The mere mention of a “Corporate Retreat” can bring to mind images of cheesy team building exercises, boring educational speakers, and drunken parties.  And while you may be thinking “perfect, sign me up!” – after one or two of these annual events, you might just prefer a week with your in-laws instead!

team buildingWhether you’re running a company of five or 500, changing pace with a retreat can re-energize your team, encourage cross-departmental collaboration and strengthen internal bonds. While retreats have changed substantially over the past 20 years, as have organizations and management styles, they are still a great way to remove key employees from their daily grind, get a new perspective, and simply “refresh” the brain.  Done properly, they can inspire and motivate your staff and ensure that everyone is working towards common business goals. So push those preconceived notions of retreats aside – consider your company’s needs and create an open, accepting environment where employees feel comfortable to go beyond their comfort zones.

More and more recently, as research supports the mind-clearing and brain-boosting benefits of spending time outdoors, corporate retreats are looking at encounters with nature as a way to alleviate mental fatigue and restore the mind. A 2012 study from the University of Utah found that people immersed in nature for four days boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by an impressive 50 per cent. The results support what Albert Einstein once said:

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”


While there are many options for venues across Canada and North America that can host your group, offer team-building exercises, and maybe add a little bit of luxury, Vancouver Island is in a class all its own.  And for those who think that Vancouver Island is defined only by the city of Victoria, it’s time to venture off the beaten path!  It is no myth that in the Spring you can ski Mount Washington, golf at Crown Isle Resort in Courtenay, and add a day salmon fishing or kayaking on the open waters to your itinerary.


Aside from providing top-notch recreation opportunities, conference facilities and accommodations, Vancouver Island is a hotspot for experiential and ecotourism. In addition to the local wineries, breweries, and distilleries, there are endless opportunities to learn about sustainability practices in enotourism (wine), marine aquaculture, and innovative new agri-food programs. Add to that a beach hike, a cooking class, world class mountain biking, a day on the golf course or at the spa, and a helicopter tour, and you have all the makings of an inspiring and productive retreat.


As an organizer, you really need to evaluate “for the sake of what concern” are you organizing the retreat? Some are meant to be very social, some emphasize motivation and personal growth, while others might intentionally be sales meetings in disguise. Be sure that you know exactly what you are hoping to achieve, understand the value that you are going to get from a business perspective, and be able to communicate the value that your staff can expect in return. Regardless of what you may see as a couple of fun and educational days away from the office, your staff are taking time away from their families and personal lives, and should expect value in return.

Some things to consider when planning your retreat and defining your target outcomes:

  1. Connect to your company values;
  2. Promote open, big-picture discussions;
  3. Get outside, get active, and connect with nature;
  4. Support local, sustainable businesses by getting away from the conference centre;
  5. Get creative;
  6. Make connections;
  7. Define your expected ROI – if you can’t measure to a certain extent a return on your investment, then maybe a retreat is not the right move for your company at this time;
  8. Avoid Gimmicks – understand your audience and try to fully understand their willingness to participate. If they feel anxious or pressured, then you may find that their active participation and value is not there; and
  9. Deconstruct the Hierarchy – ensure that everyone is treated equally and that all voices are heard equally.


Located in the Comox Valley, Westcoast Gourmet collaborates with local businesses, tour operators, chefs and artisan producers to create customized adventures and culinary experiences. We support culinary and agri-tourism by promoting local businesses and their products. For help in organizing your next retreat, send us a note at  You can also subscribe to our online newsletter.