The average event-goer spends long days sitting in meetings or professional development sessions, followed by an hour or two of standing and sipping cocktails. But holding your next big event at a spa resort opens a realm of possibilities for wellness breaks. Moving the action from the boardroom to the steam room can improve morale by combining business with pleasure—while also boosting attendees’ health.
With in-person events making a resurgence, it’s a good time to plan more holistic conferences that balance movement and relaxation with sedentary gatherings. Between an uptick in prioritizing mental health and a booming wellness tourism industry, the opportunities at spa resorts are endless. And the Pacific Northwest is home to many beautiful venues that offer both spa amenities and meeting facilities.
Combining Spa Comforts With Business Acumen
Preparing for conferences usually involves bringing out professional garb like suits, skirts, and dress shoes. Do spa robes and slippers really fit? And won’t participants feel a little naked without their, well, clothes? For teams who aren’t ready to hit the hot tub together, meeting planners have found ways to work in spa services while keeping things professional.
“We love to organize spa services for our group guests,” says Autumn Welke, sales and events assistant at Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, British Columbia. The adults-only resort focuses on whole-body wellness. “When organizers initially inquire about reserving large quantities of overnight guest rooms and function space, our sales team members will inquire if they are interested in booking treatments.”
At Cedarbrook Lodge, a beautiful and surprisingly tranquil property hidden a mile away from the SEA Airport, many groups want to incorporate spa services into their meetings. “We can even do custom meeting breaks where guests can get 10-minute hand, foot, or shoulder massages during their break times while enjoying customized spa food and drink,” says Byron Pihuave, Cedarbrook’s lodge manager.
The Allison Inn & Spa in Oregon’s Willamette Valley can incorporate chair massages, yoga, and meditation classes into group meetings. Some guests arrive a day early or stay a day after the meeting to enjoy the steam rooms, saunas, swimming pool, and treatments in the 15,000 square feet of spa space.
Team Building, Spa Style
Spa resorts offer many team-building activities you won’t find at a more typical conference site. At Salishan Coastal Lodge in Oregon, you can team build in the trees. “The aerial course has 15 platforms and 20 elements through [a] series of obstacles—some easy, others challenging, but [it] is a very popular team-building activity,” says Debra Loew, Salishan’s public relations consultant.
At Sun Valley Resort in Idaho, the most obvious outdoorsy team-building activity is skiing. But you can also ice skate, shoot guns, golf, hike, bike, or ride in a horse-drawn sleigh through the glittering winter snow. Those who prefer indoor warmth might favor the resort’s bowling alley.
For something truly memorable, Chena Hot Springs Resort can arrange dogsledding and aurora viewing for your team. The resort, 61 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, offers year-round outdoor activities, such as rafting and snowmobiling.
Making or tasting different foods together at resorts is another popular way to help your team bond. “Two of our favorites are our mixology class and guacamole [and] salsa making team-building class,” says Pihuave at Cedarbrook. Meeting attendees at The Allison Inn & Spa can indulge in tea, chocolate, and wine tastings, or engage in relaxing activities such as blending lotions with essential oils, led by a personal wellness guide.
When planning team-building activities, don’t lose sight of your group’s needs, abilities, and backgrounds. They may or may not be ready or able to climb a ladder 70 feet up a Sitka spruce or cross a cargo net at Salishan’s aerial park. Some members might be in recovery or have dietary restrictions, for example, in which case a wine or chocolate tasting could backfire. Allow your members choices and wiggle room so you can truly build—rather than traumatize—your team.
Many spa resorts are set in gorgeous natural settings. Views can enhance meetings, whether it’s a conference room overlooking the sea or a glimpse of mountains from participants’ rooms. When the weather is favorable, groups can breathe fresh air while meeting on a terrace, rooftop, or patio.
On Vancouver Island, Tigh-Na-Mara (Gaelic for “House by the Sea”) Seaside Spa Resort offers 22 acres of cedar, arbutus, and Douglas fir forest overlooking 1.5 miles of beach. The sprawling coastal property also boasts Canada’s warmest ocean swimming—attractive to many meeting-goers but potentially too chilly for some.
At Sparkling Hill, you don’t even have to go outside to experience nature. “The building was constructed into the side and top of Mount Royce, so our architecture and layout is beyond unique,” says Welke. “Exquisite views of both the Monashee Mountains and Okanagan Lake are all meant to be viewed from the two-person soaker tubs in every guest room.” The trick, however, might be leaving the tub to get to the meeting.
An Urban Spa Experience
Some groups prefer to meet in a city, whether for urban amenities or the proximity to major airports. But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo adding a wellness dimension to your conference. Some large hotels have both world-class spas and admirable meeting facilities.
Groups that appreciate grand, historic buildings will enjoy The Historic Davenport in Spokane, Washington. Part of the Davenport Hotels group, The Historic Davenport has a Forbes four-star spa that combines vintage heritage with modern treatments and facilities, like an organic seaweed leaf wrap and a eucalyptus steam room. When builders completed the hotel’s elaborate Venetian Gothic-style Hall of the Doges in 1908, it was the most opulent ballroom north of San Francisco—and probably still is.
On the modern end of the spectrum, the Parq Vancouver complex in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, opened in 2017. It has two luxury hotels, a huge spa and aqua lounge, and a 30,000-square-foot park on the sixth floor complete with trees, indigenous plants, and water features.
Planning Your Spa Resort Meeting
If you think your group would appreciate a hybrid meeting and spa experience, be sure to negotiate options. Some properties have clever ways of incorporating spa treatments or cuisine into professional meetings and retreats. Others might give your attendees a discount on spa services during their stay, then have them individually book treatments. Be sure to communicate any deals to participants as soon as possible to ensure they can maximize their vacation time and utilize all the amazing amenities that your meeting site might have to offer.
Northwest Spa Resorts at a Glance
The Allison Inn & Spa
Event space: 25,000 square feet
Spa highlights: In keeping with the Willamette Valley’s wine theme, The Allison offers “pinotherapy,” a pinot-inspired botanical and biological therapy incorporating wine and grapeseed extracts from the resort’s vineyard.
Transportation: The nearest major airport is in Portland, 34 miles away.
Fun fact: Guests will see works from The Allison’s huge collection by Oregon artists (more than 500 pieces) displayed throughout the resort.
Event space: 21,000 square feet
Spa highlights: Cedarbrook uses plant-based and organic massage products. The Cedarbrook signature massage incorporates hot stone, aromatherapy, Swedish, and deep-tissue massage.
Transportation: Complimentary shuttle to and from SEA Airport, which is 1 mile away.
Fun fact: The resort’s Copperleaf Restaurant has adorable table decorations: small sculptures of a frog riding a snail, which you also can buy in the gift shop.
Chena Hot Springs Resort
Event space: 14,000 square feet
Spa highlights: Massage and reflexology are available, but this resort is all about the healing waters in the huge, gorgeous outdoor rock pool.
Transportation: The resort is about 60 miles from Fairbanks International Airport and will provide shuttle service for an additional fee.
Fun fact: Don’t miss the ice museum, which is full of exquisite ice sculptures and an ice bar where you can get a cocktail in a glass made of ice.
Event space: 33,000 square feet
Spa highlights: Guests might want to spend an extra day for the Ultimate Spa Day Package, with a facial, body ritual, and manicure/pedicure.
Transportation: Spokane International Airport is 6 miles away.
Fun fact: Antique reproduction furniture carries the historic look into the guest rooms—where you might be joined by a ghost or two.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Event space: 60,000 square feet
Spa highlights: Situated on the 17th floor, the Spa by JW offers massages with a view and an open-air yoga space.
Transportation: Vancouver International Airport is 8.5 miles from Parq Vancouver.
Fun fact: Parq Vancouver was built with sustainability in mind, including zero waste planning, rainwater management, and a low-carbon energy supply.
Salishan Coastal Lodge
Gleneden Beach, Oregon
Event space: 16,000 square feet
Spa highlights: Top massage treatments incorporate hot stones or Himalayan salt stones. An on-site yoga studio limbers guests up before a day of meetings.
Transportation: Portland International Airport, 105 miles northeast of Salishan, is the closest major airport. Groups can arrange shuttle service with Caravan Shuttle.
Fun fact: If you are lucky, you might spot bald eagles soaring over Siletz Bay from Salishan’s outdoor infinity jacuzzi.
Sparkling Hill Resort
Vernon, British Columbia
Event space: 10,000 square feet
Spa highlights: At 40,000 square feet, KurSpa is Canada’s largest luxury spa. Guests can try the Fango treatment, a mud wrap using a special volcanic dust from Italy.
Transportation: Kelowna International Airport is 30 minutes south. Ask Elite Mile about group shuttle service.
Fun fact: Sparkling Hill really does sparkle, with 3.5 million Swarovski crystals glittering throughout the restaurants, spa, function spaces, and guest rooms.
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley, Idaho
Event space: 25,000 square feet
Spa highlights: The 20,000-square-foot spa has a huge treatment menu, including CBD massages, healing vibrations massages with Himalayan singing bowls played on and around your body, and leg compression therapy to increase blood flow.
Transportation: The resort offers complimentary shuttle service to and from Friedman Memorial Airport, 14 miles south. Sun Valley Express provides once-per-day shuttle service to and from the Boise airport.
Fun fact: Ski Magazine readers named Sun Valley the nation’s top ski resort.
Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort
Parksville, British Columbia
Event space: 10,000 square feet
Spa highlights: The 20,000-square-foot spa includes an indoor mineral pool
in a rock grotto.
Transportation: Tucked away on Vancouver Island, a trip to Tigh-Na-Mara will involve some combination of ferry, seaplane, helijet, commercial plane, or driving.
Fun fact: After soaking in the mineral pool, guests can dine on tapas while wearing bathrobes and slippers.