The practice of companies encouraging employees to bring their families to conferences and meetings is not just commonplace–it’s often encouraged. After all, it puts the “I” in the word “incentive,” and ends up making “MICE” something more meaningful to the families than the costumed mascots. With that in mind, the 253-room Sandpearl Resort and Spa (sandpearl.com) on Clearwater Beach gets what business travelers with kids are looking for beyond a resort pool and playground.
Clearwater Beach, a favorite destination for its low key coastal village flavor and pristine white sands, first and foremost has location going for it, especially with its access to two major airports (Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport), and easy drives to the biggest theme parks in the U.S. after convention activities have wrapped.
As more parents want their kids to enjoy a more authentic (less corporate, theme park-centric) vacation, however, the resort presents itself—ironically–as the perfect anecdote to corporate hotels with its helpful staff, sweeping murals by noted Florida artist Christopher Still, and slyly placed displays covering interesting historical and scientific facts about the hotel site. Original buildings from the former Clearwater Beach Hotel, including “Suite 100,” (a standalone luxury bungalow) and Tate’s Island Grill are testaments to the new hotel’s organically grown approach.
A passage connecting the lobby to Caretta, Sandpearl’s fine dining restaurant, is adorned with a 90-photo timeline beginning with the arrival of Myrtle Scharrer Betz who moved with her father, Henry, to Caladesi Island in the early 1900s. In 1921, the Clearwater Beach Hotel opened on that spot and was operated and expanded by different families, thriving as rail travel, car, and air travel brought families from across the U.S. to Betz’s childhood paradise.
Popular demand from schools and business groups, meanwhile, prompted a tour (twice-weekly or by advanced request) led by a hotel engineer detailing its journey from a family-owned 20thcentury family beachfront retreat to its current form as the first Silver LEED certified resort in Florida. The starting point is a display in a corridor leading to some of the ballrooms covering the steps the engineers and construction team took to build a 21stcentury space while retaining elements of the earlier hotel. It then continues with the science behind what keeps the water clean, the indoor air cool, the lighting perfect, and most importantly, the ocean protected.
Getting Down to Business
Any planner interested in going the eco-friendly route is in luck at The Sandpearl Resort, with its 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space. As Florida’s first Silver LEED resort, planners, and corporate clients can proceed with confidence that a retreat or conference will have a big impact on the executives and not on the environment.
The largest and most versatile space is the Hunter Ballroom, with 5,234 square feet of space that can hold up to 600 attendees or be divided into three equal-sized rooms. Adjoining this is 2,388 square feet of pre-function/coffee break/happy hour space. The Harbor Ballroom, which can also be divvied up into three separate rooms and has a similarly large pre-function space area, can hold up to 325 guests. There are also spaces made for smaller groups and big visual impact. The 1,032 square foot Cove Ballroom and the 270-foot square foot Channel and Reef Boardrooms feature spectacular vistas of the Gulf of Mexico.
Panoramic outdoor spaces include the 6,750-square foot Gulf Lawn for large conferences of up to 600 attendees, and the 2,112-square foot Pool Lawn, with the gorgeous waterfall and pool views, nicely suited for a more intimate gathering of up to 125 guests.
The Retreats after the Meets
While the concierge can readily arrange golf and fishing outings for pre- or post- business fun, the well-appointed fitness room is a perfect place to rev up for a day of meetings and networking. The adjoining Spa at Sandpearl offers special luxury experiences that fulfill the “rest and relaxation” requirement of a well-planned business retreat.
Highlights include “The Sports,” designed with men in mind, which includes 25-minute Custom Facial, 50-minute Deep-Tissue Massage, and a manicure and classic pedicure. “The Duet,” fitting for the dynamic husband-wife team (or any dynamic duo deserving a special reward), Is a mix and match proposition offering a choice of a 50-minute Swedish Massage or 50-minute Custom Facial with a Classic Manicure and Pedicure. “La Petite” is a perfect compact version of a full spa day that starts out with a healthy tapas-style sample of favorites from the spa menu, followed by a personal selection of three 25-minute services.
The Spa at Sandpearl also offers customizable packages for corporate gatherings in Clearwater Beach. Fitness instructors and spa staff can lead the team in a yoga session, keep meeting attendees energized with a “corporate stretch” break, or arrange a Spa Mixers for 20 or more attendees. Guests can enjoy relaxation sessions, sample services, and order refreshments to enhance their experience. The average treatment will last approximately ten minutes, and attendees may go to multiple stations or re-visit their favorites. Other options include:
- An organized between-meetings relaxation stretch led by a property fitness instructor that will leave everyone more focused and alert.
- Ten-minute chair massage services that can be incorporated into your event at any time.
- A variety of spa-related gifts, from welcome baskets and logo wear to a day of pampering for your top performers.
Bread and Circuses
Caretta offers a full breakfast buffet with a great view and excellent sushi during the lunch hour, but dinnertime is where the kitchen truly shines. Local fish including grouper are transformed into flavorful dishes that although inventive, are never too heavy for the year-round balmy climate. The festive mix of flavor profiles includes Caribbean, Cajun, Southern, Italian, and Japanese (when sushi-type dishes turn up on the appetizer list), applied with finesse and subtlety. Cocktails and wine selections are equally cosmopolitan.
Tate’s Island Grill, the casual poolside restaurant, serves sandwiches, salads, and finger foods such as pulled pork nachos, coconut shrimp, and mahi-mahi fish dip with pita, along with a requisite offering of craft beers and sweet and frosty pool drinks. While the parents are at “the office,” kids up to age 10 can get schooled on local wildlife and the environment at Camp Ridley when in season. The program has both indoor and outdoor activities that promise to be as enriching as they are fun.
Other nice amenities of note include free bike rentals, s’mores fire pits, family-friendly “Dive In” movies on some nights, and shuttle access to nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium (www.seewinter.com), an operating sea animal hospital, rescue, and rehabilitation facility that gained international attention through the “Dolphin Tale” movies starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., and rescue dolphins Winter and Hope.