Small-town value and charm, big-time fun
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 conducted by Destination Hotels & Resorts. Close behind is the desire for high-quality local cuisine. With its proximity to Los Angeles, affordable rates, and farm-fresh restaurant offerings, Ventura County West meets all three criteria.
Just over an hour from Los Angeles, Ventura County West (Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura) takes attendees away from the hustle and bustle of city life without the long travel times. “Once you arrive in Camarillo, you are immediately greeted by acres of farmland and majestic mountain views. You instantly begin to relax,” says Josephine Williams, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo. “VenturaCountyWest is an untapped resource. It has beaches, shopping, wine tasting, everything new and cool, 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 places. Camarillo Ranch House, once owned by one of the city’s founding fathers, can accommodate up to 600 guests for lunch or dinner on its manicured front lawn and gardens, and 250 guests in its 5,200-square-foot “Big Red Barn.” . The Air Force Commemorative Museum at the Camarillo Airport regularly hosts formal dinners for up to 250 guests in hangars of World War II fighter planes and memorabilia. Cal State University, Channel Islands also offers public and private meeting facilities.
Just up the 101 are the towns of Oxnard and Ventura, offering waterfront and mountain-view properties for gatherings small and large. “Lodging facilities and room rates are extremely competitive with any property north or south of us,” says David Dreher, general manager of Residence Inn by Marriott in River Ridge. “Meeting planners may be surprised to find that Ventura County West has more than 5,100 guest rooms and 200,000 square feet of conference and meeting room space.”
locally sourced cuisine
Taking advantage of its proximity to agriculture and the sea, the destination’s restaurant chefs can choose from fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood. Nikki Newman, the new head chef of the Coastal Grill at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard, is a newcomer from Colorado. “I am amazed at the amount 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 kinds of vegetables. As the seasons change, I am excited to be able to incorporate the freshest local ingredients on the menu.”
Another must-have for meeting planners based on the trend forecast is the ability to engage in active, adventurous, and wellness-focused team building activities.
“Since our all-suite 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’s 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 less time to complete, participants get more exercise than golf, and you don’t need experience to play.” .
Other popular team-building activities include beach volleyball, beachfront bike rides, hiking, kayaking, surfing lessons, whale watching, go-cart racing and trips to the channel islands. “There are also spa activities and tennis, and one of the latest trends, GPS-assisted 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 host 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 helpful staff at all of our hotels that make Their goal is to provide the best service possible.