In this interview, Pamela Watkins, director of sales for Visit South Walton, discusses a change in the definition of luxury over the past year—and it’s not exactly subtle.
Prevue: How can cost-conscious planners add a sense of luxury to meetings and incentives?
Watkins: Cost-conscious planners looking to add a sense of luxury to their meetings and incentives hold their meetings in South Walton during the shoulder season. From November through February, South Walton provides enticing rates to help optimize a group’s budget, as well as mild temperatures and a wide variety of activities and events. Meetings and incentives can experience world-class resorts, boutique hotels and Gulf-front hotels at a reduced rate while receiving the same great service and amenities during peak season.
What are some cultural venues that enhance meeting & incentive experiences on any budget?
There is an array of cultural venues in South Walton that offer meeting planners an alternative and inspirational setting. The Bayou Arts Center combines a stunning setting on the Choctawhatchee Bay with art exhibits and meeting space, while the Seaside Repertory Theatre is centrally located with a dramatic setting.
There are also a myriad of cultural activities for enhancing a meeting experience on any budget. A meeting or incentive group can plan their trip to South Walton around outstanding festivals such as South Walton Fashion Week, 30A Songwriters Festival, Digital Graffiti, Mountain Film Festival and South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival just to name a few.
Held every month in Seaside, the First Friday Ruskin Place ArtWalk features live music showcasing local talent and gourmet hors d’oeuvres and wine inviting guests to stroll the galleries under illuminated oak trees. Visitors enjoy the largest collection of art galleries on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast and view new work by diverse artists.
Is there room for luxury in the sustainable farm-to-table food & beverage trend?
Yes. Luxury does not always have to mean formal, and the ability to have sustainable and local cuisine can be considered a luxury. South Walton has the unique ability to create a Gulf to Table experience that provides locally-sourced ingredients from an upscale excursion. A group can start the day on a fishing charter off the shore of Grayton Beach. Upon your return, you’ll meet up with a personal chef from Roux 30A who will help you take freshly fileted mahi mahi or grouper and turn it into an inspired masterpiece, all from the comfort of your luxury accommodations.
Has the definition of luxury changed over the past year?
Visitors are continually looking for luxury while seeking value. Along with luxury, customers are researching the destinations in which they can maximize their experience, in terms of dining, shopping and cultural activities.