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Just say “Um” at the Umstead Hotel

Photos courtesy the Umstead Hotel and Spa

When guests enter the Umstead Hotel and Spa, even for the first time, they feel like they are stepping into the home of a close friend.

“You walk in, and you’re immediately greeted; someone’s opening the door for you and offering to help with anything you need,” said Michele Jordan, events coordinator for the Hunt Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Hunt Institute has held so many events at the Umstead, among them an annual symposium for 100 attendees, that the company calls it its “home base for meetings,” said Jordan. “The level and quality of service are far above any other hotel I’ve ever been to. Our clients feel the same.”

Set on 12 wooded acres, the Umstead is six floors of Texas limestone. Snug guest-room balconies and vast glass windows look out on a three-acre lake and a fountain a few steps away. Thick stands of trees block highway noise.

Fifteen minutes from capital

A 15-minute drive from the state Capitol, the property, which has 123 oversized rooms plus 27 suites of varying sizes, marries North Carolina’s art and outdoors, attention to detail and old-fashioned manners. Ratings indicate that the combination is successful; the Umstead has earned Five Stars from Forbes and Five Diamonds from AAA.

Like the Hunt Institute, other meeting clients often return. And that’s the idea, said Darah Whyte, marketing manager.

“When planners choose the Umstead, they are paying a premium over some of our competitors; but we make certain they’re getting an increased level of service.”

Because of its location eight minutes from the Raleigh Durham International Airport, its service and its atmosphere, corporate retreats have become a specialty.

“Once here, the business traveler experiences the abundance of nature, the hotel’s gracious interior, its artwork and an inherent serenity, and feels an immediate sense of retreat,” said Jim Beley, general manager.

That is exactly what Umstead owner Ann Goodnight had in mind. She recognized the need for a first-class hotel in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, known as the Research Triangle for its concentration of high-tech companies.

Among them is the SAS Institute, led by Goodnight’s husband, Jim. The SAS Institute develops analytics software used by nearly 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

In 2007, the Goodnights built the Umstead on the edge of the woodsy, 900-acre SAS campus in Cary.

Because of its ties to SAS, the hotel’s 10,200-square-foot conference center has the latest technology, including wireless control panels, automatic drop-down LCD projectors and screens, advanced sound and projection systems, and videoconferencing. A dedicated meeting ambassador and a technology specialist are on call.