Lifting the Mood: Outdoor Destinations Attract Pandemic-weary Groups

Blog > Destinations

Lifting the Mood: Outdoor Destinations Attract Pandemic-weary Groups

By Blair Potter | Aug 18, 2020

Whether you’re getting exercise, socializing or relieving stress—or all three simultaneously—the benefits of spending more time outdoors are obvious. In 2020, we learned about another great reason to spend time outdoors: In most cases, you’re much less likely to contract the coronavirus when not confined to four walls.

Smart destinations that have plenty of outdoor enjoyment to offer groups are now actively promoting these attributes in an effort to attract more business as live events begin again under the cloud of COVID-19 and keeping visitors safe.

The Beach

“Spending time outdoors is a huge benefit to your well-being, which results in productivity,” says John Ehlenfeldt (MPI Southern California Chapter), executive vice president of Visit Huntington Beach (Calif.) - Surf City USA. “Studies have shown that time outside and in nature is a primary benefit for physical health and cognitive function. It creates positive impacts on mental health and is an antidote for stress. Natural environments reduce feelings of isolation, promote calmness and lift moods.”

“Time outside and in nature is a primary benefit for physical health and cognitive function.”

Huntington Beach, which promotes the message “Room to Adventure, Room to Relax, Room to Breathe,” stands out for groups wanting to experience the outdoors because the destination offers 10 miles of wide, uninterrupted coastline, he says.

“Because of its unique location along Pacific Coast Highway, there’s plenty of open space for those that are looking to relax and rejuvenate while attending an oceanfront conference,” Ehlenfeldt says. “The HB Collection offers four premier resorts in the heart of downtown that are comprised of 1,400 guest rooms, 185,000 square feet of meeting space, spa and wellness amenities and a host of beachfront venues and natural light-filled event spaces.”

Popular activities on Huntington Harbour include kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and private boat rentals.

The Mountains

Virginia’s Blue Ridge offers a plethora of outdoor activities for groups, from multi-day paddling trips to experiencing local craft beverages along the Cheers Trail to an aerial treetop-and-ropes course at Explore Park (which also includes Illuminights, a winter walk with more than 500,000 lights).

“We’re located in the heart of the mountains, offering an exciting blend of stunning natural beauty with a variety of urban and outdoor adventures,” says Caitlin Schmelz, sales and sports development manager for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “With over 650,000 square feet of meeting space, you are never far from a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With 600+ miles of hiking, biking and paddling trails, we’re a naturally socially distant destination year-round.”

She says rooftop gardens, lakefront patios, museums, mountaintop vineyards and rustic lodges are among the spaces available for meetings or special events.

Natural Wonders

Southern Nevada is the gateway to the Southwest and its geographical location provides easy access to nearby natural wonders, says John S. Schreiber, CEM, vice president of business sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“Nature tourism and adventure and outdoor venues and settings have always been a great option for groups in Las Vegas and the surrounding area,” he says. “From Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to Valley of Fire to Zion National Park, what sets Southern Nevada apart is its wide range of experiences, all in close proximity. You could be snowshoeing at Mount Charleston and later relax at Lake Mead National Recreation Area or poolside at a world-class resort on the Las Vegas Strip, all in the same day.”

Popular outdoor options for groups include an exhibit of historic Las Vegas signs at the Neon Museum; botanical gardens, a butterfly habitat, galleries and outdoor event space at Springs Preserve; viewing the desert sky at sunset using pedal-powered bikes on the railroad; and a floating, inflatable obstacle course for team-building at Lake Las Vegas Water Sports Aqua Park.


Of course, keeping attendees safe in any environment is top-of-mind for everyone right now, and considerations must be made for those perhaps spending more time outside than normal. These experts recommend plenty of refreshments and cold water, access to facilities, shaded seating (umbrellas/tents), misting machines and fans or heaters.

Adequately protecting attendees from the elements has always been essential, but with the coronavirus, you must also, essentially, protect attendees from one another.

The Clean & Safe Pledge, a partnership between Visit Huntington Beach, the city and local organizations, is intended to demonstrate a commitment to the health and wellbeing of visitors, residents and employees, and is similar to the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge.

“The pledge follows recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and public health officials, and helps us create an environment of safety while we enjoy the businesses and experiences that make this a special place,” says Schmelz, who notes that “outdoor attractions and venues are simply easier during the pandemic since they easily lend themselves to social distancing.”

“We are able to identify six-foot-distancing blocked areas as well as timed activities to allow for additional group spacing,” she says. “Some are booking in time increments; not offering shuttles; booking reservations at lower capacity/encouraging reservations ahead of time; and incorporating much more space between meeting sets, tables and activities.”

Photo: The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel. Courtesy Visit Huntington Beach.



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).