The Trend Toward Daily Service Fees Prepare your attendees for a new charge on their folios at some resorts: a daily service fee. While it may sound like one more aspect of the seller's market squeeze, resort staffers say they instituted the fees to help, not hurt.

"We kept getting a lot of complaints," says Christopher Pipes, CHSP, director of association sales, The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs. "Clients felt like they were being nickeled and dimed every time they turned around. A charge to pick up the phone to make a local call, a charge to go to the fitness center." In response, The Broadmoor conducted a survey of 500 social and group guests, asking if they would prefer an all-inclusive daily fee on their folios. "Ninety-some-odd percent said, 'Go for it,'" reports Pipes. Instituted recently, the mandatory charge, $10 per day for single occupancy, $12.50 per day for double occupancy, includes housekeeping gratuities, incoming faxes, local calls and 800-number access fees, the fitness center, including aerobics classes, and in-room coffee, tea, cider, and hot chocolate. "Guests can come in their room and immediately enjoy a nice cup of coffee or spot of tea, without being charged $3," Pipes says. "It's a real win/win."

Other resorts are doing variations on a theme. The $5 per day charge recently instituted at the Walt Disney World Dolphin covers services similar to those at The Broadmoor, plus daily newspaper delivery, but the fee doesn't cover gratuities. The charge now appears in association contracts.

"When planners sign, they are acknowledging the resort services fee," says Bob Nicoli, director of convention services. "It's not really such a bad thing," he adds, pointing out that the package is valued at $12.70 per day.

The Peaks at Telluride (CO) bills guests $15 daily to cover gratuities for all service staff, except food and beverage staff. Spa access is free, while guests pay on an item-by-item basis for other outlets such as handball courts--although planners can arrange for a daily package fee instead. The automatic gratuities charge was instituted about two years ago, when the resort was bought by Carefree Resorts, because the policy was standard at other Carefree properties. "Guests had felt awkward," says Elaine Demas, director of conference services. "They had to keep taking money out of their pockets every time someone did something for them. We wanted people, once they get here, to relax."

The Lansdowne Conference Resort in Leesburg, VA, just instituted a $3 per day charge that also covers gratuities. Amenities such as parking and health club, are free. For the past three years, Westin Resorts have charged a daily fee that includes services such as the health club and local calls, but gratuities are left to the guests' discretion.

Are the package fees a trend? Perhaps so. Properties such as the Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado and Opryland Hotel Convention Center in Nashville, TN are currently reviewing the idea. Others are bucking the trend. The Ojai Valley Inn is building a spa, but "we aren't going to tack on a $5 admission," says Michael Ellingson, director of sales and marketing. "We didn't want to get into nickel and dime comments." Nor is the property going to institute a daily charge.

"We pride ourselves in not having any hidden service costs," asserts Alvin Bettcher, director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Resort Hilton Head Island (SC). Housekeeping, the health club, and parking, are free, although guests pay for tennis and golf, as is standard. Gratuities are left up to the guest, and that's the way it's going to stay, says Bettcher.

Kids Games--Teambuilding You Can Afford Action learning trainers and Outward Bound courses are usually too pricey for an association meeting's budget, but you can incorporate teambuilding principles into more economical events, taking advantage of resorts' outdoor venues. Just think back to your childhood.

Remember hippity-hops--those large rubber balls, sort of like sturdy beach balls, that you straddled as a kid? Hippity-hop contests are one activity featured in beach olympics, a popular association teambuilder, says Alvin Bettcher, director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Resort Hilton Head Island (SC).

"It's absolutely hilarious," says Bettcher. "You think you're in shape until you try to do this and your legs about kill you. People slip right over. It brings the whole group together."

Wacky Olympics, where you play volleyball with water balloons, raft-building contests, scavenger hunts, fun runs, and war games are other association team event favorites.

Some associations select a particular game, such as softball, and then make it a tradition. The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, for example, plays croquet at every annual meeting to build camaraderie, says Christopher Pipes, CHSP, director of association sales at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. The group will be meeting at The Broadmoor in October. "While we're not in the croquet business, we agreed to build two croquet fields because it's so important to them," Pipes says.

Ice-breakers needn't break your budget either. For one inexpensive mingler, "we give everyone a piece of a puzzle, and they put it together in the center of the room," says Diane Yost, director of marketing, Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach (FL)." It gives everyone an opportunity to get to know one another."

More and more associations are encouraging attendees to bring their families, say resort staffers. To accommodate that trend, resorts are offering programs for families to do together.

"We've incorporated kids into raft buildings and beach olympics," says Yost. During Family Feud, a version of beach Olympics, children play opposite adults in games that kids have a chance to win. In the kitchen, while their parents are meeting, kids don chef hats, prepare dessert and serve it to their parents. They also whip up a gourmet meal called Dirt--Oreo cookies, chocolate pudding, and gummy worms. "It's really awful," laughs Yost, "but kids thinks it's cute."