Event Dates: March 31 - April 3, 2022
Event Location: La Cantera Resort & Spa, San Antonio, TX
Meeting Overview, Goals & Objectives:
The ALHI Executive Exchange is a prestigious, annual leadership gathering comprised of senior-level corporate and association executives, directors and presidents, typically with responsibilities for themselves and the meeting and incentive staff they lead; senior leadership from ALHI Member hotels and resorts worldwide comprised of GMs/ Presidents/owners and chief marketing executives; and senior ALHI and regional sales leadership.
Customers Only Reception hosted by La Cantera Resort & Spa and Delta Air Lines
Registration & Hospitality with VIP Gifting Experience—Custom Hat Experience, Bandana Bar, Local Wine Tastings, Longhorn Photo Opportunity Experience
Opening General Session with Keynote Speaker Sebastian Terry
“Denim & Diamonds” Outdoor Welcome Reception at Topaz & Adult Pool
Interactive Breakfast with Michael Dominguez
Opening General Session with Trend Talks Hosted by Industry Leaders Karen Chupka, CES, and Amelia Deluca, Delta, on Sustainability.
Second Round of Peer-to-Peer Exchange
“Meet the Sponsors” Reception at Innovation Lounge
“ALHI Ranch” Indoor Seated Dinner with Entertainment
Interactive Breakfast with Keynote Speaker Kim Fields
General Session with Peer-to-Peer Exchange Recap hosted by Dr. Lalia Rach, Scott Howitt on Cyber-Security, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Ivan Joseph.
Recreation: Golf, Spa, Club ALHI, San Antonio Experience & Riverwalk, San Antonio Brewery & Distillery, Skeet Shooting, Culinary Experience at the Pearl, and Resin Art Class
“Dia de los Muertos” Outdoor Reception with Group Photo
Grab & Go Breakfast and Departures
Partners and Sponsors:
- ACCESS Destination Services®
- AFR,Furniture Rental
- Boundless Gifts
- CelinaJennee, International DJ
- Delta Air Lines
- INSPIRE Solutions,Event Production Services
- Kody Melton,Photography
- La Cantera Resort & Spa
- Leading Authorities, Inc
- ORO Event Planning Software
- Signature Blends by Kim Fields
Event Considerations and other Notable Elements
- Provided seating plan to address attendees’ comfort-level. Mixture of soft seating (couches, wingback chairs), conference tables of four with four-to-five feet of space between people, individual seats with desks, and tall community tables of four.
- Some hotel staff wore masks indoors while others did not.
- Individual pre-packaged and chef-served food items throughout meals.
- Intentionally utilized outdoor spaces for two of the three food functions to help with comfort-level and enjoy the Texas spring weather.
- Pre-Surveys sent to Planning Committee for January 2022 Site/Planning Meeting and Peer-to-Peer Exchange discussion topics, in March 2022.
- With compressed planning schedule, eliminated rounds of “Save the Date/RSVP” communications and went straight to open registration in January 2022.
- Did not host a pre-con meeting with hotel members or clients.
- Hosted internal ALHI Staff Pre-Con Meeting one week prior to provide information and direction to team members attending.
- “Know Before You Go” included a link for guests to share whether they required a fish option for Lent Friday in addition to the dietary requirements question in event registration.
Logistics & Meeting Details:
- General Session ballroom set with mixture of soft seating, conference tables for four people with power for laptops/phone charging, individual seating with rotating desktop and power for laptops/phone charging, as well as tall communal tables for four. Seating was assigned for two of the three days of general sessions to allow for networking opportunities.
- Seating for general sessions and breakfast was assigned randomly and communicated with labels on the backs of the badges. This was the first time we provided seating ahead of time and automated the process. In the past, we had a bag of random numbers for members/clients to choose from, which created confusion, a bottleneck at the entrance of the room, and errors.
- The stage was set, building on 2021’s living room stage design, with a feeling of an intimate conversation versus a corporate meeting. The backdrop was a fun twist using “famous living rooms of television” featuring The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Family Guy, and How I Met Your Mother. The desk was removed from the Jimmy Fallon Show concept of 2021, although we plan to bring it back in 2023 as it was a missed feature.
- Creative elements in activations were designed within the program including: custom hat experience at the Registration & Hospitality Lounge; hologram water show; branding ALHI and other partner logos at the Welcome Reception; “jukebox band,” which played songs based on requests from the audience, submitted via tablet in front of stage; ALHI Ranch Gala Dinner; and tortilla caricature artist who burned your face or that of a loved one on the surface of a flour tortilla, while giving a stand-up comedy routine, at the Dia de Los Muertos reception.
- Registration area was set in large room to receive attendees. A hospitality area with refreshments to showcase Sire Bar’s famous charcuterie boards, made with local cheeses and meats, their signature old fashioned, and wine tastings from local wineries in the Hill Country. Utilizing the front drive, a longhorn photo experience welcomed guests as they arrived from the SAT Airport. On the back terrace of the hotel, a custom hat experience was laid out for guests to choose their hat color/style, branded with their initials, and personalize with scarves, ribbons, pins, and feathers.
- Attendees picked up their welcome bag and name badge. Inside the bag was a deck of playing cards with watercolor illustrations of Texas themed animals, flowers, and famous images such as Big Tex, the Alamo, and other local fare.
Food & Beverage:
- Outdoor reception and dinner
- Plated breakfast
- Meals with stationed options placed throughout the room and served by banquet staff
- Boxed lunches with individual offerings
- Coffee breaks with individual options
- For breakfast, buffets, with rounds of eight for majority of room and one row of rounds of six for anyone who might express concern about COVID. Breakfast was indoors and assigned seating.
- Lunch, buffets with picnic table style seating and some rounds. Lunch was outdoors and open seating.
- Evening functions were two outdoor receptions and one seated indoor dinner with assigned seating.
Learnings from This Event:
- Understanding that some members of the group had not seen each other in quite some time, and that some were emerging from 24 months of being prohibited from hosting or attending in-person events, we ensured there was enough “free time” built into the program. This allowed for opportunities to “reconnect” with one another and share experiences from over the course of this unprecedented time in all our lives.
- Content was focused on leadership “best practices” with particular attention paid to current topics many leaders are facing, such as staffing shortages and maintaining service levels. Additional content was related to adjusting to a changing environment, cyber security, and sustainability.
- We will continue to assign seating at general sessions and meal functions, when possible, to allow for maximum networking by changing up seating assignments each time.
- Based on feedback from 2021 post-event survey results and pre-event survey and discussion with the Planning Committee, the agenda was updated to include a second round of peer-to-peer exchange discussions. Thursday, the client peer-to-peer exchange was led by two members of the Planning Committee, while Friday, the client’s discussion was moderated by Dr. Lalia Rach. The members peer-to-peer exchange was hosted by Michael Dominguez on both Thursday and Friday. A recap of the exchanges was provided during the closing general session on Saturday morning.
- While the food & beverage the hotel provided was very creative, the execution and timing for the items, was a challenge. The way items were served may be residual of the COVID-era of hosting in-person events, with eggs cooked to order, versus having a chafing dish of scrambled eggs already prepared and attendees able to “self-serve.” All was chef-served/prepared and took additional time, creating long lines for delegates.
- It seemed that many members and clients were unable to attend due to the timing of the event (Spring Break), being short-handed at work without coverage to allow them to attend the event, or having schedule conflicts (plans already made over these dates).
- Lift into San Antonio with Delta was a challenge as majority of flights had connections and/or routes that some clients didn’t appreciate. We also lost a key player on the Delta Team, midway through the flight booking process.
- Creativity in the general session room set, themes for the evening function, and the focus on content, were all big hits with the group.
Peer-to-Peer Exchange Topics/Highlights:
- Budgets and Inflation
- Skill Sets
- Generational Viewpoints
- Ideas for Next Day’s Session
- Especially loved the Ranch dinner/large group signature experience. All the events were well-thought out with every detail planned perfectly. Demonstrated creativity, level of personalization, flexibility etc.
- Both events were well executed by the hotel; fun to attend and productive. I so appreciate the assigned seating and engagement of all attendees.
- You will not top the Mariachi Band welcoming us at the Villas. Wish they could have been at the dinner event and played more.
- Breakfast on Saturday was a bit challenging with the way it was prepared and not really enough variety. Lunch on Friday was a bit difficult with the lines at the different stations, but did like the choices. This seemed to be corrected on Saturday with the extra station in the foyer so that flowed a bit better.
- The food was fantastic! The lines were too long; definitely can improve on planning the stations. I know it was hard at lunch to have double-sided or multiple stations because the space was maxed out. It was difficult to walk through the area to get to seating or food lines. Breakfast station should have been doubled up at each station location. However, I understand it could have been a staffing issue.
- Sebastian and Dr. Ivan both had actionable takeaways that can be implemented in small doses both personally and professionally. Dr. Lalia is great as an interviewer and facilitator, driving the conversations forward and asking thought-provoking questions. More peer-to-peer and more cross-functional sessions please! Overall, the content was all relevant, speakers were relatable, and the length of time was manageable. Kudos to Mike and Ashly, too.
- Peer-to-Peer needed a little more structure. Discussion got a little political and almost seemed that some planners were trying to "out-do" each other with how great they are. Maybe some leading questions that provide a little more structure would direct the conversation to be a little more productive in an exchange of ideas.
- I learn every time I attend and for that I am thrilled!