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Industry Update: Person of Interest

By Selena Fragassi


Kathy Snyder has always been fascinated with food and the science behind it. “I have always loved food, especially the impact of what you eat and drink and the effect it can have on your body,” she says. After growing up in a hospitality-oriented family, including working summers in food service at her father’s amusement park, Snyder attended the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park and found the experiential side of food and beverage quite thrilling. After cutting her teeth at the Hyatt in Buffalo, New York, Snyder was part of the opening team of Beaver Hollow 30 years ago, which is a state-of-the-art conference center in Java Center, New York that does things differently.

With a 300-acre location surrounded by lakes and scenic woodlands, Beaver Hollow offers recreational and holistic therapeutic activities, a complete fitness village, an award-winning spa, and a nutritious and delicious food and beverage menu in addition to its business services. It’s also an official Biggest Loser Resort, with weight loss and stress management programs funneling into weeklong conferences. “Our team knows we are changing lives here,” says Snyder, president and chief operating officer. “We make lives better, and create stronger, more resilient, healthier individuals that impact their organizations in the exact same way, contributing to the growth and health of the company overall.” Snyder explains more about the unique offerings and why they are important in today’s world.

Unique Venues: What really makes Beaver Hollow different from how most conference centers operate?
Kathy Snyder: “What we are doing at Beaver Hollow is creating a different story in the hospitality industry that reflects our resources and specialness. We don’t even do transient business, which is unique in its own right. We only cater to groups, and work hand-in-hand with our organizations in delivering a unique experience. This really is a place where individuals and organizations come to get healthy.”

UV: How does that manifest in the programs you offer?
KS: “We really focus on eco tourism and wellness with a unique combination of outdoor activities, recreation, team-building, holistic therapeutic activities, and fitness opportunities to go along with the conference enter. We can also take it a step up and offer guided weight loss intervention. It’s play with a purpose. With some corporations, whatever amount of time that they have left after their meeting content, they opt to have our programming instead of having featured speakers or breakout sessions, for example. Rather than more business agendas, their guests learn from holistic self-care practitioners. It’s a bit like team-building but run differently. We might do a ‘get to know your gym’ segment where we get people comfortable in a gym space and knowing how to use equipment. Or maybe it’s an international group that travels a lot—for them we plan ‘siestas’ where we teach progressive relaxation to recover from jet lag. Or a high-pressure business group might want to learn mindfulness and breathing. These are actual skills they can use. And it’s all bonded together by healthy eating while the groups are with us. We are situated in farm country so we have access to some unique opportunities with food and get right down to the source of our ingredients. Our corporate guests actually really love our Biggest Loser menus, especially when they realize you don’t have to eliminate foods to be healthy. We also do specialty teas here that have a purpose for energy, sleep, or inflammation. Having this food and beverage program also helps conference guests with cognitive abilities. If you don’t have a sugar crash in the middle of the afternoon you are more productive and present.”

UV: Why is having a wellness-focused conference program important?
KS: “Organizations pay for the health of employees no matter what—on the front end or back end, one just costs more. And stress is costing our country so much money. Most bad behaviors are actually the result of stress and trauma, and our programs provide different ways to deal with stress responses rather than making poor diet or lifestyle choices. There’s also the issue of how the workforce has changed. The cost of recruitment, retention, and replacement, it’s exorbitant for a company. In today’s culture, employees aren’t looking at one career until they retire; they are going to do five to seven different things. So if you are trying to accomplish something as an organization or investing in the workforce, you need them to bond otherwise what is the retreat all for? We say we don’t just offer ROI but ROO too, a return on objectives. We always partner with organizations to accomplish outcomes they are looking for. …Sometimes to think outside the box you have to actually step outside the box, and when you are in this big open environment you think differently and are more attuned to have an open mind.”

UV: Are there any specialty groups you work with?
KS: “We have contracts with first responders, veteran service organizations, and active duty groups to offer our programs. About six years ago we were approached by an organization that serves thousands of veterans, they came to us because they were concerned that a large percentage of members were obese and wanted to help them. They experienced our Biggest Loser program and we added in our wellness components like yoga, sleep preparedness, and stress management, and there’s really been differences made with their health. They are able to start new habits in a safe protective environment that they can take with them. It’s a life-changer.”

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Beaver Hollow
Java Center, NY
(800) 964.7903