Clever Carly: Make Your Meeting a Wellness Retreat

Health and relaxation are becoming big priorities for attendees. Here’s how planners can deliver

Hello, planners!

After a busy week, I feel like I’m ready for a restful vacation—and I’m sure you are, too. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of destination meetings, in particular, has always been taking advantage of a new city’s opportunities for relaxation. And it turns out that wellness is now a big draw for attendees, too: Travelers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, a number that experts predict will top 1 billion this year. That’s a lot of rest and respite to be had.

So, what does this trend signal to us planners? Whereas hosting destination meetings used to only be about location, location, location, nowadays an attendee’s RSVP might lean more heavily toward “attending” if your meeting prioritizes health and wellness. That is, in addition to being a learning experience, events are also seen as an opportunity to de-stress and relax—and it’s up to planners to find a way to deliver on that. 

Now, destination meetings are not always within a meeting’s budget, and that’s OK. Near or far, every city has its own local wellness scene; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to tap into each community’s health initiatives. Here’s where to start:

1. Find the pulse of your meeting’s city.

Easier said than done, eh? So, do your research. I won’t dwell on this step too long because research should always be step one no matter the meeting purpose, but with wellness, here are some things to consider:

  • Are there attractions nearby that promote relaxation or wellness? Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, for example, has become a hallmark stop for visitors to take a dip in its relaxing waters.
  • What does the local dining scene look like? A culture of fast food in the area might require some more work with your chef—and dollars to your dining budget—to offer healthier menu items.
  • Are there local groups or organizations that promote wellness? Bringing in a meditation group, yoga instructors or massage therapists during meeting breaks can help your guests decompress.

Remember, not every city will have an overt wellness initiative—it’s up to you to find it, or, at the very least, make health a priority in your meeting. 

2. Check out what your venue has to offer. 

Be it budget or tech constraints, if your meeting doesn’t have the ability to explore a city’s wellness offerings, talk to your venue staff about what they can do. For instance, many hotels, such as the JW Marriott and Westin brands, have a variety of wellness programs or revitalizing amenities that can add to an attendee’s event experience. 

3. Fit wellness into your meeting agenda. 

Once you’ve identified how wellness fits into your meeting location, it’s time to determine the role it will play in your own meeting. Maybe health is at the core of your meeting purpose, or maybe it plays a much smaller role—either approach is fine, but it will affect decisions you need to make for the rest of your meeting.

For instance, let’s say you’re hosting an event in Amsterdam, which holds the title for healthiest city in the world (and is a top 20 meeting destination, no less!). For a meeting devoted to wellness at every level, you might include a taste of all the city’s health initiatives: a trip outside to celebrate its clean air, cycling on the city’s many bike routes, a fresh meeting menu and plenty of meeting breaks to balance the agenda (Amsterdam also ranks No. 1 in work-life balance). 

Meanwhile, for a meeting that might not have the time or budget for a lot of wellness extras, you might focus in on a bicycling tour of the city as a networking or team-building activity. 

While planning, keep in mind that there’s no right way to “be well,” and attendees will likely have a differing interpretation of what constitutes “wellness.” As usual, the most you can do is work toward the greater good of the group. And in an environment where guests are prioritizing health and relaxation, whatever steps you do take toward wellness are sure to be appreciated. 

Until next time.

Plan well,
Clever Carly