Sign of the Times It might just be a first. In the gift shop at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, there's an unexpected item. In addition to tissues, gum, toothbrushes, pens, and other easy-to-forget sundries, visitors can pick up an Ethernet card for their laptop computer. The Four Seasons is one of the few hotels in the country to offer a T1 line--the gold standard for Internet connections--in each of its guest rooms, but travelers must have the right equipment to make it work. If you don't have an Ethernet card, one can be had for $145 in the shop (the mark-up isn't bad for a hotel), and the front desk will loan out an RJ45 cable, which is also a must. Still daunted? Complete installation instructions are spelled out in the guest services directory in every room.
Two Roads To Bali On or off property, the two Hyatt resorts in Bali have theme parties down pat. On a peninsula adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Bali in NusaDua, an entire Balinese village is re-created for 150 attendees or more. The harmonious sounds of the gamelan orchestra near the resort's main pool signal the start of cocktails; then booming bamboo jegog instruments lure the guests along a torch-lit path of colorfully costumed characters into the world of bygone Bali. In an open-air arena, traditional dancers make way for the ogoh-ogoh, giant mythical puppets that duel for the victor of Good over Evil. Replete with 30 food stalls, a jegog orchestra, a 60-person Balinese dance troop, and a dozen native games, guests become totally immersed in Bali's legends and lore.
The Bali Hyatt in Sanur does things slightly different: It takes guests on an expedition to the Puri Mengwi royal palace. Guided by the light of a thousand candles and led by dozens of Balinese in colorful attire, party-goers form a procession through the rice fields by the sacred lake to the palace grounds where a full traditional Rijstaffel dinner is served.
Disney's "Complexing" Makes Life Simpler When the Westin-managed Walt Disney World Swan and Sheraton-managed Walt Disney World Dolphin merged sales and marketing departments last year, planning a meeting or incentive at those properties got a little easier. But it's a lot easier now that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has acquired both Westin and Sheraton. All departments of the two properties are merging, a process called "complexing." For meeting and incentive executives, this means dealing with only one salesperson, one catering manager, and one convention services manager, negotiating one, and receiving one bill. "Not a lot of companies are doing this," says Bill McCreary, former GM of the Dolphin and now head of both properties. "But they will, once they realize the power of it." Starwood is now complexing the Sheraton- and Westin-managed properties in New York City, he adds.
Head for the Hills Looking for an alternative to your apres-ski events? If you can envision your group dashing through the snow on 350-horsepower sleighs, you'll want to consider a trip to Black Mountain Ranch in McCoy, Colo., where groups can do a littlewhile they rip through champagne powder on Polaris snowmobiles, complete with hand-warmers, snowsuits, boots, helmets, and, for the uninitiated, lessons on how to run the machines. The ranch offers guided and unguided snowmobile tours up into the Gore Pass, as well as winter horseback riding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sledding, trap shooting, and cross-country skiing. After working up an appetite in the snowfields, up to 30 guests can feast on homecooked meals in the main lodge, kick back in front of the wood stove in the rustic log saloon, and have a massage or a hot tub soak before retiring to one of the ranch's private cabins and lodge units.
Quick Thinking As Hurricane Georges turned its eye to the east coast of Florida in October, full-service destination management and production company ME Productions of Pembroke Park, Fla., had its sights on alternative venues. ME Sales Executive Judy Wheaton knew her client, an international cosmetics firm based in Brazil, faced impending cancellation if it maintained its Miami hotel meeting site. So, ME decided to move 350 attendees and three days of audiovisual support, major staging, and decor from Miami to Orlando. After reviewing the projected models of where the hurricane would hit, she assembled ME's support team and coordinated a plan to move the entire program 300 miles north to Orlando. ME's staff of 53 full-time carpenters, artists, designers, and event specialists made the final program run flawlessly and on-time.