Investor’s Business Daily

Resorts Lure Guests with Special Programs

Januuary 22, 2001

By Robyn Taylor Parets

Dorothy and David Raznick golf at least three times a week at a Los Angeles country club. But when they go on vacation, they often like to experience something different. That’s why they opted to take a trip to the ultra-posh Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana. Instead of golfing, they learned the art of fly-fishing.

Triple Creek doesn’t pretend to appeal to those looking for a run-of-the-mill pampered vacation. It attracts travelers who want to experience fly-fishing, hiking, horseback riding and other rugged outdoor sports, said Dorothy Raznick.

The luxury hotel, however, is just one of many resorts zeroing in on what today’s travelers are looking for in a vacation (800-654-2943, www.triplecreekranch.com).

Travel experts say people want to go someplace that offers activities they can’t find at home. In addition, discerning travelers want to learn something while on vacation.

“People don’t want to just sit on the beach anymore,” said Celine Kosh, a travel agent with Garber Travel in Norwood, Mass.

“You can go to a spa in your own hometown and you can play golf or tennis anywhere. But when people come to Marco Island Marriott Resort & Golf Club, they leave with an experience,” said Johnny Johnston, director of marketing.

For example, besides a world-class golf course and tennis facilities, Marco Island Marriott offers multiple activities which allow guests to learn about the nearby Everglades and the animals and sealife that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the programs include: catamaran shelling excursions, which explore uninhabited barrier islands blanketed with scores of shells; wave runner tours through the nearby salt marches; and airboat trips, which take guests deep into the Everglades where they can see and learn about alligators, sharks, dolphins, manatees and more.

“People come here to do these types of activities,” said Johnston. (800-GET-HERE, www.marcoislandmarriott.com)

Participating in something out of the ordinary is a big reason why upscale travelers flock to The Equinox, a more than 200-year-old stately resort in Manchester, Vermont.

“People like traditional resort amenities, but they are also looking to learn something new,” said S. Lee Bowden, vice president and general manager of The Equinox.

For example, guests at The Equinox can partake in the ancient sport of falconry at the resort’s British School of Falconry. Participants can experience flying magnificent Harris hawks in the picturesque woods of Southern Vermont. They can also learn how to handle native birds of prey and train hawks to hunt.

The Equinox also offers a Land Rover driving school, which features classes in off-road driving on mountain logging trails. Students are taught how to conquer winding ascents, as well as negotiate ditches and traverses.

“Our occupancy has certainly grown since we opened the falconry school five years ago and the Land Rover Driving School three years ago. The programs set us apart from other resorts around the country,” said Bowden.

The British School of Falconry, in particular, attracts many repeat guests who want to continue to hone their skills. “We have one couple from California who has been here at least five times to participate in the falconry school,” he said. (800-362-4747, www.equinoxresort.com)

Besides hotels that feature unusual activities, experts also say that guests are drawn to resorts that offer educational cooking, wine-tasting, and gardening classes.

One example is the five-star CuisinArt Resort & Spa, which opened in Anguilla in the British West Indies in December 1999. The hotel offers the first hydroponics farm at a resort. Hydroponics is an alternative way to grow plants using a water and fertilizer solution. The state-of-the-art process produces the freshest, healthiest, pollutant-free fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers.

To better educate guests about the hydroponics process, they can partake in guided horticultural tours, which culminate at a bougainvillea-draped courtyard cafe where they can enjoy freshly picked salads from the farm. Guests can then take advantage of cooking classes and demonstrations with executive chef Denis Jaricot. CuisinArt also offers culinary programs featuring renowned guest chefs from Europe and the United States. (800-937-9356, www.cuisinartresort.com)

While resorts are offering a myriad of unusual pastimes and educational programs to attract guests, others are stepping up to the plate with new twists on activities that many have already tried.

Take swimming with dolphins. This once hard-to-find program has grown in popularity over the past few years and is now offered at several hotels around the world. Yet, one resort has put a new spin on the trendy activity. Our Lucaya, a $400 million luxury resort which opened last year on Grand Bahama Island, recently launched the first-ever dolphin spa experience, which fuses the relaxation of a spa with the magical connection of swimming with dolphins. (877-687-5822, www.ourlucaya.com)

Six guests, accompanied by a native Bahamian guide, journey to a nine-and-a-half acre pristine lagoon off Grand Bahama Island to interact, swim and communicate with dolphins. After the swim, they return to the resort’s Senses Spa to relax the body with spa treatments that indulge the senses with ingredients indigenous to the island and the surrounding sea.

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