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September 19, 2014
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How Atlantis is Attracting New Group Business




While attending CMITE at Atlantis in the Bahamas this week, we met with ‎John Washko, the resort's vice president of group marketing & sales, to learn more about what the resort had to offer and how it would remain competitive as the nearby Baha Mar resort prepares to open in the spring.

Currently, Atlantis has the largest convention space in the Bahamas. The resort's Conference Center can accommodate up to 4,000 attendees and includes and features the 50,000 square-foot Imperial Ballroom, more than 40,000 square feet of pre-function space, 30 break-out rooms, three boardrooms, a staging area and a new banquet kitchen with additional pantries (making hot meals easy). Outdoors, the resort has more than 300,000 total square feet of event space and can host al fresco receptions for as many as 5,000 or banquets for 4,000.

The resort's size is one of its main appeals, Washko said--with 3,414 rooms spread across five towers, there are a range of price points and different group options. CEOs can book suites in the Royal Towers or the Cove (many of which have living rooms for smaller gatherings), while attendees on a more fixed per-diem can opt for the Coral Towers or the Beach Tower.

Full buy-outs are possible, at least in theory, but with 3,414 rooms, Washko said that there is rarely demand for so much space. (Still, he added, a large company is already in discussions to do just that—or something similar—in about a year.)  

In fact, 70 percent of Atlantis' group functions have fewer than 100 people, he said, but the resort is taking steps to appeal to more corporate functions. Atlantis has launched an online event planning system called Get Planning that streamlines all of the paperwork and communication involved in event organization into one database. "It takes the meeting planner binder and makes it obsolete," Washko said. As of the contract signing, all emails between all relevant parties are stores in a central, searchable database so that everyone involved can find whatever information they need. "If everyone embraces new technology, we can cut out 1,000 sheets of paper form the process," he noted. 

RELATED: Atlantis Bahamas Joins Marriott Autograph Collection

Staying Competitive

But even with substantial event space, a range of room options and new technology, Washko acknowledged that Atlantis still needs to remain competitive as an incentive and meeting destination. A new outdoor event space, Ocean's Edge, just opened in January for smaller gatherings, and the resort is updating its restaurant concepts to appeal to new culinary trends. Currently, Fathoms is an indoor/outdoor former restaurant turned reception venue, but it will soon reopen as a gluten-free, nut-free kosher restaurant for those on restricted diets. Atlantis works with several companies with observant Jewish clients, Washko said, and these guests will now be able to have a proper freshly prepared meal as opposed to a pre-made frozen (but kosher) entree. Similarly, guests with gluten sensitivity or nut allergies will have a wide variety of options at the refurbished restaurant.

Baha Mar, on the left in this aereal photo, will open in spring. Atlantis is seen to the right.

Less than 30 minutes away by car, The Baha Mar resort is under construction, and is poised to match Atlantis' event space when it opens in the spring. While Washko said that he was "glad" to have help marketing the Bahamas to a wider audience, he acknowledged that the resort will need to up its game in order to compete. Atlantis will promote its availability for large-scale buy-outs, which may prove challenging at Baha Mar: The upcoming resort combines several luxury hotel brands in one space, so booking different rooms in different towers might involve contracts with several different companies. At Atlantis, Washko noted, everything can come under a single contract. 

CMITE was sponsored by Questex Media, the parent company of International Meetings Review.


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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox

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