By Beth Buehler
What happens when it becomes time to change up an annual meeting, conference, customer appreciation event (or an employee outing) that was typically held at beautiful golf courses like we did around Colorado? In the case of Destination Colorado, the organization began introducing alternative activities for non-golfers in tandem with hitting the links in 2013 and 2014 and then took a big leap, offering a national park photo safari for everyone in Estes Park for 2015 and “Get Your Cowboy On” in Grand County for 2016.
The purpose of the annual gathering is to bring meeting and event planners together with suppliers from around the state to network and experience various Colorado destinations. Planners are treated to complimentary lodging and activities, and sponsorships and a registration cost for suppliers help cover costs. With a little imagination and firm commitment, utilizing other resources for your group might be just the ticket!
Expanded Options Introduced
While a solid number of people played golf each year, introducing non-golf activities for attendees got the wheels turning for something new. In 2013, the event started with an evening reception at The Arrabelle at Vail Square on Thursday and was followed by breakfast for the whole group, a choice between a casual tournament at Vail Golf Course and an Iron Chef-style competition at Beaver Creek Lodge, and an awards reception on Friday.
Breckenridge hosted the 12th annual event the following year, with a very similar format, except the non-golfing crew was treated to an Amazing Race. The adventure began at the town’s Riverwalk Center with planners and suppliers discovering the 1800s through visiting historical museums, swilling in Western saloons, tastings in distilleries and more.
Developing a Brand New Format
In 2015, it seemed natural to make the switch from golf to another activity for everyone in Estes Park, coinciding with Rocky Mountain National Park’s (RMNP) yearlong 100th birthday celebration. A Thursday evening reception at the iconic Stanley Hotel preceded breakfast at YMCA of the Rockies at Estes Park Conference Center, photography tips from professional photographer Erik Stensland, and a guided photo safari through RMNP. Participants shot photos and posted them to Destination Colorado’s social media platforms, where followers judged the photos. The day concluded with a birthday celebration for the national park.
Liking this change in approach, Destination Colorado headed to Grand County for a taste of the West in early September 2016. Hosted by C Lazy U Ranch and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, participants savored the relaxing and beautiful atmospheres at both places and enjoyed a fun-filled day of team-building activities and camaraderie. Teams were guided through an activity course, selecting someone from their team to participate in archery, air rifles, lassoing, Caterpillar, The Wall, Spider Web and Mohawk Walk.
Next, it’s a 2017 Beatles tribute concert on Aug. 24 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, just west of Denver. “We hope to tie in things like costumes (e.g., wigs, sunglasses, etc.) and a photo booth and make it a really fun Beatles 1964 evening,” says Destination Colorado President Kathy Reak, who is senior director of convention sales for the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We expect this to be our most attended Customer Appreciation Event yet, and there is a lot of buzz in the industry air. People have been talking about this event and what we are going to do next since we shifted our focus away from golf. We are eager to share details and have a few surprises in store for attendees.”
If your client appreciation event or employee outing is feeling a little bit tired, shake it up a bit and tap into Colorado’s unique venues, properties and activities. The sky is the limit, plus there are around 300 days of sunshine every year!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.