In today’s hectic business world, heavy workloads and marketplace pressures ensure the momentum never flags. Corporate retreats, whether for an off-site meeting or an incentive reward, often provide the only chance to slow down, regain perspective and connect with fellow team members or partners.
Different types of location play their part in corporate retreats – lush green forests, golden beaches, “hidden” city resorts or amazing desert landscapes can all help to create just the right ambience for success. Mix takes a look at a range of such locations and the possibilities they present for exciting corporate retreats.
DESERT – VOYAGES AYERS ROCK RESORT
The Great Sandy Desert in Northern Australia belies the idea that deserts are dull, lifeless places. It forms part of Australia’s Red Centre and is home to the world-renowned iconic rock formations of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), as well as hundreds of different animal and bird species and over 400 types of native plant.
Within this amazing Outback landscape sits Voyages Ayers Rock Resort and its 231-room hotel, Sails in the Desert. It is ideal for small corporate incentives and meetings, with the adjacent conference and event space – known as Uluru Meeting Place – providing a range of venues. These include a ballroom which can seat 420 people, divisible into separate smaller meeting spaces, and a second ballroom for 300.
Longitude 131 sits just a little aloof from the main resort. Corporate groups can undertake sole use of this luxurious 15-villa “tent” property, ensuring complete privacy, with the main Dune House utilised as a meeting venue if required.
Dining options at the resort range from à la carte to informal barbecue. The pièce de résistance is the off-site Sounds of Silence dinner under a canopy of stars out in the desert. This award-winning experience includes watching a spectacular sunset before dinner and finishes with a guided “tour” of the southern night sky.
The 50,000-year-old indigenous culture of the traditional landowners is woven into all 65 of the different tours, activities and attractions available within the resort and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Popular group activities include indigenous art dot-painting workshops, dance lessons and guided walks to view spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Ayers Rock Resort has proven appeal to Asian markets and provides a fascinating alternative to the usual Australian east coast city destinations. Groups from organisations such as Chinese pharmaceutical brand 999, Tai Ping Insurance and BMW China have utilised the resort.
CITY – SENTOSA RESORT & SPA
The lush tropical island of Sentosa is located just minutes from downtown Singapore, yet manages to offer a surprisingly tranquil city-based destination.
Connected to the mainland by road, Sentosa has excellent access which, in addition to conventional car, shuttle bus and coach transport, includes the Singapore Cable Car, the Sentosa Boardwalk and the Sentosa Express light rail. Such excellent access means the shops, restaurants and attractions of Singapore are within easy reach.
Attractions on the island include the two-kilometre Tanjong Beach, the historic Fort Siloso military museum, two championship 18-hole golf courses plus Resorts World Sentosa with its casino, theme park and a recently opened oceanarium.
Perched high on a cliff amid 11 hectares of lush tropical woodland and water gardens, The Sentosa Resort & Spa is a stylish five-star hotel with glorious views of the Singapore Strait. Its 215 rooms sit within elegant low-rise architecture and immaculately manicured grounds. The resort is home to the internationally acclaimed Spa Botanica and also The Cliff, the resort's award-winning fine-dining restaurant.
The Sentosa has a dedicated two-storey conference centre with over 1,300 square metres of conference facilities. It includes two ballrooms, the largest of which, The Straits Ballroom, can comfortably accommodate up to 360 delegates theatre-style. Both ballrooms divide for smaller events and meetings, as do the additional five meeting rooms.
The resort offers a creative hands-on cooking programme called The Sentosa Iron Chef. Amateur cooks form into teams to do battle in a friendly competition to cook a four-course meal, incorporating a classic Asian dish, in order to win the coveted title of The Sentosa Iron Chef.
Other activities include the Sentosa Imbiah Challenge, a team race activity against the clock designed around the cluster of attractions at Sentosa’s Imbiah Lookout. Alternatively, golf competitions, beach olympics or zip-lining and ropes course programmes can be considered – all available on the island.
FOREST – CAMERON HIGHLANDS RESORT
The Cameron Highlands cover an area of 712 square kilometres in the Titiwangsa Mountains and boast Malaysia’s largest and most famous hill retreat. Located 300 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur and 1,500 metres above sea level, the picturesque plateau has a cool-temperate climate and breathtaking scenery, with lush, rolling green hills, forests and cascading waterfalls.
The Highlands retain much of the charm and character of colonial times, when they were developed as a cool hill station “getaway” for the wealthy British stationed in Malaya. It is also where Jim Thompson – the legendary American-born businessman – who was also known as the Thai “Silk King” – mysteriously disappeared in 1967. It's a case that's never been solved.
Set amongst tea plantations, the boutique Cameron Highlands Resort has 56 rooms and suites and corporate groups such as Jaguar, Lonpac Insurance, E&O and Porsche Club have been to the property. Special touches such as beautiful Jim Thompson fabrics, large four-poster beds, tall French doors, timber-beamed ceilings and plantation shutters add charm to the resort.
In addition to the only 18-hole golf course in the Highlands, the resort also has an award-winning spa and conference facilities which incorporate a ballroom that seats 120 guests for banquets. There are seven smaller meeting rooms, the largest of which caters for 50 delegates theatre-style.
The resort is a place where traditional English cuisine meets the exotic tastes of Asia, and it includes the only Japanese restaurant in the Cameron Highlands. Corporate group activities can include golf or guided treks along jungle trails or through mossy montane oak forests, excursions into nearby tea plantations and strawberry farms, and the resort has also developed an exciting new signature event (see box above.)
BEACH – JW MARRIOTT PHUKET RESORT & SPA
Beach destinations provide a relaxed location for corporate retreats, with an abundance of nature-based activities and team-building options right on their doorstep. One such place is the five-star, 265-room JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, located in the north of Phuket beside Sirinath Marine National Park, a conservation area of great beauty.
Spread across 11 hectares of exquisite tropical gardens, with spectacular views over the Andaman Sea, this secluded resort sits on tranquil Mai Khao Beach. Only 15 kilometres north of Phuket International Airport, it is a world away from the bustle of Phuket’s busy tourist towns located farther south.
Recently renovated meeting facilities offer flexible meeting options for up to 400 participants, with the largest venue being the Mai Khao Ballroom. A total of 10 meeting rooms offers a total of 1,450 square metres of meeting space.
Seventeen kilometres of pristine, natural beach make water and beach-based activities an obvious choice. Mountain-bike sunset tours enable delegates to explore beyond the resort and wind down in a relaxed and informal way. A circus training and flying trapeze programme is also available, and just eight kilometres away is the legendary Blue Canyon Country Club, one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the region. Other off-site adventures can include elephant trekking and exploring the beachfront jungles of the Phi Phi Islands.
The resort has six restaurants offering Italian, Japanese, Thai and international cuisine. The in-house Ginja Cooking School provides an expedition into the world of modern Thai cooking, done the “Phuket way”.
DRIVE TO ULURU
Client: BMW China
WHEN: October 2012
ORGANISER: New Asia Pacific Travel
EVENT: 7th “Destination X” annual drive experience
Where: Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, Northern Territory, Australia
Execution: Enthusiasts drove the latest BMW X Series over a 10-day drive programme. Split into two teams, one drove north from Adelaide and the other south from Darwin, meeting in the middle of Australia at Uluru. Highlights included tours of Uluru and Kata Tjuta on foot and by helicopter, as well as indigenous dot-painting and dance classes. The finale was a “Sounds of Silence” gala dinner under the stars.
Verdict: “The vice-president of BMW China said Uluru was the highlight of the entire trip, and Voyages Ayers Rock Resort did such a wonderful and professional job,” said Steven Wang, Managing Director, New Asia Pacific Travel.
MURDER IN THE MOUNTAINS
A special themed group event has been developed exclusively for the Cameron Highlands Resort. Called “Murder Mystery in the Misty Mountains”, it is a “whodunit” activity based on the Jim Thompson mystery. The experience begins two weeks prior to the event when guests receive their invitations and character briefings. At the resort, the evening commences with cocktails followed by dinner, while “murders” get under way and guests search for clues throughout the property. The event culminates in voting and awards being presented to a range of “best” performers.
AYERS ROCK, AUSTRALIA
ACCESS The Northern Territory is accessed internationally via Darwin International Airport, with connections through to Ayers Rock Airport, which is also serviced by direct domestic air services from throughout the whole of Australia.
CLIMATE Central Australia has a semi-arid desert climate with temperatures varying from 5?C in winter to 37?C in summer.
VISA Business travellers require a current passport and it must be valid for at least six months. All visitors must also have a valid visa, with their passport details determining whether it is possible to apply for an online visa, or if necessary to lodge another type of visa application.
LANGUAGE English is the nationally recognised language of Australia.
ACCESS Singapore’s Changi Airport connects to over 200 destinations worldwide, with 5,000 arrivals and departures a week by 80 international airlines.
CLIMATE Singapore is known for its hot and humid weather, with little variation throughout the year. Average daytime temperatures reach 31?C, dropping to around 24?C in the evening.
VISA Most foreigners coming into Singapore do not require a visa for entry and may be given social visit passes for up to 30 days upon initial arrival.
LANGUAGE Singapore has adopted one representative language for each of the four major ethnic groups; these are English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay. However, the official national language is the latter and is called Bahasa Melayu.
CAMERON HIGHLANDS, MALAYSIA
ACCESS Over 45 international airlines fly into Malaysia via the main gateway Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang. From there, groups transfer to the Cameron Highlands Resort by private car or coach. Singapore travellers have the option of flying into Ipoh Airport or Skypark Subang Terminal.
CLIMATE The weather is temperate/cool all year round with temperatures ranging from a minimum of 14?C to a maximum of 28?C.
VISA Visitors must hold a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months. Most nationalities do not require visas for either social or business visits.
LANGUAGE While Malay is the national language, English is widely spoken here.
ACCESS Several airlines fly direct to Phuket International Airport from international locations, making a stopover unnecessary. Alternatively, domestic flights arrive via Bangkok with Thai Airways.
CLIMATE Phuket has a tropical monsoonal climate and is warm all year round. The two periods of April-May and September-October are the hottest and the latter is the
VISA Visitors holding a valid passport or travel documents issued by a country included in Thailand’s official list of eligible countries, can generally enter the country as a tourist for one month visa-free.
LANGUAGE Thai is the official language but English is spoken readily in Phuket.