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Ascend Executive Retreats: Reconnecting corporate Australia

WEB - 1. Feature - Ascend Executive Retreats - Director Phil Luke and Director Steve Gunther - in The ABE

A new full-service retreats management company catering to the corporate and public sectors, Ascend Executive Retreats offers unique Australian and international destinations, expert facilitators, luxury accommodation, gourmet experiences and memorable activities designed to engage and connect executives.

Ascent Executive Retreats is the brain-child of Directors Phil Luke and Steve Gunther, who have a wealth of collective experience in public speaking and events. Mr Gunther’s career began in radio, after which he spent a number of years in recruitment, before managing staff across two countries for an audio visual, in-flight entertainment company. Mr Luke has had an extensive TV and radio media career as a journalist, Executive Producer, and Chief of Staff for the major networks. He has been in the events industry for more than 8 years, running a successful Keynote Speaker Bureau and an Events Video Production Service. The Directors spoke with us recently to discuss the driving ethos behind the company, the customer service-led approach that separates Ascent Executive Retreats from its competitors, and how this new service is designed to reconnect corporate Australia.

Recharge, reconnect and reset

Launching in 2022, Ascend Executive Retreats is a new company that will provide unique corporate retreats that allow and encourage executive teams to recharge, reconnect, and reset after the difficulty many businesses have faced in the last two years.

“It all started as a conversation when I was moving to Tasmania,” says Mr Gunther, a veteran of the entertainment industry. “Phil thought ‘what a great place to hold executive retreats’, and here we are delivering them.” 

Both men have eclectic backgrounds, having worked in both media and the corporate world, as well as leading teams both locally and internationally. Working in the events industry for many years has given them a unique perspective when it comes to working with executives to curate bespoke retreat experiences.

“Ascend Executive Retreats is a full retreat and incentive management company,” Mr Luke says. “We are not a specific location or accommodation establishment. We organise and manage the full retreat package, offering luxury, unique accommodation locations around Australia. We facilitate activities that reconnect and recharge executive teams.”

Unlike individual retreat locations, Ascend offers a full corporate retreat package, utilising some of the country’s best speakers and facilitators, and providing unique gourmet experiences, including first class regional produce and wines.

The company’s foundation is a direct result of the specific period of time we’re living through, having been encouraged into existence by the current global pandemic that continues to create significant changes in modern life.

WEB - Fitzroy-Island-Cairns-Accommodation-703x469-Ascend Executive Retreat - in The ABE
Ascend Executive Retreats offers unique Australian and international destinations, expert facilitators, luxury accommodation, gourmet experiences and memorable activities designed to engage and connect executives

“The covid crisis has been a massive wakeup call I think to Corporate Australia,” Mr Luke adds. “Certainly working life for millions of Australians will never be the same again. Particularly with the latest strains of covid coming through, now more than ever companies will need to bring their executive teams and staff together.”

Management teams that have struggled through two intense years of lockdowns, restrictions, isolation, and working from home are feeling increasingly disconnected. The corporate world must now look to take care of the professional and personal wellbeing development of their executive teams.

“I suppose in a way we are here to help fix that problem, to give companies the chance to go offsite, go out of the office, and provide them with an avenue and an opportunity to bring their teams together at a corporate retreat and to basically start the healing process.”

Steve Gunther recognises the importance of giving clients the best possible experience for their needs, and he and Mr Luke bring to the table knowledge, experience, and expertise, with a collective wealth of experience to draw upon.

“From taking a brief,” Mr Gunther says, “we know what questions to ask, we know how to fulfil a brief. We have an enormous amount of knowledge of speakers and facilitators. We are talking world-class facilitators, world-class speakers, who are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable.”

WEB - mount lofty - Ascend Executive Retreat - in The ABE
Ascend Executive Retreats is a new company that will provide unique corporate retreats that allow and encourage executive teams to recharge, reconnect, and reset

All of these benefits are combined with wonderful local produce, the finest wines, and incredible locations across Australia, with activities designed for the express purpose of reconnecting management teams.

“We’re designing programs and agendas to cement relationships within teams and management. Personal and professional development, wellbeing, taking the worry out of organising all of the elements that go into an executive retreat.”

In normal circumstances, it can fall on the Executive Assistant to put together a work retreat, which can prove to be very stressful. With a team on the ground providing a personal and professional customer service-centric experience, Ascend takes all that stress away.

“We believe that’s extremely important. There’s been this disconnect, so this is about the reconnect, the reset, the recharging, and the customer service, the customer experience. That’s what we’re here to deliver.”

National and international locations

The company operates across Australia, providing destination options in every state. It doesn’t matter where a company is based, they can travel interstate or stay within their own state and not have to worry about border closures or restrictions. Many of the company’s locations are not even well-known by locals.

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Through a personalised, customer-focused, and professional service, Ascend Executive Retreats is looking forward to working with businesses to deliver on its promises

“Take Tasmania, for example,” Mr Gunther explains. “From Cradle Mountain in the summer or winter, golfing retreats at Barnbougle in the state’s northeast, Wine Glass Bay on the east coast, down south to near Port Arthur. There are so many locations that we’ve highlighted in our state-based document that we share with clients.” 

The question that drives the company is how organisations can move forward after two years of the pandemic. Ascend Executive Retreats provides the answer by giving businesses the chance to show their teams that they are valued, and that the future is still bright. 

“The disconnect of the last two years is palpable. With the ‘great resignation’ that’s currently being experienced in the US and is beginning to show signs in Australia, organisations need to acknowledge their people and provide personal and professional development and wellbeing programs, and we are here to help them do that.”

With the requisite knowledge and connections, Ascend Executive Retreats are a one-stop-shop for curating the best executive retreat and experience. The business is not just about ticking boxes, but is keenly focused on reconnecting and recharging.

“This is about hitting the reset button, to bring your teams together to cement professional relationships, deliver a culture that encourages inclusiveness, creativity, and fun. Let’s have fun with this! It’s not just about sitting in a conference room for eight hours a day.”

Through a personalised, customer-focused, and professional service, Ascend Executive Retreats is looking forward to working with businesses to deliver on its promises. Find out more about Ascend Executive Retreats by visiting www.ascendexecutiveretreats.com.au.

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