The focus is on Wine Country, but selecting the right hotel property for a small luxury corporate event applies to almost any company in the world. For this discussion, corporate events apply to off-site meetings such as: corporate planning meetings, board of director meetings, client entertaining, incentive/recognition programs, team building, and the list can go ad infinitum. However, the right location and hotel property is as critical as the content of the meeting. Just like a realtor tells everyone–it’s all about location; now I also add ambience.
The definition of a hotel can also be misleading. In planning a luxury corporate outing to Napa Valley, realize you have choices: Guest Houses (the upscale category of a B&B), 4 and 5 star Resorts, “In Town” Hotels, and private Estates that come with private chef’s and concierge’s. We will look at all of these in more detail. Just remember, resort’s and spa’s are in the general discussion of hotels in Napa Valley.
An Aldo Gucci quote I often use holds true in selecting any property for a corporate event: “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory,” Aldo Gucci. So choose wisely relative to the objectives of the event because it pays dividends to expect and demand excellence.
In a moment we will look at some properties that can be used for luxury corporate gatherings (25 and fewer participants) where there is some level of ‘business’ will be conducted. But first go through a little bit of planning because that will drive the requirements of a facility/property. Never research properties or do a site visit, without a precise checklist of your requirements; take notes and log your impressions.
Here are some top-of-mind checklist items you will want to plan around regarding all aspects of hotel selections: (These will get your thought moving in the right direction.)
- Purpose of the meeting-is it a confidential planning meeting, is it vendor appreciation, etc.?
- How large will the attendee list be; will it include spouses/significant other? We only work with groups up to approximately 25 attendees, but when most are going to be couples then this makes a big difference.
- Focus on the desired tone of the anticipated meeting. For example, is it to be casual for its entirety? Are those invited and expected to attend used to formal elegance where a rustic environment would be frowned upon? (Obviously, there are 5 star properties that are a little rustic; based upon a countrified location for example.)
- Are there any security requirements that dictate confidentiality and smaller venues?
- Length of stay.
- Amenity requirements-24 hour room service, pool, exercise room, spa, gourmet restaurant(s).
- Access to appropriate activities for spouse/significant others.
- Assess the meeting facilities and equipment. Let me explain in more detail. Most mass production meeting rooms utilize narrow width tables or large round tables with some type of table covering and a very slightly padded chair. This is not acceptable for luxury corporate meeting. You will need caster/tilting and padded chairs; are these available? Meeting rooms are NOT a one size fits all.
- Accommodations need to be commensurate with socio-economic level of the attendees.
Now if you think I am being a little picky, let me tell you a quick story about a hotel chain where my wife once worked-The Ritz Carlton. The service requirements mandated by the corporation were often looked upon as minutia. However, a truly 5 star property, even in a sophisticated rural setting like Napa Valley, expects a demanding client. When you look at a room, comment if you see finger prints on a window or a dirty window; they will appreciate clients who know what they want and expect. Lint, stains, and even grout cleanliness should be noted in 5 star properties. Oh well, this is a subject I could go on about for quite some time; but won’t.
This brings up the second point about selecting properties; it’s the ratings we all read about, they are just like wine ratings-most are opinions only. Understand; most evaluations on the web are determined by reader/visitor evaluations. Simply put, there is no consistent science behind on-line evaluations of any property. The star ratings are really a misnomer unless you are using the Forbes Travel Guide (i.e. Mobil Travel Guide) or American Automobile Assoc. The star ratings for hotel you find on the internet are consumer reviews and the reviewer is assigning a rating based solely on their opinion. From these inputs the automated system averages the review rating to give a summary rating. The problem with this is that most readers of these reviews do not know the specific factors that lie behind the reviews. For example, was it a bachelorette party, honeymoon, family retreat, etc.
Here we’re focused solely on senior management functions… mostly C Level management in small group sizes.
So who or what reviews can you trust? You can only trust your own. That is why you need a very concise and detailed set of criteria to judge each property you have discovered through: on-line research, references, and a good event planner. In any event, the final decision rest with the company. As had been noted in other of my posts, every company has a persona and event locations need to complement that persona.
In Napa County I think there are a handful of exclusive and luxury properties that are point-on for small corporate groups (25 and fewer participants that are “C” Level executive caliber). However, there are probably 12 that are considered 4 and 5 star properties, some of which easily handle events of 500 attendees. I would not consider facilities that accept pets, romantic getaways or family festivities to be appropriate for executive/corporate events.
Enough of the qualifiers, here is my short list of properties for small luxury “C” Level meetings in Napa Valley. Service levels and attention to detail delivered in a manner of “subdued anticipation”; something should be done and it was, that is 5 star service that works with the ambience of the property. (No particular ranking.) These are well suited for high-end meetings for 25 or fewer attendees.
Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, CA
Ambience: Natural Luxury in country setting. Large property.
48 large square footage suites, 24 hour room service/concierge, restaurant (gentlemen coat required), and Spa. Provides 24 hour room service.
Extremely private with remarkable degree of security and confidentiality. Six years old.
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, CA
Ambience: natural contemporary/Formal French
50 rooms in a cottage format that is in a natural country setting.
Coat (for men) is required at restaurants.
Complimentary bar in room, 2 restaurants and on-site spa, fitness room and 24 hour room service.
North Block Hotel, Yountville, CA
Ambience: Modern. contemporary boutique-In-town setting. Positioned as ‘familiar laid-back’.
20 rooms-approximately 400-500 sq. ft. Hotel is 3 years old.
Award winning restaurant, in-house spa, 24 hour fitness room, and 24 hour room service.
Others that are also highly rated but are large properties and provide a more universal approach to guest services:
Meritage Resort-400 plus rooms. Well suited for large meetings and conventions. Napa, CA
Meadowood Resort-Great resort with a heavy concentration on sports activities. They have a 9 hole golf course on property. Not private. St. Helena, CA
Bardessono Hotel-Modern with a commitment to sustainability. In-town property. Yountville, CA
62 rooms and accept pets.
Silverado Resort-geared for families, conventions, with a casual atmosphere. Reminds me of The Del Coronado in San Diego.
450 rooms, restaurant, spa, stellar golf experiences, nice service in a stately atmosphere. Napa, CA
Honorable mention is The Poetry Inn.-Napa, CA
With only 5 rooms they are not ideal for meetings, but only for that reason, they not the best in Napa Valley. This is a property that has a Villa atmosphere with rooms of 1,400 sq. ft. Meeting room accommodates only 8. They also have pool and spa rooms. They also have a luxury estate home on the property with 3 bedrooms and come with a personal chef. Be prepared for a 3 night minimum stay if you want this elegance.
Disclaimer: I have never received any financial consideration or complimentary stays from any of these properties. The information is from interviews and personal visits. There is absolutely no financial incentives in this information. Send me an e-mail if you want my personal favorite.