Ideas for Planning a Customer Appreciation Event

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Ideas for Planning a Customer Appreciation Event

Destination Colorado’s annual fall event on Sept. 29 – 30 serves as a great example.  

By Beth Buehler

Destination Colorado knows how to shake up its Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) each year to make sure it is as a great opportunity for members to treat clients with an experiential and meaningful gathering and to network with industry professionals. It’s also been a showcase of how to thoughtfully and successfully plan an event during the era of COVID-19.

Destination Colorado's 2021 Customer Appreciation Event in Black Hawk is timed perfectly for fall foliage splendor.

2021 Gathering in Black Hawk, Colorado

Monarch Casino Resort Spa in the mountain town of Black Hawk, Colorado, is the location of this year’s event on Sept. 29 – 30, 2021. Two days spent in the historic mining town and neighboring Central City are sure to be both relaxing and productive. Last fall, the CAE was held in Aspen at Aspen Meadows Resort with an outdoor welcome reception at Hotel Jerome and a whole host of activities that were made almost surreal by the colorful autumn foliage. Both the Black Hawk and Aspen events have been filled with ideas for planning a customer appreciation event and making sure everyone stays healthy.

“In planning the event, we are following county and CDC guidance on COVID protocols just like last year, making the safety of our guests and event staff a priority. We are hosting many events outside in the beautiful September weather,” says Destination Colorado Executive Director Kelly Layton. “We enjoy changing up the destination and agenda every year to spotlight Colorado and keep it interesting.”

Attendees also will have the opportunity to explore a new Colorado lodging property.  Monarch Casino Resort Spa was unveiled in stages starting in November 2020 and is equipped with more than 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, 516 guest rooms and suites, four restaurants, and a casino that has been expanded to 60,000 square feet. A rooftop pool and world-class spa, Spa Monarch, also are top on the amenity list.

The first day of the 2021 CAE features a welcome reception and optional tours and/or activities after hotel check-ins. Day two starts with a group breakfast, followed by a choice of several activities and farewell lunch. Activity options include a yoga class on the resort’s rooftop deck and a day pass for Spa Monarch; fly fishing with guides on rivers near Evergreen; hiking and rappelling; historic Central City tour; Hidee Gold Mine Tour and gold panning; and gaming demonstrations at Monarch Casino.

Monarch Casino Resort Spa features one of Colorado's newest meetings and events hotels.

Changing it Up

Destination Colorado’s customer appreciation event used to be a golf outing that moved around to beautiful golf courses around the state. The organization began introducing alternative activities for non-golfers in tandem with hitting the links in 2013 and 2014 and then took a big leap, offering a national park photo safari for everyone in Estes Park for 2015 and “Get Your Cowboy On” in Grand County for 2016. Since then, the CAE has been a case study of ideas for planning a customer appreciation event. Here’s some quick tips from lessons learned.

  1. Don’t be afraid to modify a customer appreciation event that has been the same for years. For associations, ask members and your board of directors for their input, and keep your eye out for locations, venues and activities that fit your crew and vision for something new.
  2. Look for partners and sponsors that can help implement your plan with style. Destination Colorado works closely with the host venues and local destination marketing organizations to create an agenda people will remember. No need to be boring!
  3. Showcase the destination. If you pick places people want to spend time (hint: fall in the mountains of Colorado are spectacular), they will want to attend. Plan receptions featuring regional foods and beverages, activities that showcase local landscapes and attractions, and move between various venues.
  4. Make it easy to attend and sponsor. Line up room blocks, publicize the event well in advance, set a fee that works for attendees and bundles most costs, and provide transportation to any happenings off-site or make sure they are easily walkable. Allow exposure for your sponsors and publicly recognize their contributions in making the event happen.
Opened in 1878, the Central City Opera House will be on the town tour offered during Destination Colorado's Customer Appreciation Event.

These are just a few ideas for planning a customer appreciation event that I’ve learned from Destination Colorado’s annual gathering but you get the idea!

Photos: Provide by Monarch Casino Resort Spa. Top photo shows the resorts rooftop patio.

Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.