For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: KATE FAYAD
Morris Meetings & Incentives
Salt Lake City, UT
Here’s the deal. You have 430 incentive winners and significant others from across the Western states who want the tropical postcard program. That means everything from macaws to mud baths, with endless romance and oodles of exotic activities.
The 406-suite Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort specializes in just such a group, ensconced within a 2,400-acre Costa Rican Eden rife with unspoiled beaches and dense jungle flora.
“Our client wanted his guests—mostly couples from Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming—to just relax and enjoy a tropical experience,” says Kate Fayad, program manager for Morris Meetings & Incentives in Salt Lake City. “Paradisus is an all-inclusive resort so guests could do whatever they wanted from diverse offerings like watersports lessons, tango classes, cooking and Spanish classes, and nightly dance shows and plays.”
Local DMC Swiss Travel handled logistics.
“Swiss Travel was amazing,” says Fayad. “As an event coordinator, I can’t tell you how comforting it was knowing they were on top of everything…especially organizing excursions. Hands down, the favorite was the combo tour in the rainforest, which combined zip lines, horseback riding, a visit to the thermal hot springs, and a volcanic mud treatment.”
Back at the resort, the accommodating English-speaking staff and layout of Paradisus contributed to a no-stress atmosphere. The resort’s oversized suites range from 538 to 1,162 sf, each with a separate living area, AC and private terrace or balcony.
For guests more suited to swimsuits, sun and bellying up to the bar, this is one of Costa Rica’s most idyllic group resorts, centered around a large lagoon-style pool.
“I was in the pool, watching monkeys climbing the surrounding trees,” enthuses Fayad. “Beautiful birds were chirping. Everything was just so green…so exotic.”
Lifestyle and dining options include an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course and the Ahuia Spa (additional fees for both), tennis courts, five lounges and eight restaurants serving everything from northern Italian to Asian fusion. The five meeting halls total 8,391 sf of flexible meeting space.
“We maxed out the convention center at 430 for our plated farewell dinner on the last night,” says Fayad. “A perfect evening. Great food and dance band. It was early November and more humid than what folks from the West are used to, but the women loved wearing their sun dresses in that 80° temperature.”
Other standout events?
“The fishing derby, about 80 people participated,” Fayad exclaims, without skipping a beat, “We needed 18 boats, plus dinghies to transfer the guests from shore to the boats. It was organized through a company called Go Fish, who mustered every boat available in Tamarindo. There’s never been so many people or boats used for one group, so it attracted a lot of attention.”
Did anybody catch anything, Kate?
“Bags full of mahi mahi! The resort’s chef grilled them for our outdoor reception with just some salt, pepper and butter, but everyone said it was the best fish they’d ever eaten.”
Fayad especially credits Carlos Villalobos, conference services manager, who began working with her six months out.
“I was concerned about the level of equipment. Carlos said, ‘Don’t worry. We’re installing projectors from the ceiling, just for your group. No extra charge.’” She laughs, recalling the event. “He said as long as we were there, he had no day off. I’d give him a million requests and he never let me down.”