Bear Lake Reserve

Whether 2016 was a banner year for your business or you’re looking to speed things up in 2017 as the weather heats up, many company leaders have corporate retreats on their minds.

But according to travel agent Tracy Kirssin, you should think twice before getting sucked in by online offers or delegating the planning to an employee. Instead, consider an experienced travel agent that can provide a professional and personalized service at no cost to your company.

Kirssin has been with McCormick Travel for almost 10 years and has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. The full-service travel agency, which has four metro Atlanta locations, including one in Kennesaw, specializes in arranging group travel for businesses, family vacations and destination weddings. She says her sole purpose is to make her clients’ lives easier. “I organize everything — I do the airfare, hotel, make sure there is transportation to and from the hotel. I organize all the on-site events they might have, whether it’s just an individual gala dinner or dinners.”

To get your upcoming corporate retreat planning started, Kirssin says all you need are the basic details: an idea of your budget, the approximate number of people going on the trip, how many days and nights you would like to go, a few potential date ranges and an idea of where you’d like to go. “I go through a series of questions and I help them narrow it down: What is it that you’re looking for exactly? Mountains or beach? An all-inclusive resort? I work with them to pick the best fit for their company,” she explains.

Another consideration that may determine your trip details; the reason for your retreat.  Kirssin says additional background information as to why your team is planning the getaway — Is it a sales incentive group? Are you looking to do a series of group activities or simply reward employees with a trip where everyone is together? — is all helpful when determining location and accommodations.

Kirssin recommends reaching out to a travel agent at least nine to 10 months in advance, though she has pulled off large corporate retreats in about two months. She strongly warns against procrastinating for a few reasons: “What I would prefer is that they book it further in advance because it gives me a lot more time to coordinate everything. It also ensures you get the best prices on airfare and hotel packages.”

So how is a travel agent an affordable option for a smaller business? Kirssin says you should always go with an agent that is compensated through travel operators and not by your company. “A lot of people don’t realize this: We do not charge for our service. We get paid by the hotel and the airline, so we make our money through the tour operators, through the hotel. We get a percentage of what is booked. Nine times out of 10, we have better rates than you can find online, and I would say 100 percent of the time we have better rates than you can get directly with the resorts themselves.”

So as you are deciding on your priorities for this year’s off-site corporate gathering, take the strain out of planning and consider a reputable travel agent to work with your designated group coordinator. “It’s a one-stop shop: We handle everything. I also travel down with the group if it’s large-sized to make sure everything on site is taken care of. It’s a no-brainer, really — you get a professional and you don’t have to pay for the professional. If you pay the hotel directly, you don’t have an advocate on your side. With me, you have an advocate who’s here to work for you.”

Local Options for Corporate Retreats

If you’re looking for somewhere close to plan a smaller gathering or afternoon retreat, there are several full-service options within Cobb County that can fit your needs. And while Kirssin and similar travel agents don’t plan local retreats, many have on-site coordinators to help you plan the perfect, productive corporate gathering.

One metro Atlanta retreat option is Legacy Golf Links in Smyrna. Located just off Interstate 75 at 1825 Windy Hill Road, you won’t have to travel far to pair a lively day of golf with either lunch or dinner in the Bar at Legacy Links for a great corporate outing. Packages can be customized for a group with a morning or afternoon of golf, including fun competitions like a Closest to the Pin contest.

The Bar at Legacy Links is also an excellent place to host a birthday or anniversary party. The covered outdoor space looking out onto the driving range offers a lovely backdrop and is an ideal space for dancing to a DJ or watching the sun set behind the range. The space is perfect for groups of 50-75 people. Call (770) 434-6331 or visit legacyfoxcreek.com to learn more.

Weekend Corporate Retreat

A couple hours’ drive north of metro Atlanta is Bear Lake Reserve in North Carolina’s iconic Blue Ridge Mountains, which provides the perfect relaxing backdrop for a corporate gathering. From Craftsman-style cottages to mountain lodges, a group can escape the every day and enjoy The Lake Club, a 14,000-square-foot facility that is the hospitality center of Bear Lake Reserve, a restaurant and lounge with an outdoor firepit, golf and tennis with stunning mountain views, a fitness center and spa, Bear Creek Lake and hiking trails.Learn more about Bear Lake Reserve at 412 Lake Forest Drive in Tuckasegee, North Carolina, by calling (866) 509-2327 or visiting bearlakereserve.com.

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