According to Brian Lang, director of catering at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, planners are asking more frequently for meeting and incentive programs that incorporate outdoors events, beyond the traditional recreational pursuits and cocktail receptions. Hyatt has responded with concepts for general opening sessions, town hall-style gatherings, and breakout meetings by the lake.
“We’re seeing an uptick in group occupancy based on growing interest in a healthy outdoor lifestyle, and that’s especially prevalent in our part of the country,” says Lang. “Planners are telling us they’re feeling limited about what they can do in a ballroom anymore. Nobody is interested in four walls and a chandelier anymore”
Lang believes that multiple factors are driving these shifts, including TV shows like Survivor and Amazing Race, general trends in consumer behavior for more healthy lifestyles, and Millennial demand for more active experiences.
This has pushed Lang and his team to come up with more creative group programs that tap into these, which also tie into the business objectives of the meeting. For example, Hyatt Tahoe put together a 9 p.m. evening event for 150 people that involved glow-in-the-dark volleyball and kayak relay racing with a DJ providing tunes by the water.
“That’s not your average tug-of-war teambuilding; the energy was the kind that you rarely see at a corporate event, I mean it was rocking,” says Lang.
Another event is a geocaching event in the forest using various modes of transportation.
“That is so that Millennial generation, where to bring them up to Tahoe and give them a GPS device—they love those devices—and give them bikes to go find things in the forest,” explains Lang. “Geocaching events like those tie in the outdoors and technology, and they really get into it. It takes a bit of work to add in jet skis or kayaks to make it even more active, and build in those very Tahoe-esque experiences, but the payoff is great.”
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe’s corporate group business is about 60% meetings and 40% incentive. According to Lang, most meetings include half a day or more for everyone to go fishing, mountain biking or hiking because it opens dialogue like nothing else. It’s also an imperative for younger generations of meeting attendees.
“I really think it’s the Millennials,” says Lang. “When I started in this business, everyone was wearing a suit and tie. It was all about being professional or appearing professional. And I think the younger generation is much more about being focused and being accomplished while having fun at the same time.”