For many of the 41 meeting planners who attended Successful Meetings University (SMU) in Hilton Head Island, SC, the destination was an undiscovered gem. It is no longer. The group got to explore Hilton Head Island’s beaches, golf courses, and feast on fresh seafood. They learned about the island’s first-rate hotels, a CVB with a can-do spirit, and off-the-beaten path adventures like jet-skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, zip lining, and cruises to see bottlenose dolphin.
There are twelve miles of beaches on Hilton Head Island and more than 20 public golf courses and four private courses. For tennis enthusiasts, there are 350 courts in hard court, clay, and grass surfaces.
Resorts That Impress
“Every oceanfront resort has undergone a major renovation or is about to undergo one. As an island, we have to constantly renovate and refresh our product in order to make it attractive to groups,” explains Charlie Clark, vice president of communications, Hilton Head Island – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. It seems to be working, as meeting groups that meet here return year after year, she says.
The Successful Meetings University group stayed at the 416-room Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa that recently underwent a $30 million renovation. Features of the Westin include a Heavenly Spa, three pools, six dining outlets, a deck that overlooks the ocean that can be used for group functions, and 30,500 square feet of meeting and event space in 19 rooms.
Planners Find SMU One-on-Ones Valuable
Thirty-nine suppliers and two incentive companies were on hand to meet with the planners. “The concentration of one-on-ones in one place at one time was extremely valuable. It was an extremely useful trip for me, as well as an enjoyable one,” says Jeffrey Liss, conferences site chair, member, board of directors, National Space Society, based in Chicago, IL.
The educational sessions were also w
ell received and featured, “Hotel Contracts Boot Camp!” presented by John Foster, ESQ, CHME, and attorney and counselor at law, and Katherine Manfredi, an event professional, speaker, trainer, and writer who spoke about how sustainable food and beverage functions can be exciting.
A highlight for many was a visit to The Sea Pines Resort where cocktails were served on a pier overlooking the Harbour Town Lighthouse, one of Hilton Head Island’s most famous landmarks. Dinner followed in the Topside Restaurant and dessert was enjoyed around an outdoor fire where many made S’mores.
A surprise awaited each attendee when they got back to the Westin--a Bulova watch. Bulova Corporate Sales provided the timepieces. “And to think I thought Hilton Head Island was a sleepy beach town,” exclaimed one planner. “Boy was I wrong.”
- Andrea Doyle