When it comes to experiencing a wide selection of great destinations and resorts, I’ve been pretty lucky. Recently, I’ve had two stand-out experiences: Cameron House on Loch Lomond in Scotland and The Resort at Paws Up in Montana.
In support of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and as a way to showcase the resort to industry leaders, properties sometimes host IRF board meetings and retreats. After all, there’s no better way to understand a property than to experience it. As a member of IRF’s Executive Committee, I was glad to attend board events at Cameron House and Paws Up.
On the surface, you’d think they couldn’t have much in common – Scotland and Montana? – and our time at each one was certainly significantly different, but they share something really important. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Cameron House, perched at the edge of Loch Lomond, is a beautiful retreat just outside of Glasgow and only an hour and 15 minutes from Edinburgh airport. The original castle was built in the mid-1700s and it has evolved and expanded ever since, most recently earning a well-deserved Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award. My room was a snug place to unwind after days out in the sun and wind of the Highlands. It was located in an older wing, furnished like all of the historic parts of the building with what appeared to be antiques and rich woolen fabrics. The property also features a new wing with modern design, overlooking the Loch, as well as lodge houses which greatly extend their capacity. We were fortunate to experience a tasting menu and wine pairings at restaurant Tamburrini & Wishart that was truly one of the great dining experiences of my life. Aside from a beautiful, comfortable setting, most impressive are the activities! From on-property golf and spa to boating on the Loch, to Highland Game teambuilding, there’s a tremendous amount to do! A real highlight was the Land Rover driving experience with 4X4 Adventures. All I can say is, “I did it!” and it was a ton of fun.
Not to be outdone, Paws Up is incredibly unique, with its 27 luxury cabins and 6 glamping sites (this is the original home of glamping!), each able to house multiple guests comfortably and with privacy. This was never intended to be a resort. Paws Up was and is a working ranch, where guest accommodations sprung up around the ranchers’ business. Now, it provides an unrivaled opportunity to be at-home while away. I stayed in a Wilderness Estate cabin with two IRF colleagues. We shared a Lexus SUV in the driveway, a stocked kitchen, and a big fireplace with stacks of wood on the long porch overlooking the property. Anything we needed was just a message away in the Paws Up app. In the nearby Greenough section of the resort, unique glassbox houses in the woods surround a central social house with a private restaurant. Our meetings were held in an actual Bull Barn where auctions were once held, and we warmed up by the fire at Tank, one of three restaurants just across the road. This is an all-inclusive property, so once you arrive, there’s really nothing to worry about. And with 37,000 acres and an activity center, there’s no shortage of things to do, from cattle roundups to fly-fishing. On our final night, we dined in a barn, where we had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a wild mustang interact with a wrangler. Unlike the sad tales of breaking horses, the Paws Up approach is one of building trust and developing cooperation. It was inspiring to see.
Either property would be a great choice for a program looking for a unique experience, difficult to replicate, and deeply memorable.
So what was the surprising thing in common? Even for two places so steeped in their sense of place, what really stood out was authentic, warm, and personal hospitality. Instead of formality of service, they brought warmth and human connection. Over and over, the people we encountered engaged with guests as friends or neighbors. The Paws Up sommelier (who also turned up delivering a pizza to one of our cabins and managing a restaurant for dinner) shared not only his knowledge of wines, but also his love of things sweet and his nickname among friends – Sugar Ray! The Door Host, Douglas Brown, at Cameron House and the driver guide on our Land Rover excursion chatted us up as if we were friends catching up, instead of keeping distance. We laughed together. We felt at home.
Often, five-star service is the result of inevitable, but nearly invisible effort, where your every wish is magically fulfilled. It’s great! But it’s even better when it is delivered with warmth and personality, where the people behind the effort shine through and allow you to get to know them a little.
So here’s to the Sugar Rays and the Douglas Browns of the world, who make you feel so at home in some of the best places you could choose to stay.
Next Level Performance has over 45 years of experience in the incentive travel industry. Learn more about how we can help plan the trip of a lifetime for your next incentive or group travel event.
As Vice President of Engagement Strategy & Corporate Services at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel.
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