Hyatt balances business and pleasure at the 2000 Insurance and Financial Services Round Table meeting, held at one of its newest resorts.

Imagine sitting on a terrace, enjoying a cool drink. A warm evening breeze from off the water gently rustles palm trees lining a golf cart path. Where are you?

Chances are you didn't guess Las Vegas. But that was the scene at the opening night reception for Hyatt's 2000 Insurance and Financial Services Round Table meeting, held at the new Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas, some 17 miles off the Strip in Henderson, Nev.

The 496-room Moroccan-themed resort, resting on the north shore of the 320-acre Lake Las Vegas, is a breath of fresh air for the region - however, as Round Table attendees discovered, the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip are close at hand for daytime sightseeing and shopping excursions or evening shows and dinners. The group spent Saturday night experiencing Caesars Magical Empire at Caesars Palace, with groups of about 20 enjoying dinner in private, stone-walled, torch-lit rooms, each group entertained by a magician.

You can also bring a bit of the Strip to the Hyatt, as DMC Destinations by Design did for the final night event, where attendees mingled with convincing likenesses of the Rat Pack's Frank, Sammy, and Dean, along with the Blues Brothers.

The Magic of Ideas Taking a magic theme this year, the Round Table featured two top-notch speakers, both sponsored by San Diego-based Speak Inc. Space shuttle astronaut Mike Mullane gave a humorous, personal, and moving talk on teamwork, while comedian/entertainer Frank Miles juggled, rode a unicycle, and recounted his brush with death in a hang-gliding accident as he encouraged attendees to laugh at fear. Speak Inc. founder Ruth Levine also presented a breakout session on working with speakers bureaus.

Two other breakouts - one on meeting planning technology and the other a free-form discussion about current planner/supplier issues and challenges - were offered, as well as daily breakfast-table topics that led to some lively interaction. In the technology session, Joan Lowell, vice president of e-marketing for Hyatt, revealed Hyatt's exciting plans for direct, online meeting bookings. Beginning in January 2001, planners booking a small meeting (50 to 100 rooms, depending on the size of the meeting property) from 8 to 60 days out will be able to log on to www.hyatt.com, check a property's room inventory, and book themselves a room block. The contract will be issued online, too.

Hyatt's Oasis The Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas rests in the midst of Reflection Bay Golf Club, which offers an 18-hole, 7,261-yard, Jack Nicklaus-designed course - the golf legend's first design in Nevada. Other on-site activity options include the elegant Spa Moulay and Casino Baraka.

For meetings, the resort offers the 21,330-square-foot Casablanca Grand Ballroom, seven meeting rooms (divisible into 10 breakouts), and two boardrooms, for a total of 40,000 square feet of interior meeting space. Exterior meeting space includes courtyards, a Moroccan-style palace garden, an open-air pavilion, and a lawn area.

Hyatt introduced two new sales executives to attendees at this year's Round Table: Ty Helms, who took over the vice president of sales position from Chuck Floyd, and Jack Horne, who was named assistant vice president, national sales, last October. The insurance and financial services market represents significant revenue for Hyatt, said Helms, adding that the company will continue to focus its attention on that market. Helms also emphasized Hyatt's position as a private company: "We don't have to face the pressures of Wall Street," he said. "We can grow strategically. The merger-and-acquisition mania is not something Hyatt will be involved with."

Jack Horne told attendees that he'd spent his first 10 months on the job getting feedback from customers through seven focus groups held nationwide. Among the initiatives that have come out of that research: T1 lines will be installed in all meeting rooms by 2001, and standardized group billing will be available for all 119 properties. Horne also talked about the continuing seller's market. "We want to work with you to identify markets where meetings will fit better," he said. "L.A., San Francisco, New York, Miami - these will stay hot. But Chicago and New Orleans are seeing a peak, and prices may come down somewhat." The best pricing currently, Horne said, is in Atlanta, Denver, and Dallas.

A Focus on the Park Hyatt Brand Updating attendees on Hyatt's current hotel projects was John Nicolls, senior vice president, architecture and design. The company has made a "major commitment" to Park Hyatt as its top-of-the-line brand, Nicolls said. New Park Hyatts have opened or are on the drawing board in Toronto, Chicago, New York, and Carmel, Calif. Meanwhile numerous Hyatt Regency hotel projects also are under way across the U.S.