Holiday event season is rapidly approaching, and corporate event venues and hotels are vying for planner business. According to a survey conducted last year by event management web company Tripleseat, nine out of 10 employees attend their company holiday party and most companies plan those parties internally.
Fierce competition for holiday bookings means more planner perks, which come in various forms, depending on the venues.
At the River Roast restaurant on the Chicago riverfront, the holiday corporate sales drive began in late July with a free party for planners and past clients. The event, which took place in the early evening, gave meeting planners and past clients a chance to see the riverfront event space (with entertainment) as well as sample holiday menus and experience the venue’s holiday décor, floral and table design options.
Stacy Simpson, a professional event planner at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, attended the River Roast on July 31.
“River Roast was smart to schedule this event so early in the year-well ahead of other event locations,” Simpson says. “It got me thinking about the holidays in August, and while it is odd to taste gingerbread on a hot summer day, it motivated me to make our holiday reservations.”
Stefanie Milano, senior sales manager at River Roast, says the primary goal of the event is to get clients thinking about holiday early and it gives her and her team an opportunity to connect face to face with clients they wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to meet with.
“This was our third annual ‘Joy to July event,’ so we do get a great response for our holiday business!” Milano says. “We have done a couple of different styles from plated lunch to chef table [buffet] to reception style, just depending on the trends we are seeing for events.”
She added that some of the special holiday menus offered included prime rib French dip with horseradish crème, roasted turkey crostini with cranberry, sweet potato skewers with brown sugar and toasted marshmallow, braised Brussel sprouts in bacon and butter sauce.
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
At the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, planners who book their corporate events will receive a waiver for the event space rental fee, complimentary white floor-length linens, white linen napkins and holiday centerpieces, a $20 credit per room for services at WELL Spa + Salon and 50% discount on ski lift tickets at The Mountain Top (if applicable). A three-course plated dinner with one-hour open bar starts at $60 per guest and room rates start as low as $99.
"The holidays will be here before we know it,” said Heather Dalhman-Jones, Sales Manager, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. “It's always a great idea to plan your team's holiday party before the season begins to get a head start on planning and take advantage of seasonal savings and offers. Christmas in the Country at Grand Geneva is an amazing retreat for holiday get-togethers."
At the Swissotel in Chicago, planners are offered a range of holiday gifts depending on their event spend. Clients spending $2,000 to $6,000 can select one incentive from a list that includes a gift certificate for a passed signature welcome drink for each guest, a free night’s stay, $200 bartender fee waiver, a complimentary cheese display or four valet parking passes. For $6,000 to $9,999, choose two gifts and $10,000 or more earns three gifts from the list.The Swissotel also offers a vibrant Santa Suite that can be booked for private visits or entire corporate events. Finally, all events come with a discounted room rate for guests.
“The moment you walk into Swissotel, you are reminded of the holidays,” said Maria Grossi, catering sales manager. “It is a reoccurring theme that can be found in the lobby restaurant, guest rooms, food and beverage offerings, and service that we want to incorporate in our meetings as well. Meeting during the holiday season at Swissotel is meant to be a one-of-a-kind experience—with the Santa Suite to top it all off.”
To complement the Swiss chalet theme and satiate any hungry Santa Suite skiers, Amuse, Swissotel Chicago’s lobby lodge, also will offer a seasonal fondue station and winter cocktails. Seasonal hotel packages are also available and include Elf-Decorated Rooms and the Trees of Hope Package, which promotes making a difference with a daily charity donation to SOS Children’s Villages of Illinois.
Deer Path Inn
Established in 1929, the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois, is modeled after a mid-15th Century manor house in Chiddingstone, Kent, England, and features timber and stucco Tudor-style architecture.
The hotel was renovated in 2015 and reopened in January 2016 with revamped interiors, an updated ballroom and restaurant expansions including a new indoor/outdoor glass conservatory.
During the holiday season, corporate groups can enjoy the special, time-honored tradition of holiday tea. The inn’s English Room and Garden Room transform for the holidays and are decked out in festive décor for the season. The inn’s festive tea menu blends include Santa Berry, Candy Cane, Polar Fire and more. The signature petit fours that accompany the savory tea sandwiches also receive a holiday makeover, as well.
“Corporate groups really enjoy the afternoon tea service because it’s different from traditional holiday cocktail parties and offers them a leisurely afternoon where they can disconnect from the stresses of work and holiday high season stresses for a while,” says Matt Barba, the inn’s general manager.
National Geographic Encounter
Corporate planners who host events at the National Geographic Encounter in Times Square can take advantage of complimentary or reduced admission to the attraction. This “underwater” interactive experience, which opened in October 2017, is an immersive journey across the Pacific over the course of one night.
In the Exploration Hall, guests can hear stories from National Geographic photographers and deep-sea explorers, walk through a National Geographic Gallery featuring photographs from National Geographic Magazine’s June 2018 Planet or Plastic issue, which seeks to raise awareness about the global trash crisis, and more. The space features has a 5,000 square foot of flexible event space, including additional private rooms for smaller meetings that can accommodate groups from 10 to 600. The 60,000 sq.-ft. venue is also available for a full buyout, accommodating up to 1,000.
The Mayfair Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, less than a mile from Los Angeles Convention Center, recently a unique top-to-bottom redesign with flexible event spaces ideal for corporate holiday gatherings.
The 1,969 sq.-ft. exposed brick-walled ballroom (the site of the first Oscars after-party in 1929) can be arranged for a seated dinner or reception, and for smaller groups, the Chandler Private Dining Room features luxurious, velvet draping and a 30-foot table.
Any event booked by December 31, 2019 and actualized before March 31, 2019, with a contracted F&B minimum of $3,500 or more they may choose between a 10% off banquet menu pricing or complimentary 1-hour welcome reception or a waived room rental.