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PLANNER: ANGELIQUE WILKINS
VP, Conferences & Meetings
Futures Industry Association
Multiple flat screen TVs dot the perimeters of the oversized Family Room. Comfy couches and chairs beckon you to remove your shoes and tuck in to catnap or converse quietly. Light filters in, a welcome guest from the adjacent open-roofed Palm Court, so named for the gently swaying palm trees soaking in sun-speckled warmth. Aaah, the comforts of home, where familiar faces greet your arrival with the house signature drink, a virgin Key Lime Cooler.
This is life at the 356-acre Boca Raton Resort in Palm Beach County, originally designed in the 1920s by celeb Mediterranean Revival architect Addison Mizner. The posh property is a member of the Waldorf Astoria Collection.
“The hominess of the surroundings and the exemplary service are why the Futures Industry Association (FIA) is returning this March for the 35th consecutive year,” says Angelique Wilkins, CMP, vp of conferences/meetings.
But there’s more to it than a few creature comforts, like 146,000 sf of meeting space, two championship golf courses, 40 tennis courts, a luxury marina and a famous spa bordered by a ½-mile private beach.
“From a planner’s perspective, I’ve researched comparable properties in South Florida and there is no other property that offers renowned golf courses, tennis and golf pros, and beach activities under one roof, plus the [128,000] square feet of meeting space in the Mizner Center.”
What distinguishes Boca Raton Resort is the meticulous attention to detail, excellent food and supreme customer service, she enthuses. “The front desk people know you by name. When we return year after year, the same faces greet us. That says volumes about their management and family feeling that extends to their guests.
“To have a group of 700-800 people feel treated as if they’ve entered a private club is just unheard of.” That’s the reason, says Wilkins, “We don’t have to justify the cost to attendees. We get real value for our food and beverage dollar.”
There are 11 restaurants at the resort, everything from Serendipity’s Ice Cream Parlor to Cielo, the fine dining restaurant atop the 27-story Tower serving continental cuisine with a touch of Italian verve. “Our guests rarely leave the property during the entire 4-day conference.”
The wide range of price points and the diversity of lodging is another key draw. These aren’t cookie cutter rooms. The Boca Beach Club literally sits right on the private beach. The Tower’s oversized rooms overlook the intercoastal and the ocean. The Boca Bungalows have full-sized kitchens but the services of a private club, while the Cloisters offer a mix of Spanish-Med charm with contemporary Florida accents. Not to be missed is the Yacht Club, billed as reminiscent of a grand Venetian palace, but which Wilkins says is a standout because, “You can sail up in your yacht and stay aboard, or you can stay in a room alongside the marina.”
“If you’re looking for a place to return to, this is it. Boca Raton Resort has become so embedded with our conference that the staff and attendees don’t refer to the conference by its official name. They ask, ‘Hey, when’s Boca?’
“In all my years as a planner and my fourth with FIA, I’ve never heard of a hotel being so closely branded with a conference. They are truly our partners in servicing our members and attendees.”