Redefining the High End: Ritz-Carlton's Luxury Meetings Forum

The word “luxury” just could be one of the most abused words in the hospitality lexicon. That was one of the conclusions made by panelists at the third annual Ritz-Carlton Luxury Meetings Forum, held November 8 to 11 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando.

Forum panelists addressed topics ranging from personalizing the luxury meeting experience to catering and themed-dining trends. In a discussion of the changing definition of luxury in today’s meeting and incentive market, Ritz-Carlton Orlando General Manager Mark Freland concluded that the word is highly overused these days. "Luxury has evolved in recent years. It used to be solely based on material things--fixtures and amenities--but now, I believe it has a lot to do with high, sometimes over-the-top service levels and the anticipation of what a guest needs and wants.”

Most panelists concurred that dining was a key component of a luxury meeting or incentive. “The dining events have to be memorable,” said Michelle Caporicci, senior corporate director of meetings and special events for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. “With the Food Network and Fine Living Channel, people are more aware of different culinary experiences and they’re seeking those in a luxury event itinerary.”

Andrea Strauss, president of Classic Conferences Inc., Hackensack, N.J., agreed. “Luxury guests are seeking menu items that can’t easily be prepared at home, and they want restaurant-quality cuisine in a banquet setting.” Other F&B trends include programs designed to not waste food, healthy food alternatives, luxury comfort foods, and a huge increase in special requests.

In addition to Freland, Caporicci, Strauss, and members of the press, participants in the three-day event included: Chris Gabaldon, vice-president of sales, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.; John Hart, director of meetings and special events, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; Mark Wells, director of creative services, Hello Florida (Grande Lakes Destination Services); Sean Woods, executive chef, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; Tami Corday, associate director of meetings and special events, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando; and Jennifer Schuster, manager of sales and marketing, Global Planners, Bordentown, N.J.

The 584-room property is set in the 500-acre Grande Lakes Orlando resort complex, alongside the 1,000-room JW Marriott, with amenities such as a 40,000-square-foot spa, 18-hole Greg Norman golf course, three restaurants, and 46,985 square feet of meeting space.