Great Wolf Resorts, North America’s largest family of indoor waterpark resorts, is looking to make a splash in the meetings and events world. Leading that effort is Wendy Hoekwater, a 15-year hospitality veteran who ascended to Great Wolf’s vice president of sales this year. Hoekwater doesn’t shy away from the company’s family-friendly reputation when attracting events. She embraces what has made Great Wolf a popular destination for families with children. In fact, Hoekwater notes the leisure elements children love also bring out the best in groups looking to get business done.
What drew you to Great Wolf?
There were a few things that drew me to Great Wolf Resorts. First is the opportunity to continue to deliver on my passion, which is working for a customer-centric organization that creates unforgettable, joyous family memories. Second is the company culture and the team engagement. At Great Wolf Resorts, you are not an employee or a member of the staff, you are part of the “pack,” and you feel that bond and connection every day in the workplace.
High-level jobs at hotels require long hours. How do you find a balance with your family and work?
I work hard to sequence and prioritize, achieving balance with work and family. When my kids were growing up, I would plan my travel around their activities so that I could focus on them, while still committing to what was required at work. A mentor once told me that if you are expecting work-life balance every day, you will not find it; if you look back over a month and feel that you have accomplished work-life balance, that is the way to look at it.
Everyone knows about the water park and fun at Great Wolf. How does that translate to group business?
It translates very well. We can offer unique experiences for groups that no other resort or hotel can thanks to our collection of innovative spaces. With the diversity of offerings at Great Wolf Lodge, we can offer team and leadership-building opportunities across the resort, as well as host more traditional meetings in our conference centers. And, best of all, it’s all under one roof, making it easy and convenient for our guests.
How does a brand like Great Wolf, or any hospitality brand for that matter, reach their desired audiences given the amount of information out there?
It’s all about taking a customer-centric approach to marketing. Companies must define who they are and what points of difference they can leverage to set them apart from their competition. Brands begin to blur when they cast too wide of a net, in terms of audience and offering.
The Great Wolf brand stands out with built-in amenities that families of all ages can enjoy. In particular, our groups and meeting spaces blend the traditional with the innovative to meet visitors’ needs in a fun and family-friendly way.
In 2018, Great Wolf opened locations in LaGrange, Georgia, and Gurnee, Illinois. A new location in Scottsdale, Arizona, is scheduled to open in October. And in 2020, the brand will expand to Northern California