Groups Today Jan/Feb 2023

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All rights reserved. Groups Today content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of the publisher. 1 THEME DESTINATION PLANNER PROFILE Alex Berardi page 4 5 MINUTES WITH... Rainer Jenss page 28 HIGH STAKES, LOW STRESS: CASINOS THAT HAVE IT ALL page 8 WHAT'S NEW (AND RENEWED) IN NEW YORK CITY page 20 ISSUES 4 Tips for Lowering Costs page 6 EDUCATION The Dos and Don'ts of Being an Effective Manager page 26 IN EVERY ISSUE Editor's Letter 2 | Online 3 | Spotlight 16 | Ad Index 27 IN THIS ISSUE
© 2023 Serendipity Media LLC JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023 Volume 21, Issue 1 COVER © SUMMIT ONE VANDERBILT


A new year is upon us and with it comes a renewed sense of opportunity, optimism and countless occasions to think about the future from a new perspective. Speaking of what’s renewed … in this issue, we delve into what’s “new and renewed” in bustling New York City (page 20). From vibrant views to fresh dining options, we cover it all in The Big Apple.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing experience, flip to page 8 to learn which casino resorts not only offer top-notch gaming, but also the amenities to match. Pools, cabanas, spas, delicious restaurants, luxurious suites, live shows and more? Sign us up.

We also touch base with Rainer Jenss, Founder of the Family Travel Association, to learn more about the recent creation of their Family-Friendly Certification Program (page 28), in addition to sitting down with Alex Berardi, President of, to hear about his journey within the group travel industry.

And of course, we understand that just because it’s a new year, it doesn’t mean we’re stepping into a new world free from obstacles of any kind. That’s why on page 6, we examine some tips for helping to lower costs. We also offer some insight into effective leadership and the things good managers do (and don’t) do (page 26).

We’re thrilled to begin another year with you, sharing the insight you’re looking for and bringing the voices of the industry straight to your mailbox. We hope as you turn through the pages of Groups Today, you find resources and information that can help make 2023 the best year yet. We’ll see you out there!

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2 GROUPS TODAY January/February 2023
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AAs President of, Alex Berardi is continuing a family legacy that stretches back generations.

“My great grandfather founded one of the first Trailways bus carriers in New York State and operated what was then New York City’s Dixie Bus Station before the advent of the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” Berardi said. “Ever since I was a child, I have been surrounded by transportation, and despite a stint in fashion, fate had its way!”

Having now worked in the travel industry full time for just over 10 years, Berardi jumped head first into his current role in June 2019. His industry involvement also includes being a commissioner for the New York State Bridge Authority, in addition to holding membership with the American Bus Association, of which his father, Eugene Berardi, serves as Chairman.

Berardi says one of Trailways’ strengths is their wide range of shareholders that cater to an even wider array of customers.

“Over our nearly 100-year history, Trailways has offered everything from weeklong sightseeing tours in Alaska to overnight trips to Long Island for ‘Yoga in a Vineyard,’” he said. “I love that we can work with such a wide array of destinations around North America to bring these incredible experiences to life.”

In addition to offering these enjoyable adventures to travelers, Berardi notes additional highlights he’s experienced within the business.

“Certainly, the most exciting thing I’ve experienced was the day we went ‘paperless’ on the consumer side,” Berardi said. “It was the result of many years of work— because our accounting was linked to that physical paper—and it culminated in a quiet, seamless launch of mobile boarding during the pandemic. At the time I was sad that more commotion wasn’t made, but I guess in some ways that means we were very successful.”

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The great digital migration is the single biggest change Berardi says he’s witnessed during his time in the industry.

“The pandemic didn’t cause it, but it certainly helped speed it up,” he explained. “So many products and services moved online. In some lines of business—if you have an underperforming digital experience—it doesn’t matter how great your hard product is anymore … You’ll be lights out in no time.”

There are several valuable lessons Berardi has gleaned over the years:

“Your team is far more important than any single player, genuine kindness and compassion can make a big difference to your coworkers, and the best products are ones made collaboratively across all divisions, ages, genders and backgrounds,” he said, recommending newcomers look to the many longtime industry leaders for guidance and inspiration.

“The travel industry is filled with veterans who know their space. If you want to make an impact, figure out what it is they are doing right and what new thing you can


bring to make it even more compelling. Be complimentary and not abrasive. Figure out what it is you want to bring to the world each day and commit to doing it.”

When he’s not working, Berardi likes to spend his weekends exploring the great outdoors and will never say “no” to a hike.

“I’m a city guy now, but a small-town boy at heart.” 5

4 Tips for Lowering Costs

IIncluded in the many things that have changed drastically over the last few years are the rising costs of almost anything you can think of. Inflation and a higher cost of goods and services—combined with the battle to attract and retain top talent—have left businesses everywhere feeling the strain.

According to the CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Index (Q3 2022), 28% of small business owners expect their revenue to decrease over the next 12 months (up from 21% in Q2), and only 33% say current conditions for their business are good (down from 36% in Q2). The index also found that 45% say

their business is currently experiencing a rising cost in wages, while 76% report rising costs of supplies.

Throughout the travel industry specifically, execs and professionals on all levels have done their best to figure out how to continue to offer top notch experiences to travelers while also staying afloat and protecting their bottom line.

While there’s unfortunately no magic wand or formula to solve all these issues, there are some strategies you could enact to help mitigate any negative effects while travel continues to recover.


Think outside of the box and reframe your approach to conversations with suppliers and vendors. If you previously had a great relationship with a particular hotel but your contacts have since moved on, ask your new contact, “How can I be the best customer for you ?” While it’s not ideal to have to start from the ground up again in building these relationships, demonstrate that you’re willing to work together to figure out how to move forward instead of expecting things to operate exactly as they once did.


Do some research on some lesser-known destinations that are able to offer the same or similar experiences to some popular destinations groups are used to. Not only could this ultimately save you and your groups money, it could also become a new

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favorite trip for many. If you want to stick with your go-to popular choices, examine what visiting in the off season would look like. Not only will you enjoy smaller crowds, but you’ll also more than likely enjoy saving some funds along the way.


If you’ve already made cuts in seemingly every possible way and still find yourself feeling stretched too thin, take a hard look at what it is your clients value about your offerings. Is it being picked up for the airport at home? A special add-on at a popular attraction? Meals from exclusively local establishments? Good clients recognize that quality isn’t free, especially if you offer a speciality service not easily found elsewhere. Examine what makes you stand out from the crowd and consider putting anything that doesn’t help accomplish this on the back burner. Even if it perhaps ultimately passes some additional costs along to travelers, the right clients will recognize the value you’re providing.


If necessary, assistance in most cases is available. You simply have to know where to look. Work with an accountant or financial planner to figure out where you may be able to make some strategic adjustments. They’re likely aware of additional ways you could be saving funds that you may not have heard of just yet. In addition, explore available grants and loans available through the U.S. Small Business Administration, as well as potential state-specific COVID-19 relief funds. You may also consider utilizing the U.S. Travel Association’s Federal Assistance Guide (available to U.S. Travel members) to explore your options in depth. 7




Today, casinos are bustling with groups who are seeking the ultimate getaway. From the thrill of taking to expanded gaming floors and hitting it big to unwinding poolside and finding relaxation through restorative spa treatments, casinos have more to offer than ever before.

Follow along as we explore some top choices for those groups who are looking for that all-encompassing (and undeniably unforgettable) casino resort experience. 9
Photos © Pechanga Casino Resort, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Beau Rivage Resort & Casino

Found in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan is Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Hotel , home to the state’s largest gaming floor. Here groups could easily find excitement around every corner, whether they love playing for triple sevens on one of many slot machines, are pros at pulling up a chair and putting on a strong poker face, or are known for their bingo hall hot streaks.

Visiting groups will feel welcomed from the moment they arrive, thanks to newly renovated lavish guest rooms and suites, a full-service spa & salon, both casual comfort food and fine dining options and much more. There’s also a family-friendly Cyber Quest arcade, so all members of your group could join in the fun.

Those looking for entertainment could enjoy a rocking indoor performance at the property’s 37,000 square foot entertainment hall or even an outdoor performance under the stars during Soaring Eagle’s annual Outdoor Summer Concert Series. Groups could also enjoy a delicious cut of USDA Prime beef served up on a sizzling 500-degree plate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, coming to Soaring Eagle in spring 2023.

Head further north to Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula to visit the festive atmosphere of Island Resort & Casino , located 13 miles west of Escanaba. Thanks to a recent $33 million expansion, visiting groups could enjoy elegant guest rooms and spacious suites, a 12th floor restaurant, the Splash Island Pool (complete with a lazy river and an adults-only saltwater pool) and plenty

more. The property’s expansive Vegas-style casino is host to over 1,200 slots, a poker room, various table games and can’t-miss sports betting action with the Island Sportsbook. Don’t forget to visit the Bingo Hall, with offerings that include Cosmo Bingo played under black lights with fluorescent cards and daubers!

If your groups are eager to hit the green, they can have their pick of two championship golf courses, while those seeking an escape can “drift away” in the Drift Spa, home to deep relaxation float therapy, a sauna and steam rooms—just to name a few. World-class entertainment and headliners are easily found in the Island Showroom and Club 41, not to mention bountiful dining options throughout the property, no matter if your groups are craving a delicious dinner at Horizons Steakhouse or want to catch the big game at T. McC’s Sports Bar. Thirsty? There’s even complimentary soda available throughout the property.

The largest resort casino in North America, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut—owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation— offers groups plenty of ways to get in on the action. In addition to 3,400 gaming machines, 249 tables and a new High Stakes Bingo Hall, groups could take flight above the treetops on the HighFlyer Zipline, enjoy some stress relief with a “smash session” at Smash Avenue, relax

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Photo © Island Resort & Casino
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Photo © Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Hotel

poolside in a private cabana, and do some shopping at Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods—just to name a few.

Come summer 2023, groups could also enjoy the arrival of Wahlburgers, a fast-casual restaurant and bar chain founded by brothers Mark, Donnie and Chef Paul Wahlberg. The eatery will offer groups visiting Foxwoods an exclusive experience in a fun, casual, music-filled environment.

Situated in Hot Springs, Arkansas is Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort , a storied destination with over 100 years of premier Thoroughbred racing history. 2021 saw the completion of Oaklawn’s $100 million expansion, bringing luxury to the forefront with amenities like a new eight-story hotel, an outdoor pool with full service cabanas, 10 different dining options (not including room service) and the relaxing Astral Spa.

Those looking to place their bets are undoubtedly in the right place. In addition to placing a wager on one of Oaklawn’s many horse races—including the Arkansas Derby—at their sportsbook area, the property’s expanded, state-of-the art casino offers groups a chance to enjoy live craps and blackjack, in addition to popular slot games and more. Don’t forget the live music!

Head to Biloxi, Mississippi, where groups will find Beau Rivage Resort & Casino , an MGM Resorts International property and the tallest building in the state. Fun and festivities await in the property’s 10 restaurants, five lounges and bars, 10 retail venues, spa and salon, pool, championship golf course and 1,550-seat theater.

The resort’s 85,000-square-foot casino has plenty to offer groups in terms of gaming, whether they want to pull up a chair in one of two luxurious high-roller salons or choose from 50 player-favorite, Buffalo-themed games in the Buffalo Zone. And at the end of a thrilling day, groups could kick back and relax in one of the resort’s 1,645 guest rooms—all of which are newly remodeled and feature stunning views of the Mississippi Gulf Coast or historic Biloxi and Back Bay.

Located in Temecula, California mere minutes from Southern California wine country, Pechanga Resort Casino —owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians—is a dream for casino lovers. Pechanga boasts a casino floor of over 200,000 square feet, an opulently outfitted high limit gaming area, a links-style golf course designed by Arthur Hill and Steve Forrest, a 4.5-acre pool complex featuring a swim-up bar and more.

Luxury and comfort come alive, as groups indulge in several of the pampering services offered at Spa Pechanga, many of which feature the use of native botanicals such as lavender, sage and chia. They could also sink their teeth into something delicious at one of the property’s many dining options—including the award-winning Great Oak Steakhouse—before taking in a performance or live sporting event.

Call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1.800.522.4700 or visit for 100% confidential help, 24/7/365.

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Photo © Beau Rivage Resort & Casino



Each summer, 130 miles of shoreline lure lovers of sand and surf to New Jersey. Of course, this coastal state nestled between New York City and Philadelphia also delivers surprises year-round. While there are countless reasons to visit New Jersey, here are the top ten right now:


In any season, the action is sizzling in this neon-lit city by the sea. Dine in celebrity chef restaurants, catch headlining entertainment and try your luck in thrilling casinos.


More than 50 wineries growing over 90 types of grapes add up to one refreshing experience. No tour of the Garden State is complete without sipping and savoring your favorite varietals.


This urban green space stands under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty. Must-sees include the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial and 36-acre Richard J. Sullivan Natural Area.


At this wooded preserve, groups will find themselves surrounded by four different packs as the resident wolves play with each other. This is an immersive wildlife experience you’ll never forget.


Historic architecture and modern amenities live in harmony in America’s First Seaside Resort. This charming town is the ideal destination for wining, dining and sightseeing. Top tip: Christmas in Cape May is not to be missed!


Best known for its leafy Princeton University campus and upscale shopping, this Ivy League borough also boasts its fair share of Revolutionary War landmarks.

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At this mega entertainment complex, groups could visit a waterpark, theme park, ski slope, and ice-skating rink all in the same day, any time of year. Not to mention indulging in world-class dining and shopping (with taxfree purchases on clothes and shoes)!



This outdoor sculpture garden enchants visitors daily, and timing is everything: Through April 2, 2023, groups could explore the park after hours with Night Forms: Infinite Wave , a limited-engagement multi-sensory light and sound experience.


Go under the sea (without getting wet!) at this home to over 15,000 of the world’s most diverse aquatic animals, where groups are invited to get hands-on with some of the aquarium’s friendly residents.

Guests of this mountain resort enjoy four seasons of fun and adventure, including hiking, horseback riding, golf, axe throwing, archery, goat yoga and more. Start planning at


and personal reflections. Combining cuttingedge technology and special effects with the real words and stories of everyday people, the show places viewers in the center of the war’s most epic and personal moments, immersing them in the experiences of the men and women who served our country in every way imaginable during World War II.

The newest permanent attraction at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans has officially been unveiled—and it’s time for groups to see what it’s all about! Expressions of America , a first-of-its-kind nighttime sound and light show, celebrates the power of individual Americans to impact the world around them during a time of monumental conflict.

Generously presented by Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, Expressions of America brings history to life like never before with music, archival footage

“Expressions of America has been more than five years in the making, and we are thrilled to finally be able to share this groundbreaking project with Museum visitors,” said Stephen J. Watson, Museum President & CEO. “This innovative experience provides an exciting and relevant way for the Museum to connect with audiences of all ages and advance our educational mission. As audiences experience the war through the thoughts and feelings of those who experienced it firsthand, they will better understand the WWII generation’s emotional journey to defeat tyranny and 17
Photo © The National WWII Museum

defend freedom throughout the world.”

Centered under the Bollinger Canopy of Peace—a soaring centerpiece spanning the campus—Expressions of America uses projection mapping technology, which transforms architectural objects through movement and light, to project living murals up to 90 feet tall on the facades of the Museum’s buildings surrounding the Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground.

Featuring an original musical score performed by New Orleans musicians, including members of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Expressions of America sends a powerful message about the tremendous impact that individual people—such as US Army nurse Major Birdie Daigle, Staff Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient Edward A. Carter Jr.,

renowned entertainer Bob Hope, and others—can have in times of great conflict.

“I think my father would have been very honored to know that an esteemed institution like The National WWII Museum is helping to preserve his legacy for future generations through Expressions of America,” said Linda Hope, Bob Hope’s daughter and Chair/CEO of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation. “Nothing brought him more joy than to hear the

laughter of the troops he entertained around the globe. In a time of global darkness, he understood the importance of bringing a piece of home to the frontlines. I’m touched to know that his story and service will live on through this show.”

Using source material from the Museum’s collection—letters written during the war and oral histories—the show helps viewers understand how soldiers, nurses, chaplains, factory

18 GROUPS TODAY January/February 2023 SPOTLIGHT
Photo © The National WWII Museum

workers, entertainers and supportive loved ones on the Home Front banded together. They each created their own meaningful acts of sacrifice, ingenuity, bravery and love to preserve freedom.

Expressions of America was developed in partnership with Mousetrappe, an internationally acclaimed leader in designing and producing media-based shows and experiences for museums, theme parks, expos and cultural attractions. Mousetrappe collaborated with Solomon Group—an award-winning entertainment design and production firm—on the technical design. Expressions of America utilizes best-in-class projection technology by Panasonic to share the Museum’s mission with a wider audience in a larger-than-life environment.

“When we began imagining Expressions of America with the Museum, the concept of an outdoor immersive experience was quite revolutionary,” said Daren Ulmer, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Mousetrappe. “The Museum’s vision and innovative approach to storytelling allowed us to go beyond current trends in immersive experiences to create a unique evening experience that pushes technology, scale and traditional historical presentation techniques to a whole new level.”

Expressions of America will run three to four times per week, with show times and dates varying seasonally. Tickets are available a la carte, with a three-course dinner or as part of a Museum admission package.

Visit for more information. 19



CCall it a revival. Call it a comeback. Whatever you call it, The Big Apple is open for business—big time. As one of the top tourist destinations in the world, with millions of visitors arriving by plane, train, subway and taxi, NYC has become a touchstone for pandemic recovery. And, true to its spirit, the city has returned to near normal operations with a roar. In addition to celebrated standbys, a number of new attractions have arrived on the scene to welcome and wow travelers. Even the major gateways to NYC have experienced a transformation, with LaGuardia, Newark, and JFK airports sporting brand-new terminals.

Here’s a snapshot of new and renewed museums, restaurants, performance venues and attractions located throughout the five boroughs to help you plan your next group travel adventure.


NYC continues to flex its cultural clout with a robust offering of some of the biggest draws across the globe. Boasting “The world’s greatest singers on the world’s greatest stage,” The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center hosts its spring season, running from February 26 – June 10, 2023. On the calendar are a number of classic productions that appeal to a broad audience, including Verdi’s Aida and Puccini’s La Bohème . Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Blanchard’s Champion are also crowd favorites. Groups of 10 or more save up to 20% off regular ticket prices.

Also at Lincoln Center is the David H. Koch Theater, where the New York City Ballet brings together some of the most distinguished dancers, choreographers, musicians and artists. After necessary delays, they’re presenting their winter and spring 2023 repertory performances January 17 – February 26 and April 18 – 21
© Empire State Building Observatory

May 28, respectively. There’s a discount of up to 30% off for repertory performances for groups of 10 or more.

And, of course, there’s Broadway’s much anticipated return. Theaters in Times Square and across town will raise their curtains and set their stages for a wide range of shows. These include Broadway Inbound’s recommended shows for groups: Kimberly Akimbo , A Beautiful Noise and Almost Famous , as well as other noteworthy titles such as Aladdin , Back to the Future the Musical , and Funny Girl —to name a handful. Special group rates for as few as eight people can apply, depending on the show. Trip planners are encouraged to look into GroupTools for Broadway Inbound to facilitate the planning and booking of their events.

Additional new, evolved and/or expanded cultural institutions that groups will enjoy include The Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Broadway and The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens.


There’s an abundance of interesting things to do and see around every corner in “The City That Never Sleeps”—but you don’t have to stay up all night to take in the highlights.

The iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center has reopened for its 86th season, offering ice-skating through March 2023. Twirl, glide or triple-axel if you have the skills at this world-famous attraction. If you’re visiting in winter, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to revel in this legendary landmark that brings in more than a quarter of a million skaters a year!

Another must-see is the towering Empire State Building—not that it can be overlooked! And, while viewing it from the ground is a sight, gazing at the city from the 102nd floor is a spectacle all its own. The recently restored Empire State Building Observatory Experience —now with a dedicated guest entrance, immersive museum, and completely reimagined Observatory—offers a breathtaking, 360-degree panorama. The Observatory regularly tops “best in travel” lists and appeals to a wide demographic, across all age groups. Pre-reserving timed tickets is encouraged to avoid wait lines, and addons such as The Premium Experience, All Access Tour, Happily Ever Empire, or The Sunrise Experience create a

Almost Famous. Photo by Matthew Murphy Swan Lake. Photo by Walker Phelan, New York City Ballet
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The Rink at Rockefeller Center . Photo by Tishman Speyer

truly special and memorable visit.

There are new shopping options of note, as well. Explore the magic of the first official Harry Potter New York Flagship Store , go back in time at the digital and physical space Club Vintage , or put a ring on it at the new Tiffany & Co. flagship store in Midtown.

The Museum of the Moving Image has a number of ongoing exhibits that will delight everyone in the group, too, including The Jim Henson Exhibition and Behind the Screen , which walks visitors through the processes of producing, presenting, and promoting TV shows, movies and digital entertainment.


From classic fare and global tastes to palate-tickling fusion, there’s never a shortage of inspired eats in NYC.

On the short list are some new spots, including Laser Wolf , an Israeli skewer shop on The Hoxton’s rooftop, Rockefeller Center’s Le Rock , with its French-leaning menu, and Lambs Club at The Chatwal, which serves traditional American dishes.

In the warmer months, open-air food markets will return, and groups could get their fill at Bronx Night Market , Queens Night Market and Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, all of which feature a variety of cuisines from local restaurants.

Groups can also venture into the different cultural pockets within the five boroughs, and sample some authentic, worldly bites from neighborhoods such as Little Caribbean , Washington Heights , Little Sri Lanka , Arthur Avenue and Chinatown . Another unique option is the 7 Train Food Crawl, which runs from 34 St./Hudson Yards, Manhattan to Flushing, Queens with 22 stations in between. Step off at designated stops to try food from Turkish, Salvadoran, Thai, Ecuadoran and Korean Restaurants—and more.

If you have a larger group and are looking for some friendly options, then Sardi’s, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Junior’s, and John’s of Times Square are among those

known for their group accommodations. These are only a few ideas for new and existing places to go, sights to see, performances to enjoy and spaces to dine. If you’re looking for more ideas, planning resources or help with your itinerary, visit NYC & Company at You can also sign up to receive their latest updates, including important information regarding any COVID changes and restrictions. The NYC & Company newsletter is also a great way to stay in the know about special deals and their partners.

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5th Avenue Lobby Photo © Empire State Building Observatory Times Square Photo © NYC & Company / by Walter Wlodarczyk Arthur Avenue Photo © NYC & Company / by Molly Flores


Anchoring the modernization of Manhattan, SUMMIT is New York City’s newest and most immersive observatory and art experience. Located atop One Vanderbilt, the tallest building in Midtown Manhattan, SUMMIT boasts 65,000 square feet of entertainment space located more than 1,100 feet in the sky.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a masterful blend of art, technology, architecture and thrills. The interior was designed by renowned Swiss architecture firm Snøhetta, and the experience was conceived by Kenzo Digital, an artist at the forefront of modern culture, specializing in the creation of mindbending, emotionally powerful stories using physical space as his canvas.

The SUMMIT experience includes

30,375 square feet of mirrors that provide the sensation of boundless space and a room of hundreds of floating reflective balloons, allowing for playful interaction. Each guest has a unique personal journey of emotion and discovery while visiting SUMMIT—no two visits are alike.

SUMMIT’s “Levitation” sky boxes on the 92nd floor allow guests to step out from the building envelope to stand on transparent glass 1,100 feet above bustling Madison Avenue. For the extreme thrill seeker, Ascent, the world’s largest external glass-bottomed elevators, travel from the terrace further up the side of the building. Landing at over 1,200 feet in the air, guests find themselves nesting at the highest viewing point in Midtown Manhattan.

The three-floor experience becomes completely different once the sun sets. At night, SUMMIT is transformed into a beacon of energy with a one-of-a-kind lightshow that can even be seen while looking at One Vanderbilt from the outside.

Your group’s multisensory visit can be topped off at SUMMIT’s Nordic-themed lounge and wrap-around outdoor terrace, where light fare and cocktails curated by Union Square Hospitality Group can be enjoyed amongst 360-degree views.

Learn more by visiting 25 SPONSORED CONTENT




MMany of us have experienced varying career changes recently. Perhaps you’ve stepped into a management role for the first time, or are dealing with unprecedented challenges. Either way, great managers are key to companies striving for growth, especially at this particular moment in time.

However, being an effective manager isn’t always easy.

Effective management isn’t just about being a fearless leader or ruling with an iron fist. It means working with your employees and coworkers so they can be the best they can be. Ineffective management leads to things falling through the cracks, rising tensions, and high turnover.

So let’s take a look at some of the big dos and don’ts of being an effective manager.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE. This is perhaps the Golden Rule of management: Do as you want your employees to do. If you give a 10-minute speech on why it’s key to show up to meetings on time, then arrive late to the next meeting, your team will almost assuredly interpret that to mean showing up on time isn’t actually that important.

GET IN THERE. Managers aren’t “above” anything. Even the highest level of executives at Disney will pick up trash when they’re walking through Disney World, showing that it’s not a task for “underlings,” but rather a goal of cleanliness everyone is working toward together. Any opportunity you can take to work alongside your team will build trust and help them appreciate the importance of their work.

SET GOALS. This is perhaps your primary job as a manager, but it’s important to remember that goals are different from tasks. Don’t just give your team something to do—talk with them about what they want longterm and how they can improve in meaningful, achievable ways.

HAVE THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS. When a member of your team is struggling, it’s time to step in. Hopefully they’re wide open to constructive criticism, but even if they’re defensive at first, they’ll take your words to heart—as long as you approach with understanding. Broach struggles from the mindset of: What are this employee’s strengths and how can they be used to correct things? Then, what are the triggers that activate those strengths?

RECOGNIZE STRENGTHS. It’s not just Gen Z and Millennials—for a vast majority of workers, the most powerful trigger and motivator is recognition and affirmation. Positive reinforcement, when rightfully earned, trumps all.

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MICROMANAGE. The inability to delegate and let your team work shows a lack of trust and creates an incredibly stressful environment that’s hard for anyone to thrive in. Your team should be made up of capable people, not puppets.

BE SECRETIVE. Know when it feels like something’s going on at your job, but you’re not quite sure what? Everyone’s speaking in hushed tones, and people are getting spooked, worried about losing their jobs. This can be avoided altogether with transparency! From challenges the company is facing to tough decisions being made at the top, let your team know what’s going on and why.

SPEAK FIRST. If you’re the first to offer ideas, your team will almost always just defer to your plan to avoid any friction. Let them pitch first, then help hone those ideas and integrate them with your own. That’s teamwork!

BE UNPREDICTABLE. Great for magicians, terrible for managers. People need structure and to know that if they act a particular way, their manager and the company will in turn react in a certain way. Don’t play favorites, move goalposts, or change expectations. And if an employee is confused why you’re doing something, listen to their concerns and explain why.

SPY. Trust is key and your employees need room to be human. Spying on employees’ computers, emails, desks, etc. is simply looking for a problem and shows a lack of respect. Instead, simply react to and address issues as they arise.

BULLY. This might seem obvious, but some managers still think leading means being as blunt and harsh as can be. It simply doesn’t work—fear leads people to shut down. They’ll turn off their critical thinking and run every single idea by you first, which is horribly inefficient and doesn’t empower them to feel like their ideas are valid. Or, even worse? They’ll simply leave.

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Island Resort & Casino 14

Meet AC C4

New Jersey Division 15 of Travel & Tourism

New York City Ballet 19

Oaklawn Racing 13 Casino Resort

Sevierville Convention 18 & Visitors Bureau/ Chamber of Commerce

Soaring Eagle 16 Casino & Resort

St. Landry Parish 19 Tourist Commission

SUMMIT One C1 + 25 Vanderbilt

The Metropolitan 25 Opera

Top of the Rock 3 Observation Deck

Tourism Cares C3

Tourism Council of 7 Frederick County 27 AD INDEX

Rainer Jenss

Founder | Family Travel Association

TThis past fall, the Family Travel Association (FTA) launched a first of its kind program for the family travel industry: The FTA FamilyFriendly Certification Program. Developed with the creation of the certification program were industry standards and guidelines that define what it means to be truly familyfriendly and identify what suppliers need to do to earn this designation.

By establishing these industry guidelines, FTA says it’s hoping to set the standards that will assist organizations when developing products and services for families, and help travel advisors choose who to work with when planning their clients’ vacations.

Certification requires suppliers to go through an application process and audit of their current practices. Once approved, suppliers participate in a training program and receive guidance on creating marketing packages, in addition to receiving certification logo usage and licensing—a process several suppliers have already qualified for or are in the final stages of completing. The standards and guidelines criteria include management processes, communications, booking, guest services, facilities, amenities, health and wellness, activities, accessibility, and financial assistance.

Groups Today caught up with Rainer Jenss, Founder of FTA, to learn more.

How did the criteria for the certification program come together?

First, we tapped into the expertise within our membership within three different areas: travel advisors, suppliers and media. We recognized the importance of having a certain level of standards our industry as a whole should comply to, while also breaking out the guidelines by sector (cruise lines, hotels and resorts, airlines, etc.). We wanted all voices to be heard to help establish the baseline.

From there, we asked each sector to share some of the things they thought their portion of the industry could be doing to best serve traveling families. We also questioned and received input from outside the FTA membership, in addition to referencing findings from the annual FTA research study.

How will the certification—which is the first of its kind— influence and change the industry for the better?

We’re really hoping the certification program sets the standards that will ultimately guide organizations and give them a launching point when they’re developing the products and services for families in the first place. So rather than organizations developing products and then seeing if they meet the standards, they’ll begin by looking at the standards and guidelines first and develop their offerings from there.

In addition to the certification, how can the industry better meet the needs of traveling families?

Communicate more with families and provide them with the information they’re looking for, because there’s still a large percentage who are out doing their own research and not using a travel advisor. There are often websites that lack a section specifically for families and in turn end up missing the information that consumers are really looking for.

For more information on FTA membership, partnerships or the Family-Friendly Certification Program, contact

28 GROUPS TODAY January/February 2023