The right location and reasonable room rates are once again the two most important factors when selecting a property for an event, according to the latest survey of meeting planners by Destination Hotels & Resorts. Coming in close behind is the desire for high quality, locally-sourced cuisine. With its proximity to Los Angeles, affordable rates and restaurant offerings with farm-fresh ingredients, VenturaCountyWest meets all three criteria.
Just a little over an hour from Los Angeles, VenturaCountyWest (Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura) takes event attendees away from the hustle and bustle of city life without the long travel times. “Once you reach Camarillo, you are immediately greeted with acres of farmland and majestic mountain views. You find yourself instantly starting to unwind,” says Josephine Williams, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo. “VenturaCountyWest is an untapped resource. It’s got beaches, shopping, wine tasting, everything new and sexy-and you don’t have to travel far to get here.”
Camarillo, the smallest of the three cities, offers a surprisingly diverse array of meeting venues. The Camarillo Ranch House, once owned by one of the city’s founding fathers, can accommodate up to 600 lunch or dinner guests at its manicured front lawn and garden sites, and 250 guests in its 5,200 square foot “Big Red Barn. The Commemorative Air Force Museum at the Camarillo Airport regularly holds sit-down dinners for up to 250 guests in hangars among World War II fighter planes and memorabilia. The Cal State University, Channel Islands also offers facilities for public and private meetings.
A little farther up the 101 are the towns of Oxnard and Ventura, which offer beachfront and mountain-view properties for small to large gatherings. “Lodging facilities and room rates are extremely competitive with any properties north or south of us,” says David Dreher, general manager of Residence Inn by Marriott at River Ridge. “Meeting planners may be surprised to realize that VenturaCountyWest has over 5,100 guest rooms and 200,000 square feet of conference space and meeting rooms.”
Locally Sourced Cuisine
Taking advantage of their proximity to agriculture and the ocean, restaurant chefs in the destination can take their pick of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood. Nikki Newman, new head chef at the Coastal Grill in the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard, is a recent transplant from Colorado. “I’m amazed at the quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables available year-round in VenturaCountyWest. Colorado has a three-month vegetable season,” says Newman. “Here, we have berries, tomatoes, citrus, and all types of greens. As the seasons change, I’m excited to be able to incorporate the freshest local ingredients into the menu.”
Another highly ranked must-have for meeting planners according to the trend forecast is the ability to hold active, adventure and wellness-focused team building activities.
“Since our all-suites hotel is adjacent to the River Ridge Golf Club, we attract a lot of regional sales and management groups. Golf is often part of the group activities,” says Dreher. “But a new game, called FootGolf is gaining traction as a great team building activity. It’s the fastest growing sport in north America and involves kicking a soccer ball into a hole on a specially designed golf course. River Ridge was the first to create a FootGolf course in southern California. It’s much less expensive to play than golf, takes a shorter amount of time to complete, participants get more exercise than golf, plus, you don’t need experience to play.”
Other popular team building activities team building activities include beach volleyball, beachfront bike riding, hiking, kayaking, surfing lessons, whale watching, go-cart racing and excursions to the Channel Islands. “There are also spa and tennis activities, and one of hottest trends, GPS-aided scavenger hunts,” says Rebekah Evans, executive director of the Ventura County Lodging Association, which markets VenturaCountyWest. “Each city has its own unique and enjoyable qualities. You can hold an event one year in Camarillo and have a completely different experience the next year in Ventura or Oxnard. What is the same is the friendly and accommodating staff at all of our hotels who make it their goal to provide the best service possible.”