Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Annual President's Club Event in Aruba with Tips & Tricks of the Trade

Aruba...there couldn’t be a more beautiful vision than the turquoise seas - calm and inviting - azure skies – cloudless, perfect temperatures and friendly people everywhere. It’s the beauty of the Caribbean with the service level of the Dutch heritage.

Presidents Club, our annual event…this time with a group of 40 (20 couples), a program filled with experiences that were innovative and inspiring as well. So let’s tell you what they were.

Welcome Night at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a simple night in a beach side palapa. Two steel drummers who played so beautifully that you would have thought there was an orchestra. Beatles, Maroon 5, Beyonce…all on two steel drums, pretty amazing. The dinner began by inviting guests down to the beach where a fishing boat pulled up onto the sand and delivered dinner. Curious? A fisherman pulled out the fresh catch that would be served that night and handed it over to the chef for grilling. Guests loved that special touch. The cuisine combined Caribbean and Dutch, with a cheese monger not only displaying but talking about the variety of Goudas guests could taste.

The next morning was our group activity, a jeep tour of the entire island. But this was not a standard road rally because on our site visit we explored so many beautiful places that we came up with the idea of giving a sophisticated camera to each guest (two per couple…each person had their own camera) and posting professional photographers at the various scenic points to instruct them on how to get the best shots, use the right apertures, etc. Our vision was to create a coffee table book with each couple’s very own photographs…a sort of “National Geographic” style. Two couples per jeep, with three different routes, started off to various points on the island, many of them not traditionally visited, and took photos at each extraordinary stop. They all met up at a beach side resort restaurant for a group lunch and handed in the memory cards so we could have the photos developed and mounted into their own book, delivered at the next night’s dinner (this was to be a surprise). The photos turned out so gorgeous, and everyone was curious what the other guests had photographed, that on the final night (more on that later) we installed a plasma screen and with each person credited, displayed everyone’s photos.

That evening guests got to experience another hidden Aruban jewel. In looking through one of the hotel magazines I found an article about a local artist, and being an art collector, I asked to see her gallery. It turned out this was in her beautiful home and she was a lovely, warm (as well as supremely talented) woman. I asked her if we could host a dinner at her home/gallery and she consented. She also designed clothing so I asked if we could have models wear some of her creations during the dinner and informally model them…she agreed. Then as our conversations progressed she also agreed to design and construct tables out of her artwork which would be used for the dinner. The evening was a highlight of the program and with an innovative menu, the guests were enthralled. Her family was present to be a part of the evening and this enchanted the group. She also created one unique work which was taken back to company headquarters. A lovely vocalist and guitarist provided the entertainment. Again, their talent was exceptional.

The next day was filled with optional activities, from spa to snorkeling to ATV and scuba adventures and then the final night took place at a restaurant quite literally ON the water…Pincho’s. Guests could enjoy their photographs on the plasma while a very talented guitarist (I wish he would be on “Idol” or “Voice” because he’s better than any of their finalists) entertained as they dined. The food was exceptional and the presentations lovely and it was a perfect ending to an inspiring few days.

Tips/Take Aways:
-          You know those magazines that you find at the airport and in your hotel room? Look for what might not be obvious and you’d be amazed at what you might find. This is how I found the artist who hosted the trip's highlight dinner.
-          Instead of accepting “this is what we always do,” open up your eyes and your mind and see what you might be able to do that departs from the traditional.
-          Never fear asking for what you want to do, even if it seems crazy or too complicated…the answer might just be “yes”.
-          Language barriers and cultural differences can be challenging when doing an event on foreign soil.  That said, allow yourself enough time to do a dry run-thru of every single element guests will experience to make sure that what the local providers “heard” was exactly what you asked for and expect.

- AM