Get ready for some teambuilding and brainstorming-corporate group travel is heating up again as companies (long skittish about the stigma known as the "AIG effect") are slowly resuming retreats and conventions in luxury resort locations. The market for upscale working retreats had been essentially frozen for years, following public outcry about AIG's half-million dollar retreat in 2008-taken just days after the insurance giant accepted $85 billion in federal bailouts.
ARIA Resort & Casino's meetings wing. Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International.
Group business travel fell off dramatically during the recession and has been slower to rebound than individual business travel, according to Joseph Bates, senior director of research at the Global Business Travel Association. But that's changing, he says. Group travel spending went up nearly 8 percent in 2011 and is expected to continue to rise in 2012. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's back to the status quo-retreat trips are coming back smaller, shorter and with much fuller agendas than before, Bates says. "No one is really looking at resuming pre-recession extravagance," he says. "There's a balance."
A recent upswing in business travel to Las Vegas is a sure sign of corporate travel's comeback, Bates says. Companies that long avoided Las Vegas because it could be perceived as too much fun are now starting to relax a bit, he says. Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas is a popular spot for corporate groups and is seeing more visitors now. The LEED Gold-certified resort has a 300,000 square-foot meeting facility spread over three floors, as well as a business services center to cater to the companies meeting here. As for Las Vegas' fun reputation-ARIA offers retreat attendees four pools, restaurants from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina, Cirque du Soleil's VIVA Elvis show and the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Spa & Salon at ARIA.
The St. Regis Monarch Beach. Photo courtesy of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
A longtime corporate travel destination, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., currently owes 60 percent of its business to corporate trips, according to Meredith Whatley, the resort's marketing coordinator. While the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property hosts meetings, trade shows and conventions, small corporate retreats are currently on the rise, she says. These working retreats include meetings, of course, but also entail creative brainstorming and teambuilding activities (think cooking classes, golf tournaments and rock climbing) on the 3,000-acre resort.