In a corporate world more hectic than ever and under increasing marketplace pressures, exclusive retreat getaways have become even more appealing as special places of seclusion to stop, meet, reflect, refresh, recharge, refocus and sometimes reward. The right location can weave a special kind of magic, whether for an exclusive small meeting or an incentive. Mix presents five of the best places for corporate retreats – from South Africa to China and New Zealand – that boast that special “X-factor”.
Majestic Alpine Retreat
Millbrook Resort – Queenstown, New Zealand
Situated just 10 minutes from picturesque Queenstown, this five-star resort is renowned for its 27-hole championship golf course and a spectacular mountain range backdrop. A year-round destination set within 202 hectares of pristine grounds, it has luxurious accommodation, four onsite restaurants, a golf driving range, an award-winning day spa, indoor swimming pool and a health and fitness centre. In the winter months, corporate retreat participants can easily access the ski fields of Queenstown. It is close to the city’s entertainment and lively nightlife, and within close proximity of attractions such as the historic gold rush town, Arrowtown, but far enough away to ensure that they don’t distract.
Nearby, The Remarkables mountain range provides a memorable location for kicking off a meeting or an incentive. The golf course can also be integrated into check-in, team-building or leisure activities for novices through to low handicappers. Multiple restaurants, including the new Kobe Cuisine Japanese Restaurant, Queenstown’s only Japanese teppanyaki grill restaurant, provide fantastic options for degustation, themed food and wine evenings or dine-around events.
“Since the year 2000, ISL has held 38 strategic leadership programmes at Millbrook aimed at chief executives and senior managers. It is a spectacularly beautiful and inspirational environment in which to learn, reflect and refresh. It boasts wide open spaces, astounding scenery, clean, crisp mountain air, excellent facilities, friendly and efficient staff who go the extra mile, and fabulous cuisine. It truly is one of a kind.”
– Lindsay Somerville, director for strategic leadership programmes, Institute for Strategic Leadership
Australian Outback Luxury
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa – Lithgow, Australia
This exclusive resort is located within a private 1,619-hectare wildlife and conservation reserve bordering the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area and yet is only a three-hour drive north from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. When required, helicopter transfers can be arranged. The resort itself only occupies 2 per cent of the total land area, providing plenty of space to unwind and retreat temporarily from a busy world.
Conference and boardroom venues are available but there is also plenty of scope to make the most of the great outdoors for informal meetings. A wide range of nature-based activities offer leisure and team-building options in the pristine Australian bush environment, while the Timeless Spa offers pampering and relaxation. Dining options include the historic heritage homestead built in 1832, the private Dining Room and the Country Kitchen café. The 40 free-standing suites each have their own private swimming pool, as well as double-sided fireplaces for cooler the winter months.
Activity and team-building options include horse riding through the spectacular valley, mountain bike tours, four-wheel-drive excursions or nature walks. Fully guided wildlife safaris provide a chance to see koalas, brush-tailed wallabies and spotted-tail quolls – all beneficiaries of the pioneering wildlife conservation programme being conducted on the property.
“In a world that’s full of deadlines, Wolgan Valley provides a sense of timelessness that allows for strategic thinking in a pristine environment. Whether it’s a high-level incentive or corporate business event, it offers an escape into luxury that is never precocious and always welcoming. Having experienced the resort on four separate occasions, I’m already planning a fifth visit as it just keeps getting better and better.”
– Emma Bowyer , general manager, ICMS Australasia
“At ansarada, we strive to be a great place to work. We really value our employees, and a corporate retreat is a great way of demonstrating this, whilst enabling them to build stronger relationships and turn colleagues into friends.”
– Lauren Jarvis, event manager, IT firm ansarada
A taste of Shangri-la
Banyan Tree Lijiang and Banyan Tree Ringha – Yunnan Province, China
Meeting in a Mongolian tent in Banyan Tree Ringha
These two getaways provide a glimpse of the legendary land of “Shangri-la”, with an escape into captivating countryside and charming “old world” China. Stunning mountain locations and close proximity to historic towns and villages provide inspiring experiences.
The luxurious Banyan Tree Lijiang is located near the historic World-Heritage-listed town of Lijiang in Yunnan province, which is known as the “Venice of the Orient” due to its canals, quaint bridges and cobblestoned streets. Corporate groups can consider new business strategies as they take on the rugged terrain on an adventure trek to exotically named places like Leaping Tiger Gorge or Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and at the end of the day, weary muscles can be pampered by exquisite treatments at the Banyan Tree Spa. Exploring the Old Towns of Dayan and Lijiang on foot or by mountain bike, boating on Lashi Lake or visits to ancient monasteries are among other activity options.
Banyan Tree Ringha, one of the most secluded getaways in the world, is located in Jian Tang Town, also in Yunnan. It’s really more a taste of Tibet than China. Accommodation is provided in authentic traditional Tibetan farmhouses, complete with intricate woodcarvings and fireplaces, which have been relocated log by log to be part of this amazing resort. From horse-riding excursions, visits to private homes in local villages and historic towns, through to the genteel “art of tea” appreciation in the Tea House, cultural activities abound.
Leading Australian incentive house Unique Group Travel recently combined both these properties to create a four-night high-achiever’s extension to a Beijing incentive programme. Two nights were spent at each location with the transfers between the two resorts being undertaken via four-wheel-drive vehicles.
“This group had been everywhere… so it was important that we found a new and inspirational destination for them in China. The combination of these two properties provided an outstanding programme – it offered a fascinating blend of old China (Lijiang), Tibet (Ringha), breathtaking scenery, the mystery of the Shangri-la legend and was topped off by the high-end luxury of the Banyan Tree brand.”
– Craig Walter, director, Unique Group Travel
African Wildlife Oasis
Sabi Sabi – South Africa
Situated in the greater Kruger National Park, Sabi Sabi lies in the heart of the African bushveld. It is blessed with a variety of habitat and wildlife and guests have an excellent chance of close encounters with “The Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Exciting morning and evening open Land Rover safaris, as well as environmental awareness walking safaris, are led by experienced rangers and trackers.
Sabi Sabi operates four individual five-star lodges, which range in size from six suites through to 24, and are themed Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Over the last 30 years, Sabi Sabi has hosted many incentive groups and offers themed events such as “Under African Skies”, with superb bush dinners and breakfasts either on the air strip or in a dry riverbed, and alfresco cocktail receptions whilst watching a spectacular African sunset. A conference room is available and can be used for special speaker presentations and interactive African craft workshops, while the luxurious Amani Spa is the perfect place for pampering after a day out on safari.
DMC Mercury80 conducts a unique interactive experience at Sabi Sabi called “Symphony of Sounds”, which requires guests to form into teams and record the sights and sounds of the bushveld while out on safari. On their return, these bush sounds are blended with an infusion of rock or classical music. In the evening, around the campfire, each team presents their “symphony” and video, with awards being presented to winners in each category. This carefully facilitated interactive experience is both stimulating and fun, while also providing an opportunity to unwind, be creative and connect with the African environment.
“Working with Sabi Sabi is always a pleasure as they are accommodating to our requests and will always try and work to our requirements. They pride themselves on delivering the best guest experiences, and offering amazing incentive experiences.”
– Francine Vaughan, operations director, Mercury80
“For the rest of our lives, we will try to find something as wonderful and special as Little Bush Camp, knowing we are going to fail. You gave us the opportunity to experience something extremely great, wonderful and amazing. Not only was the wilderness and nature just unbelievable, but the way you guys treat your guests was simply great!”
– An incentive participant
We unveil some of the zany and out-of-the-box ideas for high-end incentive groups at these five exclusive corporate retreats:
• A remote guest check-in at the top of The Remarkables mountain range. Guests are flown in by helicopter, land on the mountaintop and check in for their accommodation, whilst soaking up the views and enjoying a glass of champagne. They are then flown to the Millbrook Resort helipad
• “A tee-off for your room key” competition on Millbrook Resort’s driving range also provides a fun and interactive welcome. Under the guidance of the golf professional, guests compete to see who can make the longest, shortest or most amusing drive and receive their key
• A roving degustation dinner at Millbrook Resort sees guests escorted around Millbrook’s grounds and venues, tasting a different course of local cuisine at each venue, perfectly matched with premium New Zealand wines
• An “Amazing Race” competition arranged for high achievers within the expansive area of Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa – transport can be via horseback, on mountain bikes, in four-wheel-drive vehicles or on foot
• Warm Australian hospitality at a BBQ dinner around the fire pit at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa’s 1832 Heritage Homestead with views of towering escarpments – star gazing and bush poetry reading enhance the evening
• From the Banyan Tree Ringha, saddle up for a horseback ride across the Tibetan plains to the banks of the Shudugang River, where a spectacular four-course dinner awaits
• Flat terrain enables an easy escorted bike ride from the Banyan Tree Lijiang into the old town, with a visit to the local markets, shops, temples and a private home for a fascinating “inside” glimpse into an ancient Chinese culture
• A drumming workshop at Sabi Sabi starts with each participant being presented with a traditional African drum. A team of master musicians teach participants not only how to play but also how to listen to one another – invaluable skills for the workplace
• Gumboot dancing is a hallmark of traditional South African culture. Each participant is given a pair of gumboots and taught some basic group dance routines. The gumboot dance provides a memorable African dinner finale at Sabi Sabi
A retreat getaway might be considered to:
• Acknowledge peak performance and reward high achievers
• Bring a sales team together for one-on-one communication and team building
• Celebrate a company milestone or special achievement
• Problem-solve a specific company issue or host a management think-tank
• Enable a board to review past performance and discuss future planning
Benefits of a retreat getaway can be:
• A team gets to bond and connect away from day-to-day office pressures and distractions
• Inspiring locations create fertile ground for clear thinking and fresh ideas
• Exclusive and luxurious getaway retreats convey recognition to participants
• Limited technology access in more remote getaways can enable a real “escape” from a hectic world
• Clever and creative team-building activities can lead to improved business outcomes
• Memorable experiences motivate for the future
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa
Banyan Tree Lijiang & Banyan Tree Ringha
Unique Group Travel