Go with a Pro, in the Spa and on the Greens

Choosing qualified personnel--Your attendees will get what you pay for (and you'll hear about it, either way)!

By Wendy Helfenbaum

Quick: Name your group’s favourite downtime activity. Chances are, a round of golf or a luxurious spa day rank right up there. But don’t assume every spa technician and golf “pro” is properly trained.

Because there are no national standards or professional regulations for the Canadian spa industry, meeting planners may overlook the importance of insisting on registered estheticians and massage therapists, says Nicole Neufeld, lead esthetician at Stillwater Spa in the Hyatt Regency Calgary.

“When somebody is manipulating muscles, you want to know that person’s been properly trained and educated to do so,” says Neufeld. “Estheticians working with sharp tools need to know how to sanitize them properly.”

Kelly MacDonald, manager, industry relations at Halifax-based Fraser & Hoyt Incentives, books a dozen trips each year that include golf or spa components. She visits sites and also tries some of the treatments herself, because sophisticated spa-goers have high expectations, she says.

“Back around 2004, we had a situation in Prince Edward Island where the spa wasn’t ready for groups; you can’t fool guests who know what spas are supposed to be like by having a waiting room that turns into a quasi-treatment room.”

While many golf course managers provide trained staff, event planners can always call the Canadian Golf Teachers Federation (CGTF) to double-check a pro’s credentials, suggests Kristine Darnbrough, the CGTF’s director of membership services. The Oakville, Ontario-based organization has trained and certified more than 2,000 golf-teaching professionals.

Knowing your group is being led by a qualified golf pro provides peace of mind, says Darnbrough. “Meet with the golf pro who’s going to be doing the lessons,” says Darnbrough. “Make sure they’re personable yet professional, and will focus on imparting their knowledge to players of all levels.”

Seasoned golf pros should also be creative problem-solvers. When Kelly MacDonald brought a group to the Cable Beach Golf Course in Nassau last spring, the property was in the middle of a massive expansion. “They only had nine holes open, which was disappointing at first, but the golf pro put together a great nine-hole tournament,” she recalls. “It ended up being a really nice, exclusive event.”

Another example: In 2010, MacDonald booked a tournament at the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course in Jamaica, only to discover her group wouldn’t have full access due to an LPGA event booked onsite. The director of golf operations, Robert Ames, took control by arranging additional tee times at the nearby Ritz-Carlton course and also scored VIP passes for MacDonald’s group to see the LPGA event. cgtf.com

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