square foot PGA TOUR Stop – the world’s largest golf merchandise store – perfect for gifts, equipment and apparel for the avid golfer. You’ll find more than 60 of the world’s top manufacturers of equipment and apparel featured in interactive “concept shops” and themed areas throughout the store.

Your hotel is part of the John Q. Hammons Hotels group. What is the defining feature of this group and how is it positioning itself in the meetings market?

Since developing his first hotel in 1958, John Q. Hammons has carried out his vision of creating a hotel experience that exceeds every expectation. Over the past 50 years, he has become a true innovator within the hospitality industry, from his ambitious style of property development to setting the standard for excellence in property management. Today, John Q. Hammons Hotels Management, LLC, maintains Hammons’ long tradition of quality with a renewed passion. We’re building upon his legacy of success and focusing on the future of the company – developing new properties that are sure to excel while continuing to outperform our competitors at the properties we manage. John Q. Hammons Hotels are consistently awarded the highest honors in guest satisfaction and overall excellence. Our new atrium-style developments continue to lead the industry in both meeting space and guest experience. With extraordinary associates and an experienced management team, we remain the nation’s premier independent builder, developer, owner and manager of upscale, full-service hotels.