The word “luxury” just could be one of the most abused words in the hospitality lexicon. That was one of the conclusions made by panelists at the third annual Ritz-Carlton Luxury Meetings Forum, held November 8 to 11 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando.

Forum panelists addressed topics ranging from personalizing the luxury meeting experience to catering and themed-dining trends. In a discussion of the changing definition of luxury in today’s meeting and incentive market, Ritz-Carlton Orlando General Manager Mark Freland concluded that the word is highly overused these days. "Luxury has evolved in recent years. It used to be solely based on material things--fixtures and amenities--but now, I believe it has a lot to do with high, sometimes over-the-top service levels and the anticipation of what a guest needs and wants.”

Most panelists concurred that dining was a key component of a luxury meeting or incentive. “The dining events have to be memorable,” said Michelle Caporicci, senior corporate director of meetings and special events for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. “With the Food Network and Fine Living Channel, people are more aware of different culinary experiences and they’re seeking those in a luxury event itinerary.”

Andrea Strauss, president of Classic Conferences Inc., Hackensack, N.J., agreed. “Luxury guests are seeking menu items that can’t easily be prepared at home, and they want restaurant-quality cuisine in a banquet setting.” Other F&B trends include programs designed to not waste food, healthy food alternatives, luxury comfort foods, and a huge increase in special requests.

In addition to Freland, Caporicci, Strauss, and members of the press, participants in the three-day event included: Chris Gabaldon, vice-president of sales, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.; John Hart, director of meetings and special events, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; Mark Wells, director of creative services, Hello Florida (Grande Lakes Destination Services); Sean Woods, executive chef, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; Tami Corday, associate director of meetings and special events, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; and Jennifer Schuster, manager of sales and marketing, Global Planners, Bordentown, N.J.

The 584-room property is set in the 500-acre Grande Lakes Orlando resort complex, alongside the 1,000-room JW Marriott, with amenities such as a 40,000-square-foot spa, 18-hole Greg Norman golf course, three restaurants, and 46,985 square feet of meeting space.