Courtesy The Greenbrier
When bankers are looking for luxury experiences for their travel clubs, they tend to turn to high-end resort properties with national reputations and long legacies of elegance and service.
Hotel properties come in many shapes, sizes and price points, and bank travel managers will often use properties from across the spectrum (depending on the needs of the group and the particular tour they’re planning). For simple overnight accommodations, limited-service hotels often do well. But for luxury, the grand dames of American resorts offer history, activities and scenery seldom rivaled by newer resort properties.
Many of the favorite luxury resorts frequented by groups, such as the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan; and Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, have earned reputations for excellence over a century or more of operation. They also offer wide ranges of activities, both onsite and offsite, giving travel planners the freedom to turn their groups loose during their stays.
Although many modern hotels emphasize their casual feel and contemporary amenities, it is the presence of traditional experiences that seems to draw groups to many luxury resorts.
“We really have an experience that isn’t a whole lot different than it was 100 years ago,” said Ken Hayward, executive vice president at the Grand Hotel. “The hotel celebrated its 125th birthday last summer, and we play off that historic significance.”
Hayward said some leisure groups have been making trips to the summertime resort for more than 70 years. Many of the travelers are drawn to the traditional customs at the hotel that aren’t often found at other properties.
“Groups are looking for the tradition,” Hayward said. “We still include a five-course dinner in the overnight room rate. Gentlemen wear jacket and tie for dinner. There is live music and dancing during dinner, and an afternoon tea every day. People come for that step back in time, to have that traditional resort experience.”
Tradition is also a big part of the appeal of the Grove Park Inn, which celebrates its centennial this year.
“The Grove Park Inn is an iconic destination, a bucket-list property,” said director of sales Tryg Brody. “It’s one of those places that you really want to see when you’re traveling in this region.”
The Greenbrier, with 700 guest rooms and well more than 100 years under its belt, showcases traditional Southern elegance and hospitality as part of the guest experience. There are even historic sites to see during property tours, including a secret U.S. government bunker from the Cold War era.
“For 32 years, this is where Congress would have come if the nation had come under attack,” said the Greenbrier’s director of group sales, Greg Furlong. “It came close to being used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s a giant bunker that would have housed 1,000 people for 60 days.”