The right location and reasonable room rates are once again the top two factors in choosing accommodation for an event, according to Destination Hotels & Resorts' recent survey planner. Behind it lies the desire for high-quality cuisine from the region. VenturaCountyWest meets all three criteria with its proximity to Los Angeles, affordable prices and restaurant deals with farm-fresh ingredients.
Just over an hour from Los Angeles, VenturaCountyWest (Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura) offers event attendees the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of city life without long travel times. "As soon as you reach Camarillo, you will immediately be greeted with acres of farmland and majestic mountain views so you can relax immediately," says Josephine Williams, managing director of Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo. "VenturaCountyWest is an untapped resource, with beaches, shopping, wine tasting, everything new and sexy – and you do not have to travel far to get here."
Camarillo, the smallest of the three cities, offers a surprisingly diverse selection of meeting venues. Once home to one of the city's founding fathers, Camarillo Ranch House sleeps up to 600 guests for lunch or dinner on the manicured lawn and garden, and 250 guests in the 5,200-square-foot Big Red Barn. The Commemorative Air Force Museum at Camarillo Airport hosts regular dinners for up to 250 guests in hangars with fighter jets and World War II memorabilia. Cal State University on the Channel Islands also offers facilities for public and private meetings.
Further up in 101 are the towns of Oxnard and Ventura, which offer beach and mountain views for small to large gatherings. "The accommodation and room rates are extremely competitive, whether north or south of us," said David Dreher, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott on River Ridge. "Meeting planners may be surprised to discover that VenturaCountyWest has 5,100 guest rooms and 200,000 square feet of meeting space and meeting space."
Close to the farm and the sea, restaurant chefs at the destination can select fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood. Nikki Newman, new chef at Coastal Grill at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, Oxnard, is a recent Colorado-born transplant. "I'm amazed at the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables available throughout the year in VenturaCountyWest Colorado has a three-month vegetable season," says Newman. "There are berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits and all sorts of vegetables, and as the seasons change, I'm looking forward to adding the freshest ingredients from the region to the menu."
Another top priority for meeting planners according to the trend forecast is the ability to conduct active, adventurous and wellness-focused team building activities.
"With our all-suite hotel right next to the River Ridge Golf Club, we're attracting many regional sales and management groups, and golf is often part of the group's activities," says Dreher. "But a new game called FootGolf is gaining in importance as a great team building activity, it's the fastest growing sport in North America and involves kicking a football into a hole on a purpose designed golf course." Southern California's FootGolf course is far cheaper than golfing, takes less time, trains participants more than golfing, and requires no previous knowledge. "
Other popular team-building activities include beach volleyball, beach biking, hiking, kayaking, surfing lessons, whale watching, go-cart racing and trips to the Channel Islands. "There are also spa and tennis activities and one of the hippest trends, the GPS-driven scavenger hunt," says Rebekah Evans, managing director of the Ventura County Lodging Association, which markets VenturaCountyWest. "Each city has its own unique and pleasant qualities, you can spend an event in Camarillo for a year and have a different experience in Ventura or Oxnard next year, as well as the friendly and attentive staff at all our hotels the goal is to provide the best possible service. "