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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Florida’s Meeting Resorts

Florida’s 663 miles of sandy beaches lure visitors dreaming of ocean views, the sound of surf and relaxation on the sand. Most business travelers, despite their busy work agendas, want the same.

Realizing that, these Florida meeting resorts specialize in offering guests a taste of beach life alongside top-tier meeting sites, proving that it’s possible to blend productivity with fun.

Ponte Vedra Inn and Club

Ponte Vedra Beach

Guests to the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, roughly 20 miles southeast of Jacksonville, are immediately immersed in the old-Florida feel of the property, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

The inn and club offers 217 beachfront rooms and 32 suites along with northeast Florida’s largest full-service luxury spa, four heated oceanfront swimming pools, two 18-hole golf courses, an oceanfront gym and 15 clay tennis courts.

“Small groups love it here because we have so many options to cater to their specific needs,” said Craig Schoninger, the resort’s director of marketing. “For example, our Historic Inn building has a small meeting room on the second floor with an adjacent terrace, which gives groups their own private outdoor area where they can do meals or coffee breaks,” he said.

With its adjoining conference center, The inn and club includes more than 25,000 square feet of indoor event space, a high-tech business center and an on-site audiovisual support team. Its two ballrooms and 17 meeting rooms can easily accommodate groups of 10 to 350 people. The resort also boasts nearly a dozen on-site restaurants offering an array of menus from fine dining to beach casual.

The resort’s sister property, the Ponte Vedra Lodge and Club, roughly two miles up the beach, offers an additional 66 rooms and suites, some with fireplaces and kitchenettes.

“In addition to being a resort, we’re also a private club, so we like to make our hotel guests feel as though they’re part of the club while they’re here,” said Schoninger. “Our team specializes in really warm, hospitable Southern service.”

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Miramar Beach

With more than 65,000 square feet of meeting space, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, roughly 15 minutes from Destin, has long been a go-to event destination on Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Now, the venue is poised to offer an even higher level of service to its meeting and event guests thanks to a recent major renovation of its 15,000-square-foot Linkside Conference Center; a planned redesign of its Baytown Conference Center, set for completion in January 2020; and the launch of the Sandestin Hotel and Conference Center, a brand-new four-star, 250-room hotel and conference facility that will add an additional 20,000 square feet of meeting space to the property, set to open in April 2020.

“What sets our resort apart is its flexibility,” said Andrew Lott, Sandestin’s executive director of resort sales. “It’s 2,400 acres, stretching from the beach to the bay, but you can make it as large or small as you’d like it to be.”

The beachfront resort boasts more than 20 restaurants, four golf courses, 15 tennis courts, a spa, a fitness center, bike and kayak rentals and a marina on the nearby Choctawhatchee Bay. For shopping, the Village of Baytowne Wharf is just steps away.

Lott thinks the room-to-meeting-space ratio of the new Sandestin Hotel and Conference Center illustrates the property’s commitment to first-class service for its business and meeting guests.

“For a hotel of 250 rooms to get a 13,000-square-foot ballroom and 20,000 [square] feet of total meeting space is really unheard of in the meetings industry,” he said. “It’s going to be a luxury experience, a whole different level of experience for our guests.”

Resort at Longboat Key Club

Longboat Key

Florida’s west coast is home to the Resort at Longboat Key Club, just 11.5 miles from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Thanks to Longboat Key’s powdery white sand and aquamarine water, “the No. 1 item on everyone’s agenda when they visit here is the beach,” said Karen Rangel, the resort’s regional director of sales.

The 550-acre resort includes 223 guest rooms and suites, eight restaurants, a full-service spa, watersports access, 20 tennis courts, two golf courses, a fitness center and a marina. St. Armands Circle, which Rangel dubs the “mini Rodeo Drive of Sarasota,” is less than two blocks from the resort, offering great shopping and dining. Complimentary shuttle service is provided. And all of Sarasota’s attractions, including the Ringling Museum, the Sarasota Opera and the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, are a short drive away.

With 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, the resort specializes in small group meetings and can accommodate groups of up to 300 attendees. Room spaces include the 5,256-square-foot Harbourside Ballroom, which can seat up to 250 in a banquet; the John Ringling Room, which seats 10 to 75 people; and the Library Ballroom, for groups of 10 to 14. “Our goal is to empower small market meeting planners. They are big fish in our little pond here,” Rangel said. “Here, small groups have the full and undivided attention of our entire team.”

Groups that have not been to the Sarasota area in the past five years are also eligible to apply for meeting incentive money through the Sarasota County Convention and Visitors Bureau, a process Rangel can help coordinate.

Casa Monica Resort and Spa

St. Augustine

History comes alive at Casa Monica Resort and Spa in St. Augustine. The historic resort, built in 1888, is just a short walk away from the iconic Castillo de San Marcos. At more than 320 years old, this historic castle is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

“Some of our smaller groups will be sitting at a meeting, and their planner will have worked with us to organize some sort of historic character to come in and interrupt the meeting — perhaps even a pirate in full costume — just in keeping with the theme and fun of being in St. Augustine,” said Joni Dooley Barkley, director of sales and catering at the resort.

The resort features 138 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, much of it lavishly appointed.

“Our rooms are adorned with original paintings and Moroccan chandeliers, things you wouldn’t expect from a hotel meeting space,” Barkley said. Its Casa Monica Ballroom can accommodate up to 350, and its Flagler Ballroom can host 200. But one of the resort’s most in-demand meeting spaces is its Sultan’s Pavilion, a permanent outdoor tent near the pool deck that allows small groups to enjoy the Florida sun while networking.

The resort offers an in-house audiovisual team, a full-service spa, a wellness center, access to a nearby golf club and an on-site art gallery.

“Our history here is our biggest selling point,” Barkley said. “We are literally at the very heart of historic St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.”