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Meet the GM: InterContinental Hayman Island’s Arpad Romandy on why immersive experiences are essential

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Meet the GM: InterContinental Hayman Island’s Arpad Romandy
Planners who are considering incorporating corporate social responsibility into their event itineraries can find new and interactive ways of getting delegates involved and inspired, says InterContinental Hayman Island Resort’s GM, Arpad Romandy.

It means more, he says, getting a group involved in a hands-on immersive experience than telling them you’ve eliminated plastic straws.

“I do feel that CSR, it’s not something new,” he says. “More and more people are getting on board. But I would say that if you’re establishing a CSR program at the moment, you’d be behind the eight ball because it’s been something I’ve been probably talking about for the last 15 years. Just different variations of it,” he says.

“We, of course, have that incredible opportunity here, located in a national park.”

He says the resort’s location, on the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays, lends itself beautifully to creating delegate experiences that truly resonate.

“We’ve partnered with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to provide those elevated CSR experiences that really afford lifetime opportunities to meet with marine biologists or go for a guided walk or snorkel. They can dine in the Rainforest Grove, have bonfires at night on the beach with Dreamtime storytelling; we can do a walk with one of the Elders to talk about the local fauna and flora,” he explains.

He believes delegates are now beyond “whether you use plastics or you don’t”.

“Things like that are the norm now. We have all of these traditional initiatives in place, but the ones that we really focus on are getting people involved in those sustainable practices.

“They might get involved in replanting coral or cleaning beaches, but at the same time, they’re getting an educational experience from the professionals. You know, once you get somebody that is super passionate about something talking about it, it really does immerse you in whatever you’re doing.”

In terms of the resort itself, Romandy calls it a “really special place to be” following a lifelong career in hospitality which has seen him circle the globe.

Meet the GM: InterContinental Hayman Island’s Arpad Romandy on why immersive experiences are essential

“Obviously we’re on the Great Barrier Reef which is an amazing place to be, but what makes the resort really stand out is a couple of things. One, it’s a private island. So, we are the only accommodation provider on the island and we’re surrounded by these beautiful, breathtaking natural surroundings. We’ve got these amazing luxury facilities and bespoke experiences. And our team specialises in crafting these itineraries for these business events, which encompass the location as well,” he says.

“Whether we look at arranging beach dinners, or breakouts in various tropical areas of our resort or brainstorming in one of our residences overlooking the Coral Sea, with the most amazing view that just really inspires you, we take great care in speaking to those MICE clients and creating a custom itinerary for them.

“The Indigenous culture experiences are great as well as the adventure-based team building. So anything from kayaking to sailing competitions; we’ve got multiple catamarans that you can use.

“Our executive chef Tony Kramer also has these reef-to-table experiences and cooking classes and showing people how you can make really beautiful meals with very simple local ingredients,” he explains.

Romandy says they’ve seen a strong comeback of international delegates including island buyouts.

“There’s a lot of activity. People have realised the value in personal connection and while Microsoft Teams and all these things have connected us online, there is something special about seeing each other and being able to interact,” he says.

“Word of mouth for us is always positive. And we’re very honoured when we’re recommended for an event because there are many wonderful destinations clients can consider. But this is truly special here.”

Meet the GM: InterContinental Hayman Island’s Arpad Romandy on why immersive experiences are essential

Groups shouldn’t overlook off-island experiences as well, he adds, listing Whitehaven Beach as a must-do. 

“There’s just so much there from the sheer beauty to the silica sand. The colours are amazing and then you get to incorporate that with a snorkel as well.”

Whitehaven Beach is often voted as one of the world’s best beaches.

“The outer reef is great to visit as well. We work with Cruise Whitsundays who have a pontoon out there for your group on-reef with various activities out there.

“On island, we’ve got a beautiful 7.7km trail, and it’s not a flat island so people do get surprised. You might not want to hike the whole thing but you can go to the various lookouts and eventually, you get to a point where looking out, you don’t see any man-made structures. So that’s beautiful for sunrise or sunset.”

“And then we’ve got some nearby islands – Langford Island for example. At high tide it disappears and then after the high tide, it’s an absolutely clean canvas. No footprints. Just imagine arriving there, sort of the first person to step on this island after it’s just been washed over.”

Romandy says at the end of the day, as a hospitality professional, it’s about talking to the client and understanding their specific needs, making suggestions if needed and creating a custom itinerary to suit their specific goals and budget.

“The wonderful thing about Hayman,” he adds, “is that once you’re here, everything is within our resort precinct. We find people aren’t spending a lot of time in meetings. They’re spending time together creating those unique, memorable experiences that you’d go home and talk about, versus a presentation that you saw on a PowerPoint.” 

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