Three conference and incentives planners who’ve been there and done that, tell us what floats their boat when it comes to the world of corporate retreats and what it is that makes everything move along nicely.
1 Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, SA The Company that bought exclusive lodge-style luxury to the Australian market, continues to reign supreme. The Lodge takes my No.1 spot for its rugged wilderness location, access to the best of Australian wildlife, fantastic five-star dining from breakfast (and continuing throughout the day), and the sophisticated level of comfort and service afforded guests from the moment they arrive.
2 The Kinloch Club, Lake Taupo, New Zealand Overlooking Lake Taupo in the small coastal community of Kinloch, the luxury lodge has also been voted #1 golf course in New Zealand for its Jack Nicklaus designed championship course. The main lodge is divine; the perfect setting for a sporting weekend, corporate retreat or romantic getaway. In this tranquil setting, Kinloch offers a luxury home, away from home.
3 Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi National Park, South Africa – Described as one of the most environmentally friendly lodges in Africa. Lodgings are contemporary, yet blend seamlessly against the African bushveld and landscape surroundings. Access to Africa’s big five are almost certainly guaranteed, both from each lodge’s private plunge pool as well as the expertly executed dawn and dusk safaris operated privately by Sabi Sabi’s experienced rangers.
4 Elements, Byron Bay, NSW – newly opened Elements at Byron Bay forms part of Accor’s M Gallery portfolio; their swish brand of boutique offerings, each with a unique, local story to tell. For ease of access (via Gold Coast or Ballina), Elements Beach Villas offer a relaxed and informal vibe at a destination favoured by many.
5 Spicers Peak Lodge, Maryvale, QLD Accessible serenity is on offer for those that need to get away and disconnect. Located in the South-Eastern Queensland hinterland, halfway between Gold Coast and Toowoomba, Spicers Peak Lodge delivers beautiful views atop a mountain, great food, and a range of hikes and group activities. If you’re looking for a private, corporate getaway with style, this is the place.
1 One& Only Wolgan Valley Once you get to the Blue Mountains it’s a beautiful drive to Wolgan Valley where you’ll find yourself in remote Australian territory. It’s ideal for a conference group who want to be wholly focused on the job at hand without any distractions. To balance work there is plenty to do on property. Here stunning, palatial villas, each with private indoor plunge pool to the incredible food and beverage, combine with bespoke, unique country and high end culinary experiences.
2 Bells at Killcare A fantastic Sydney option with 25 suites and cottages and award winning food ensures every group leaves with a few extra kilos! The property is located near Pretty Beach and blends in with the surrounding and gorgeous residential cottages. Beautiful, manicured gardens with fragrant flowers and trees invite bird life, enhancing a sense of relaxation. There’s a spa to spoil top achievers and as the property lends itself to sole use, it makes for the quintessential corporate retreat.
3 Hamilton Island Perfect for the mid to larger sized groups, the laid-back surroundings contrast with hi-tech conference facilities. There are plenty of flight options to bring people in from around Australia and NZ efficiently. For accommodation larger groups have the Reef View Hotel while the ultimate corporate retreat, qualia lies just behind looming, Jurassic Park-like gates. There are intimate locations for exclusive dinners and activities.
4 Saffire, Freycinet Tasmania This stylish resort with its attention to detail is second to none. From the moment the flight lands in Hobart you are invited to relax in Saffire’s own lounge while awaiting your transport, assured that this is just a prelude to being well looked after. It’s the little things that count, such as the way the check-in staff casually ask your favourite things and then pass that onto other staff members.
5 Queenstown, New Zealand The entire town serves as the perfect retreat for a corporate group on any budget (provided you book early enough). Flight options into Queenstown are plentiful and ensure groups arrive at a reasonable time.
1 Marina Bay Sands, Singapore – We needed a “hub” city location, within easy access of the airport with minimal time transfers to the venue. The safety of the destination was paramount and the venue’s ability to house delegates in one location, in single rooms was necessary. The scope for conference activities is vast and the catering top notch. When last minute breakout rooms were needed, the venue was quick to respond with solutions.
2 Sheraton Mirage, Gold Coast For this national Australia conference it needed to be within easy reach for delegates with regular direct flights. The idea was to take delegates out of their home cities so there was no “popping back to the office”. The ability to host delegates in single rooms, and a hands-on chef, made the resort ideal for our needs.
3 Le Meridian, Noumea This small high-achievers incentive also included partners. Flights from the delegates’ home bases and transfers were relatively short. This meant they were fresh and were ready to go when they arrived. Accommodation in the resort’s north wing had stunning lagoon views. Advice: Unless the organiser is proficient in French, a local French speaking DMC is an absolute must.
4 Cypress Lakes by Oaks Hotels, Hunter Valley, NSW With the majority of delegates based in Sydney, this mid-senior level conference’s criteria was a hotel able to host teambuilding onsite with no need for off-site transfers. It needed to cater for different private dinners and lunch functions over the two night stay. The resort’s self-contained villa accommodation was a winner. The resort’s meeting and event facilities includes a permanent marquee which allowed versatility around dinners and outdoor activities. Pitfalls: The three plus hour transfer time from Sydney airport.
5 RACV Inverloch Resort, Inverloch, Victoria This venue fronts a beautiful stretch of beach on the spectacular South Gippsland Coast with views of the Bass Strait. The majority of delegates were based in Melbourne with the transfer drive taking approximately two hours. A light-filled conference centre and multiple on-site options for team-building.