Finding The Most “Reunion-Friendly” Hotel

Armed Forces Reunions has been booking reunions nationwide for over thirty years now – and WE KNOW where the truly military reunion-friendly hotels are. It’s amazing that we’ve been working with many of the same hotels since the late 1980s, and in a couple cases even with the same salespeople! We’ve seen hotels grant all our wishes one year, and turn around the next under new management with policies not friendly to reunions at all.  New GMs are beholden to ownership and think they can change policies and create new revenue.  Often the changes have to do with hospitality room policy and allowing groups to provide their own refreshments.

Management turnover often results in scaring reunion business away – but they usually come to learn their mistakes.  We often find ourselves training new management and new sales staffs on hot buttons in the military reunion market as no other company understands the needs of reunions better than AFR.  The hospitality industry has one of the highest turnover ratios of any industry.  Since we’ve been around so long it’s easy for us to point to multiple past bookings with the hotel or hotels in that city.  We point out that reunion groups are consistent from year to year, fill hotel rooms on weekends (soft days in most cities), will adjust arrival/departure patterns to create a win/win for all parties, and above all that reunion attendees are respectful citizens that any hotel should love to have in-house.

Often times, this process can be the most time consuming and stressful for your group’s planner. What typically happens is they reach out to your chosen cities’ Convention Bureau, at which point they distribute your request to many hotels in the area. Now you end up with 5-10 hotel proposals, you may choose the lowest rate or the most appealing location, but do you really know how accommodating this hotel will be for your groups’ individual needs? Then when you move to contracting with your chosen hotel, the real fun and stress begins. Hotel contracts are filled with intimidating performance clauses, extra fees for everything under the sun, and language that you may have not even seen before. The worst thing that can happen to a group is being financially penalized because you didn’t meet room or meal requirements from the hotel.

There’s no reason to stress yourself out over this or waste your time reviewing countless proposals from hotels that will never meet your needs – AFR can direct you to THE most reunion-friendly hotel from our partner network in whatever city your group choses to visit – FOR FREE. Think of us as The National Reunion Bureau.

Call Charley Dey today for a hotel proposal at 757-625-6401 or email charley@afri.com

How Do I Start a Military Reunion Group?

Military reunions began back in the 1950s when WWII veterans that lost all contact with their brothers in arms after returning home wanted to renew that unique bond that is made between those that serve their country. Only they can comprehend this connection, and many veterans will not speak about their time in the service at all – even with family. Reunions quickly became the most effective (and fun) way to not only renew a sacred bond but also to help heal those men and women that made a sacrifice to serve their country.

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (AFR) planned its first military reunion in 1988 and since then we have taken our groups to over 150 cities nationwide and put on some of the largest reunions that have ever taken place. Back then starting a reunion group meant writing to your branches’ head offices to obtain the muster or unit rolls from your vessel/division/squadron/etc. Then came the daunting task of going to your local library (where they have phone books for cities nationwide) and calling down the muster roll to find the correct ‘John Smith in Milwaukee’. We’ve seen reunions evolve throughout the years, be passed on to the next generation of heroes, and new groups emerge with each era of service. It seems like nearly every week someone new contacts AFR seeking guidance in how to start their first reunion. Nothing excites us more than to hear from the young veterans of the Persian Gulf War, War in Iraq, and War in Afghanistan wanting to start their own reunion associations.

Starting a reunion group today is fortunately much easier today than it was years ago, thanks to the internet. Most groups today begin on social media, usually with a Facebook page. All it takes is one or a few determined veterans to take control and get the ball rolling. It’s amazing how quickly former comrades can be found using social media. After finding a sufficient number of “members” and discussing the potential for having a reunion all that’s needed is a survey, which can be done using a number of tools such as Survey Monkey via email or a simple Facebook survey on your group page. Survey results are important when securing a hotel contract for your reunion. How many members are likely to attend? Suggest two or three cities for folks to vote on. How many nights to book (most groups start with three)? Will members stay at the chosen host hotel?

It is very important that your first reunion is a grand success so folks will spread the word and want to attend a future reunion. Initially, just getting folks together in a “reunion-friendly” hotel with a gathering area (hospitality room) available 24/7 is critical. A group banquet on the final night should also be planned at the hotel. At follow-up reunions you might consider planning tours and seeing the sights – to make it more vacation-like, and keeping spouses interested. Associations that have been holding annual reunions for many years typically plan a 4-5 day reunion with a couple days of local group tours planned, and ample free time to explore the area.

So now what? What cities should you consider? How will you find a suitable hotel? What do you need to be aware of in a hotel contract? This is where AFR comes in. Having planned thousands of reunions in over 150 cities over the past 30+ years we can steer you to a “reunion-friendly” hotel in the city you want to be. Get a professional on your side to negotiate the hotel contract for you – to ensure you have an adequate room block, the proper meeting space for a banquet, and most importantly that you have a great hospitality room where you are allowed to provide your own refreshments if you want. Reunions happen in the hospitality room!

Find out how we can help today by calling or emailing Charley Dey at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com

Top Reunion Destination: Jacksonville, FL

Every Day is Veterans Day in Jacksonville

“Jacksonville is a military town, and we are very proud of it!”

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has taken military reunion groups to every corner of our great nation throughout our long history. The number of cities we have planned groups in is over 150 and still growing. When it comes to picking the best destination for your reunion group, AFR has been there and done that. Although we’ve planned events in almost any city you can name, there are only about 20-30 TOP REUNION DESTINATIONS that we guide multiple groups to every year. These cities offer a unique mix of military bases, sites, museums, attractions, history, and cultural diversity.

This month we are highlighting a truly “reunion-friendly” city in the Sunshine State, Jacksonville, FL. They take pride in being a military town, and being in Florida, you can be confident that all the restaurants, sights, and attractions will be open near full capacity for this summer and fall’s reunion season.

Nestled between the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling St. Johns River, the “River City by the Sea” is the perfect destination for military families and groups looking to honor our nation’s heroes and enjoy a great time. Home to a longstanding military presence, Jacksonville has two navy bases, armed forces monuments, historic sites, thousands of active-duty military personnel, plus a vibrant arts and culture scene, an extensive park system, pristine beaches, delicious authentic cuisine, fun attractions, and great Southern hospitality waiting to entertain visitors from across the globe.

Naval Air Station Jacksonville is the birthplace of the famed Blue Angels. And at the beaches, Naval Station Mayport welcomes ships from all over the world. The annual Jacksonville Air Show alternates between the sandy shores of Jacksonville Beach and the impressive force of NAS JAX every October. Another annual event where their military heritage is celebrated and elevated is the Jacksonville Veteran’s Day Parade. Held in Downtown, it is the largest military parade in the state of Florida.

Visiting groups and Navy buffs can tour Jacksonville’s military attractions, cruise down the St. Johns River on a dinner cruise boat, explore the outdoors with guided fishing charters, hit the greens in one Jacksonville’s many golf courses, enjoy military appreciation day at THE PLAYERS Championship, cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars, learn to surf or paddleboard in the 22 miles of beaches, kayak hundreds of miles of wetlands and marshes, enjoy a night at the Symphony, visit the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center, and indulge in Jacksonville’s diverse dining and nightlife scene.

“Only in Jax” Military Sites

  • Duval County Veterans Memorial Wall- Downtown
  • Memorial Park- Riverside
  • The Lone Sailor Statue- Southbank RiverWalk in Downtown
  • The Museum of Southern History- Avondale
  • Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park- Northside
  • Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center- Downtown

If your association has been on the fence about a 2021 reunion due to uncertainties with Covid and attractions being open, we encourage you to consider this Top Reunion Destination that is sure to deliver a successful reunion. Call or email Charley Dey for a hotel proposal now 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com

The Hospitality Room: The Key to a Great Reunion

The most important element in a successful military reunion is the hospitality room – for it is here where friendships are made and that special brotherhood is renewed. The best hospitality room is a lockable meeting room where the group can provide its own beverages (including alcohol) and snacks, and self-serve all. The room should be available to the group on a complimentary 24/7 basis for the length of the reunion.

When AFR seeks hotel partners for our reunion-friendly hotel network we select hotels that allow groups to provide their own alcohol and snacks in meeting space. Not all hotels allow this though, especially with the alcohol. They may suggest using a suite, but suites are small and too confining for even a small group. Hotels don’t always understand that the entire group wants to gather in the hospitality room during free time, and the group will likely disturb other hotel guests, who then complain to management. Our reunion-friendly hotels usually provide a meeting room for hospitality, as long as alcohol remains inside.

Each state has its own peculiar ABC laws, and some mandate that alcohol can only be provided by the hotel. But the law never dictates that a hotel make a profit on the sale of alcohol. For larger groups that require mass consumption (and a lot of man-hours and trips to Walmart) we often negotiate for alcohol and snacks to be sold in bulk to the group at the hotel’s cost plus a small handling/storage fee. Groups should then be allowed to self-serve but for hotels worried about liability, the group can either sign a waiver of liability (provided by AFR) or secure an event insurance policy that costs a couple hundred dollars (links provided by AFR).

When we think of military reunion-friendly hotels, we think first and foremost of hotels that accommodate the hospitality needs of our reunion clients. In any given city across our nation, there may only be a couple of hotels that are willing to allow alcohol in their meeting space and truly appreciate military reunion business. AFR has booked reunions in more than 150 cities over the past 30-plus years, rather than spend countless hours researching and speaking to hotels about your requirements, let AFR guide your group to a reunion-friendly hotel that understands this basic reunion requirement to ensure a great time is had by all!

Call or email Charley at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com to get a proposal.

Must See Museum: The Flying Leathernecks

A great reunion is more than hanging out in the hospitality room with your old friends and new ones. It’s about the destination. What historical sites will you visit? What relevant museums would your members love to see? What attractions are in the area? Armed Forces Reunions guides our groups to the best destinations where our groups have just as much fun on the tours as they do telling war stories in the hospitality room.

The Flying Leatherneck Museum in San Diego is the only museum in the world primarily dedicated to United States Marine Corps (USMC) aviation. It has the largest and most complete collection of historical aircraft flown by U.S. Marine pilots in the world. The Museum tells the proud story of USMC Aviation and the part it has played in defending America.  The Museum was established in 1989 on MCAS El Toro in Orange County, CA. When Base Realignment closed El Toro in 1999, a group of retired Marines from San Diego, led by Major Generals Bob Butcher and Frank Lang, spearheaded the move of the aircraft and artifacts to MCAS Miramar.

SBD-1 Dauntless Restoration

 

The Museum maintains and restores vintage aircraft used by the United States Marine Corps through work performed by employees and volunteers, and is proud to have more than 48 aircraft in its collection. Exhibits are rotated on a regular basis in order to provide variety to visitors.  One of the most unique exhibits and programs is the recovery and restoration efforts of the only SBD-1 Dauntless dive bomber in existence, now in the Museum’s collection.  This SBD-1 #1612 was accepted by the Marine Corps in 1940 at MCAS Quantico, then was sent to Camp Kearney before being assigned to the “Great Lakes Navy” in Glenview, IL. During its time at this Naval Reserve Air Base, The Dauntless trained pilots to land aboard a converted paddle-wheeler USS Wolverine as part of their Carrier Qualification Training. On November 23, 1942 it crashed and became one of the 38 Dauntless’ to end up at the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it spent 52 years.

Make sure to check out the Military Working Dogs Exhibit, the aviation art and NASA Flight Logos display, and events like Picnic With a Pilot and Open Cockpit Days. Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. plans best in class tours and reunion activities for our groups wherever they meet, give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help make your next reunion the most successful yet. Call Charley Dey at 1-800-562-7226 or email charley@afri.com

 

Photo Credits: The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum