Donating Leftover Food to Charitable Causes

One thing that seems to come up over and over again in the conference planning world is what happens to all of the leftover food?  Does the hotel repurpose it for the hotel staff?  Does it get thrown away?  It seems like this is an area where there is a huge amount of waste.Donating Food

We recently encountered this situation at the Centricity Healthcare User Group (CHUG) conference that our company helped organize this fall and found ourselves wondering if there was something we could do.  The first night of the event there was a catered welcome reception at the hotel.  One of the events that we had set-up was a do it yourself cupcake decorating station.  Well as the night progressed, the CHUG Board President, Terri Werner-Brown noticed that there were a lot of cupcakes that had not been touched nor were they going to get decorated.  Instead of having the cupcakes go to waste she thought that it would be a nice gesture to see if the cupcakes could be donated. She asked us to contact the hotel and see if it was possible to have the cupcakes donated, which in return we were told was not possible because it was against hotel policy since it was a liability.

The thing is, it is not actually illegal to donate the leftover food, it is just against hotel policy due to their fear of liability for the donation.  Many people do not know this but the Bill Emerson Food Donation Act was created to allow people to make donations to the hungry without having to worry about being liable for any harm that may come from the donation.Lobster Rolls

What does the law do?  The law protects good-faith donors from civil and criminal liability in the event that the product later causes harm to its recipients.  The Emerson Act gives uniform protection to food donors who may cross state lines.

Who is protected?  The law protects food donors, including individuals and nonprofit feeding programs that act in good faith.  More specifically, the law protects individuals, corporations, partnerships, organizations, associations, government entities, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, gleaners, nonprofit agencies, and others.

What sort of food is protected?  The Emerson Act provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations, even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Where can I find a place to donate?  Find a local food bank using the Food Bank Locator on Feeding America’s Web site.  You just need to connect the local food bank and the catering firm, they will take care of all the details.

With the state of the current economy, food banks are having difficulty keeping their shelves full in order to help serve the hungry.  As event planners we want to know how we can help out, especially when we have food that we could donate.

Next time you want to donate the leftover food from your event the best thing to do is contact event caterer early in the planning process and let them know this is something you want to do.  Use the resources that are readily available and last but not least, do not take no for an answer!

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – Site Inspection Report

I recently returned from a site inspection of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and found it to be a great destination for incentive groups. It has beautiful beaches, abundant activities, and a solid infrastructure of transportation and resort properties to cater to groups of all sizes. With direct flights from several mainland hubs, and a modern airport, getting there is pretty easy. We landed and went through the customs and immigration process in less than 30 minutes, and found our transportation outside baggage claim without a hitch. We partnered with Amstar DMC to show us around, and they were very knowledgeable and professional.

Beach near Punta Cana

Beach near Punta Cana

Although there are a few high end European plan hotels in the area, most of the resorts fall into the “all-inclusive” category. And many of the properties are huge, requiring golf carts or shuttle trains to move people around the property. But this is not necessarily a negative, as the large properties also have a lot of diversity in their restaurants, pool areas, and on-site activities. And there are also some smaller properties for those groups that want a more intimate feel.

Typical Pool Scene

Typical Pool Scene

During the time we were there we had tours of the following properties: Club Med Punta Cana, Paradisus Punta Cana, Dreams Punta Cana, Secrets Royal Beach, Melia Caribe Tropical, Barcelo Palace Deluxe, Barcelo Barvaro Beach, Dreams La Romana, and Dreams Palm Beach. Rather than go into detail on each property, feel free to contact me (ross.beatty@beattygroup.com) if you’d like to learn more.

Jeep Rally

Jeep Rally

As far as activities, there are a lot of options to choose from. Those who are drawn to the water will find snorkeling, sailing, deep sea fishing, kite boarding, speedboats, snuba, dolphin encounters, and sunset sails. Those who prefer to keep their feet on land will find some of the world’s most picturesque golf courses, zip lines, jeep safaris, Santo Domingo city tour, dune buggies, Bavaro shopping, and amazing Spas.

If your group has “done” Mexico and Central America and is looking for a tropical destination with “all-inclusive” resorts, the Dominican Republic could be a good choice.

Nassau Bahamas Update

I just spent three days in Nassau at the Atlantis Resort and got to see the exciting new developments going on there first hand. The big talk these days is the construction of the Baha Mar development. Although it was initially slated to open in December of 2014, it looks like the date has now been pushed back to May of 2015. But, as I was there for an industry conference, we were given the opportunity to do a hard hat tour and see some model rooms.

Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Resort

Atlantis has dominated this destination for years, and it is still a very good option for incentive groups. I stayed in The Cove, and found the room product to be very nice. Huge bathrooms with double vanities, and a split level Jr. Suite layout for the main bedroom. All the rooms have stunning ocean views, and the water in the Bahamas is a gorgeous clear blue. The property itself is quite large and offers a lot of water activities in addition to lounging on the beach or by the pool. They have a full on water park that offers water slides, a lazy river, and a death drop that is sure to thrill even the most adventurous daredevils. And there is no additional cost to Atlantis guests to use the waterpark features. There are also 14 restaurants, lots of retail shops, a spa, a large aquarium, and much more. Attendees can stay entertained for several days here without ever leaving the property. Food and beverages are expensive, but service is very good for such a large property.

But the newcomer on Cable Beach, the Baha Mar, is what has everyone excited. This mixed use mega-resort should be quite a destination once it is completed. The property will have 5 separate hotel brands with a mix of shared grounds and private areas. The shared grounds will have several swimming pools, shopping areas, and a multitude of restaurants. The hotel brands that are building on the property include Rosewood, SLS Lux, Grand Hyatt, and a dazzling newcomer, The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. The 5th property, which is adjacent to the main development is the Melia Nassau Beach all-inclusive resort which is already open for business.

Baha Mar Property Map

Baha Mar Property Map

Our tour of the Baha Mar property was a little pre-mature as the grounds are not even close to being finished, but, judging by the renderings in the model, this property should be a good option for groups in the future. The variety of brands should accommodate almost any budget, and the shared grounds will give everyone access to a large variety of experiences. They will also have access to the only public golf course on New Providence Island, the recently renovated and renamed Baha Mar Golf Course. I attended an evening event at the new clubhouse and it is very nice. This Jack Nicholas designed course will be a great addition for groups traveling to Nassau when it opens in November 2014.

Cool Stuff – Cvent Introduces SocialWall

SocialWall

“Great events are like stories—unfolding into some pretty memorable moments. But in the age of Instagram, Twitter and smartphones, you need the right tools to capture the whole story.
With SocialWall, you can compile and display attendees’ social content in real time at your event. Project their tweets, Instagram photos and your own custom posts to spark excitement and engagement.” Cvent website.

Social media is now an integral part of our daily life and finding ways to utilize and incorporate different aspects of social media into the business world is becoming the norm.  At Beatty Group, we plan a wide array of different meeting and events and finding new and unique ways to use social media to get attendees involved is something that we are doing more often.

We use an online platform called Cvent to help us create our online presence for many of our events.  They have a wide variety of tools that help us make each event unique and cater to the needs of our clients.  Cvent is always coming out with new and improved online tools and their most recent release, the SocialWall is something that we at Beatty Group are very excited about.

With the increased use of social media, there is a constant need to try and find a way to incorporate different platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. to help promote events as well as promote networking.  Cvent’s SocialWall is just the solution we were looking for to meet these needs.

The main idea behind the SocialWall was to try and find a way to utilize social media during events in a way that captures what is going on.  SocialWall enables event planners in partnership with the host company, to compile and display the attendee’s social content in real time during the event.  With the SocialWall tool you will be able to project attendee’s Instagram photos, tweets as well as custom posts that will get attendees more engaged in what is going on.

For more information on SocialWall click the link below to check out the demo on the Cvent website:
http://www.cvent.com/en/event-management-software/social-wall-interactive-media-display.shtml

We are excited to start incorporating SocialWall into our meetings and events!

Tree to Tree Adventure Park

Staff member Ben Beatty recently did a site inspection of the Tree to Tree Adventure Park Near Portland. Here is his report:

Tree to Tree

Last week I had the opportunity to go and visit Tree to Tree with my co-worker Donna.  Tree to Tree is a playground in the trees featuring aerial ropes courses, zip lines and tree top obstacles.  It is located just outside the city of Gaston, Oregon near Haag Lake, which is about a 45min drive from downtown Portland.  Upon arriving I was quite amazed at the overall layout and beautiful space that Tree to Tree inhabits.  The lush green forest, the very nicely kept grounds and homey feel were very welcoming to a first timer.  After getting checked in and filling out the safety waiver we were assigned to our guide named Patty.  Patty got us all geared up with our harness and helmets and then took us over to the training course to go over the basics of the park as well as explain how all of our gear works.  Once we finished with the orientation Patty sent us on our way and let us explore the park.

There are five different levels of the aerial obstacle course ranging in different levels of difficulty.  They have you start out on the easiest course and work your way up depending on how comfortable you are with each level.  Each level of the obstacle course has you moving from tree to tree using platforms and obstacles in an aerial playground of wobbly bridges, tight ropes, balance beams, over 20 interspersed zip lines set high in the trees.

The first couple of courses were quite fun and force you to use aspects of your physical fitness that you may not normally think of using.  There is a lot of balance and upper body strength needed in order to get across some of the obstacles, but as I said, the first couple of courses are a good intro to what is yet to come.  After the second course, Donna decided that she would stop, because she knows her physical limits and knew that it would be hard for her to continue on.  I decided to keep on going and see if I could make my way through all five levels.

Tree to Tree
As I mentioned earlier, the difficulty of the course increases as you continue making your way through the different levels.  The other part that I think I should mention is that as you move through the obstacles, you keep going higher and higher in the trees.  By the time you make your way to the black course, you are 55’ up in the trees and the obstacles are much more difficult.  There was one part of the black course called the Voodoo Triangle, which was comprised of three very difficult obstacles including the ninja pegs, the suspended swings and the monkey bars.  This was by far the most difficult part of the course for me, but I was able to complete it, even though I had to backtrack on the swings because my safety cables got caught up in the ropes.  I am pleased to say that I made it through all five obstacles courses and it took me a little over two hours, which is slightly less than the three hours they say it will take.

Ben - Tree to Tree

Overall I was very impressed with my experience at Tree to Tree.  The obstacle course was very fun and I liked how it incorporated different levels of physicality.  I would say that in order to make it through all five levels of the obstacle course you need to be pretty physically fit and have good balance.  What I really thought was great though was that even though Donna decided not to go through the whole course, the staff was very accommodating and suggested other courses with varying levels of difficulty.  I thought that this was a very good way to make sure that people still enjoyed their time without making them feel insufficient in their abilities.  With that being said, I would say that this place is not designed for the elderly crowd, but it can accommodate almost any other age group.

I would highly recommend Tree to Tree for any type of event. Whether you are going alone, looking for a fun adventure for your family or a birthday party, or looking to do a corporate team building event, Tree to Tree is the perfect place for this. They have the experience and the staff to make any event a fun adventure.  Although I did not get to experience it on my visit to the park, they also have a 1200’ long zip line that looked pretty fun.

Next time you are looking for a fun activity to do you should definitely consider visiting Tree to Tree Adventure Park!!

Change in Carry-on Luggage Policies

For those of us who prefer to carry our luggage onto the plane to save time, the rules are changing. So far 3 of the major carriers, Delta, United, and American (along with merger partner US Air), have changed the maximum dimensions allowed for carry-on suitcases. The new rules allow bags that are 22″x14″x10″, and it appears that they are starting to be pretty diligent in enforcing the policy. If your bag doesn’t fit in the little metal bag sizer they may force you to check it. This is not only inconvenient, but could also cost you the checked baggage fees.

In light of this information I pulled out my trusty Travel Pro carry-on that has been with me for over 10 years and probably logged over 500,000 miles. I purposely purchased this bag because it met the airline carry-on requirements at the time. Guess what, it is 23.5″x14.5″x10″. It is now a crap shoot whether or not I will be allowed take this bag on the plane with me. Most likely, I will be purchasing a new bag…

Interestingly, the policies for some of the more passenger friendly airlines, Alaska, Southwest, and Jet Blue, still show that the allowable dimensions are 24″x17″x10″. This makes me think that there is no FAA or TSA inspired reason that the policies on the major carriers has changed. It is purely a revenue generation scheme to force more people to check their bags and pay the associated checked baggage fees.

The policy verbiage on the airline websites does not address the oddball items that people prefer to carry on because they are fragile and/or indispensable for their trip. Things like camera equipment, fishing rod tubes, guitars, etc. technically don’t meet the size restriction, although they have always been allowed on the plane in the past. It remains to be seen how the treatment of these items will unfold.

The bottom line is if you prefer to carry your luggage onto the plane, read the airline fine print. Expect that the new policies will be enforced and pack accordingly.

Alaska West

Alaska West

Whether you are planning a multi-generational adventure, or a buddies trip, Alaska is truly the last frontier. I recently returned from a week at Alaska West, a deluxe tent lodge located on the banks of the Kanektok River. The camp can accommodate up to 24 guests and offers amazing fishing for 5 species of Salmon in addition to Rainbow Trout, Grayling, and Dolly Varden. It is a perfect venue for a small group to enjoy action packed days out on the river fishing, and relaxed camaraderie at night in the camp’s guest lounge.

Alaska West

What makes it perfect for a group is that once you arrive everything is taken care of for you by the camp’s excellent staff. All you have to do is relax and enjoy each other’s company. Guests fish out of 14-16 foot jet boats that can access miles of river upstream and downstream from camp. Guides are very knowledgeable, and the fishing is so good that even a novice can catch fish right away. If you desire the camp will flash freeze your catch and vacuum pack it for you to take home.

Grayling

Meals are served family style or buffet. Breakfast and Dinner are served in the dining tent. Lunches are “make your own” to go and eaten on the river, or the option of a shore lunch – freshly caught fish cooked right on the riverbank by your guide – is available. In addition, the chef always has soup on for guests who wish to return to camp for lunch.

In addition to the fishing, wildlife is often sited along the river. Moose, Bear, Artic Fox, and many birds of prey are common. It is a place where you leave the world behind for a while and enjoy being part of nature. Individuals and groups up to 24 guests will love it.

City Wide Shuttle

Portland was honored this past July to host the CAbi Scoop conference, a city wide event with room blocks at 12 seperate hotels and daily events taking place at the Oregon Convention Center. Beatty Group was engaged by the group to manage a network of shuttle buses to transport the attendees back and forth from the hotels to the convention center during the duration of the 3 day program.

Shuttle Service

A total of 20 buses were engaged over 7 shuttle routes with a goal of wait times no longer than 15 minutes at any one stop. Beatty Group operations were headed up at the convention center with dispatchers at the 7 main downtown pick up points. The system proved to be very convenient for the CAbi attendees, who indeed never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride.

Shuttle Service

The Wonders of Peru

Beatty Group Travel manager Doug Pugsley recently returned from a visit to Peru. Here is his report:

You’ve got the whole world in Peru:  Sea, sky, mountains that simply awe the mind, and jungles thick with unusual life forms.  Then you add the energetic, hospitable people and fantastic food and you know why Peru is a top destination for all kinds of travelers.

Doug Climbing Brazil Nut Tree

I spent 11-days there in May and began my plan to return on the flight home.  Having trekked the Himalayas and Ecuador’s Andes, canoed in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, visited Tikal and Monte Alban, and climbed and kayaked here in Oregon, I was thrilled at how incredibly well Peru’s natural and archeological offerings compared.

Lima is most peoples’ gateway to Peru and was mine.  It is a huge city but like many of the world’s best urban centers, it is made up of many complimentary pieces.  With only a day or two to explore, I stayed in the Miraflores neighborhood but was able to see the historical old-city center which was interesting and beautiful.  Miraflores allowed me to walk along the sea-cliff, watching surfers far below, and enjoying small shops and restaurants.  Peruvian food is justifiably popular right now.  Everywhere I went in Peru, the food was fresh, creative, tasty, and very affordable!  Lima’s Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods however truly stand out as the country’s culinary epicenter.

A beautiful hour-and-a-half flight from Lima brought me to the historical capital of the Inca Empire and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco.  The historical old-town with cobble-stone streets and Spanish Colonial architecture is a walker’s dream – once you’ve adjusted to the 11,200-foot elevation!  That only takes about a day and strolling with lots of stops to look at small shops and beautiful cathedrals helps with acclimatization.  Cusco is, of course, known as the gateway to Machu Picchu but there are many wonderful things to see and do in Cusco and is worth a few days on its own.  The food is fantastic in Cusco too!!

Having said that, The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are spellbinding.  With the Urubamba River running through it and the 20,000ft Andean peaks surrounding it, the Sacred Valley is very scenic and is an adventure traveler’s dream.  Kayaking, mountain-biking, and trekking in the alpine zone (up to 17,000 feet) are popular and readily available activities.  There are many beautiful hotels, lodges, and resorts in the area – large and small – perfect for every traveler.  The train trip from Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes along the rugged Urubamba River is spectacular – in part because of the sheer cliffs running thousands of feet up from the rail-line and river but mostly because we all know we are heading to one of the world’s grand places:  Machu Picchu!  The final 20-minute bus ride from Agua Calientes up and up the mountainside adds a bit to the excitement and urgency.

Machu Picchu

Finally, off the bus, Passport stamped with Machu Picchu, and you are in the ruins, mouth nearly hanging to the ground, trying to take it all in.  I’ve heard the word, sublime, used to describe Machu Picchu and it’s the best I can come up with.  “In Shock” is another description.  Even having seen the photos countless times and reading all about the site and its history, still I was stupefied by the setting – soaring mountains and sheer drops to the river valley below, an endless sky.  I was stupefied by the buildings – architectural use of natural and cut stones, placement of buildings in terms of astronomy/seasons, siting of the structures on the mountainside.  Finally, I was stupefied by the idea of people without machinery or even wheels conceiving of and constructing Machu Picchu.  I had only about 3-hours to spend there when a couple of days would be ideal.  Definitely going back!

My final 4-days in Peru were in the vast Amazon region in an eco-lodge on the Tambopata River.  The super-quick flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado is an incredible geology lesson in itself.  The spine of the continent – snow capped Andean peaks – recedes into the distance as muddy-brown rivers become more visible.  One of those “streams” is the origination of the Amazon River, the Apurimac River.  The stark mountain landscape is quickly replaced with green as far as the eye can see – millions of square miles of jungle.

Doug on Tambopata River

My guide, Erik, met me at the Puerto Maldonado airport along with 4-others in his group.  10-minutes by bus and we were at the quiet and well-ordered office to transfer into a backpack only the items we’d need from our luggage for the steamy jungle.  The main luggage was tagged and safely stored and we bussed another interesting 45-minutes to the road’s end.  We boarded long-boats with benches on each side, powered by an outboard motor, and diligently placed in life-jackets.  The 3-hours up stream to the Refugio Amazonas were definitely part of the journey.  The sights and smells of the tropical river setting were welcome after the highlands of the Andes.  We saw large turtles sunning on logs, a good-sized Black Caiman, several groups of Capybaras on the river banks, and birds, birds, birds.  I particularly liked the river journey.  By the time we reached the lodge, I was well into the experience.  I think going by car would lessen that feeling.

Refugio Amazonas sits in a gorgeous clearing in the heart of the Tambopata River national reserve.  The lodge is simple, yet exceptionally comfortable, and blends into its environment beautifully.  It is raised above the forest floor with raised walks between the compounds.  The rooms are entirely open to the nearby jungle on the back wall and yet are private.  Welcome netting covers the beds so sleep is no problem – particularly because the days can be busy!  On the night of our arrival, we ventured out with headlamps on the river to view Caiman.  The next morning, we were up early for a hearty breakfast (and lots of good coffee) and out on canoes on an ox-bow lake about 30-minutes hike from the lodge.  As the sun rose, we viewed dozens of birds and watched the water for anaconda – which, alas, we didn’t see.  On the return walk, we took the stairs up the 150-foot tower to view the jungle canopy and listen to the bird-songs.  I would repeat this climb at sun-set on my final day, listening to many different bird calls and seeing Vampire bats soar by.

Doug in the Canopy Tower

Over the next couple of days, we explored the jungle trails, learning the flora and fauna by our excellent guide.  I spent an afternoon mountain biking 10-K of awesome trails.  I kayaked on the Tambopata river – truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done – viewing a small caiman, Capybara, and about 100-monkeys moving through the canopy on the other side of the river which we crossed to view up close.  I used a tree-climbing saddle and carabineers to reach 120-ft in a Brazil Nut tree, scanning the canopy and up and down the Tambopata from my vantage point.

Like all the other places in Peru, I could have easily spent more time at the Refugio Amazonas.  But, truth be told, had I more time I would have moved on because there is so much more to do in Peru.  Super famous things like Lake Titicaca on the border with Bolivia and the Nazca Lines south of Lima.  Lesser-known ruins including one of 6 world-wide sites known as cradles of civilization:  the Norte Chico on the Peruvian coast.  There are spectacularly beautiful beaches, surfing, and the deepest canyon in the world — Colca Canyon in the south.  More trekking in Huaraz and the northern Amazon region reached from Iquitos where one can catch Amazon River cruises and see the pink freshwater Dolphins.

That’s why I am already planning a return to Peru.  Then, maybe, my last continent!

The Inca Trail


We recently completed an incentive program to Cusco Peru which everybody loved. It is an amzing destination rich in culture, history, and archeological wonders. Our group of 220 guests stayed at the JW Marriott Cusco and did a day trip to Machu Picchu amoung other fun filled activities. They were also treated to great evening events at some amazing venues.

But this post is about a smaller group of 9 of us that hiked the Inca Trail 28 miles over 34 days and 3 nights. We scaled 3 mountain passes up to an elevation of 14,000 feet along the way, and ended our journey at the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu in time for the sunrise on the 4th day. It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it for any adventurous traveler headed to this area.

We booked our hike through Llama Path, and the “red army” did an excellent job. Our trip was supported by 15 porters, 2 guides and a chef for the 9 of us hiking in the group. Most of us elected to have porters carry some or all of our gear and only hiked with a light day pack. The porters work very hard, and stay ahead of the hikers setting up camp for lunch, then breaking down and setting up again for each overnight location. Llama Path adheres to strick fair treatment practices for its staff, which is one of the reasons we chose them.

The hike itself was hard at times. The elevation and uneven terrain made the use of walking sticks necessary for most of our group. Day 2 was the toughest. A hike of 11 miles over 2 passes, including Dead Woman’s Pass at an elevation of almost 14,000 feet. But upon reaching camp we had a great feeling of accomplishment and relief knowing that Days 3 & 4 would be much easier. The final morning we were on the trail early to hike the remaining 3 miles to the Sun Gate in the dark to reach Machu Picchu before sunrise. Seeing the shadows on the hillside give way to the light, as the Machu Picchu site slowly became illuminated by the sun’s rays, was a fitting finish and a lifetime memory