When winter’s bite sends executive groups scurrying for the perfect place to host their retreat, many of them discover the Southern hospitality of the 15 neighborhoods coursing through South Walton.
Last year, the destination rebranded its marketing organization as Visit South Walton. With the brand change came many new tools on the website. There is info about CSR and green meetings possibilities. RFP forms are readily available. And one section outlines new travel options available since the 2010 opening of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City Beach.
Though there are the larger, more traditional resorts like the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort and Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa—the largest Gulf hotel in Northwest Florida which just completed a $6.5 million renovation—“We also attract smaller groups of 50-200 who want something out of the ordinary,” says Cricket Johnson, sales coordinator for Visit South Walton. “Those groups tend to lodge in the cottages of the 11 pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods hugging the Scenic Highway 30A which runs alongside the Gulf.”
What groups soon discover is that South Walton’s North Florida location translates to great values from September to March, “when we offer the same great meeting spaces and accommodations as Southern Florida areas, but at better pricing,” says Johnson.
They also discover championship golf courses, miles of hiking and biking trails, ropes courses, and South Walton’s own style of stand-up paddle boarding, called Yolo Boarding, which makes for innovative teambuilding activities on pristine coastal dune lakes.
“WaterColor Inn & Resort does a lot of Yolo activities for groups. It’s hugely popular there for executive boards or smaller incentive groups of about 20,” says Johnson.
Most recently, an interactive education facility opened to the public, committed to teaching people about South Walton’s native ecosystem. Johnson says the “significance for groups is that the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center has interesting spaces and activities that can be used for offsite meeting functions, teambuilding activities and CSR events.”