Build team camaraderie in the Poconos

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Resorts in the Poconos are hosting more corporate meetings – attracting businesses by their location, natural beauty and rural lower costs, according to people involved in marketing and selling the region.

But the big attraction seems to be the opportunities for employee team-building.

Woodloch, a resort in Hawley, Wayne County, has been hosting corporate events for at least 15 years, and the number has grown from a handful to more than 100 a year, said Lisa Hugaboom, director of corporate sales.

Skytop Lodge, in Skytop, Monroe County, has exceeded pre-recession 2008 benchmarks this year, said Cara Federici, director of sales and marketing at Skytop Lodge.

Corporate bookings at Split Rock resort, in Lake Harmony, Carbon County, are $164,000 ahead of this time last year, said LauraLee Wren, director of sales and marketing.

The Inn at Pocono Manor, in Pocono Manor, Monroe County, has seen a remarkable increase in corporate meetings, said Susan Corrigan, assistant director of sales.

In part, the growth reflects new managerial thinking about motivating employees, Woodloch’s Hugaboom said.

“Companies are finding value in taking teams off-site, taking them away from the day-to-day grind,” she said.

Corporations are spending more time on their employees by team-building and developing internal relationships, Federici said.

“They come to the Pocono Mountains because of the serene setting, away from the hustle and bustle, and in the natural, back-to-basics type of setting that allows for a more focused and uninterrupted experience,” she said.

Many businesses are resuming annual events for employees and their families, Corrigan said. Executives are hosting more retreats for activities such as strategic planning.

And company leaders bent on team-building are lured by the outdoor activities available for their event in the mountains, said David Jackson, the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau’s vice president of sales.

Business team-building involves intense group activities designed to increase trust, promote problem-solving and perhaps gauge employees’ personalities under pressure.

The activities range from the sedate, such as a boat ride on the lake, to the extreme, such as a race or scavenger hunt, and can have a competitive or creative theme, Hugaboom said.

Prices are generally less expensive than at other resorts, Corrigan said. And better marketing is helping the region to escape the “honeymoon destination” image, she said.

What sets the tourism industry off in the Poconos is a matter of survival, Jackson said. With little farming or manufacturing, the region has depended for 200 years on attracting visitors and making sure they have a good time, he said.

“It’s not a hobby,” he said.

Businesses are getting away from trips to cities, shore destinations and casino resorts for employee meetings, the sales directors said.

Many businesses are already in a city and choose the Poconos for a change of atmosphere, Wren said.

Aren’t beach resorts more exciting?

Not to suit the needs of business leaders these days, Federici said.

“And don’t forget, we have a plethora of outdoor exciting activities such as zip-lining, fishing, boating, beaches, rock climbing, nature trails, sky diving, white-water rafting, and more,” she said.

Atlantic City has become less of a competitor, in part because meeting organizers lost too many participants to casino games, Corrigan said.

The Pocono resorts are geared toward providing packages including lodging, meals, high-tech meeting space and activities, Jackson said. City destinations have trouble providing all those components in one spot, he said.

Accessibility is a big attraction for regional businesses that want to hold a meeting. The four-county Pocono region is within a one-day drive from a large proportion of Americans, so transportation costs are low. The region is close to businesses in New York City, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey, Corrigan noted.

She said the Inn at Pocono Manor has hosted employees from major health care systems, big insurance companies and state government offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The visitors bureau assists planners with request for proposals and site inspections, Jackson said. It also commonly arranges a welcome by a local politician and can find a local speaker to avoid the cost of flying someone in, he said.

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