Hawaii: The Island Paradise Makes a Solid Case for Meetings

Hawaii Convention Center

Although part of the U.S., Hawaii possesses a special heritage and culture all its own. "Hawaii is very much like an international destination," says Karen Hughes, vice president of Meet Hawaii and travel industry partnerships for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. "But it's one without the steep price tag or difficulties associated with meeting internationally. We're always looking for ways to honor the unique culture and heritage of these islands. You see that in group activities like outrigger canoe racing, and the plentiful volunteer opportunities that we have."

Outrigger canoeing inspired an "epic" teambuilding experience for a sales meeting group that met at the Sheraton Kauai Resort & Spa in July 2014. There, 220 salespeople from a Northern California-based wine producer gathered on Poipu Beach, where they were split into teams of 10 and tasked with building their own two-person boating vessels out of cardboard, duct tape, PVC pipes, and tarp.

"It was so much fun," the meeting organizer told Successful Meetings. "We wanted to do something that represented the culture and surroundings of Hawaii, and it turned out to be the best teambuilding activity in the 30-year history of the company."

Meet Hawaii has seen a year-over-year increase of 50 percent in terms of the number of room-nights for meeting group leads, according to Hughes. "Planners are reaching out to Meet Hawaii more, and there's tremendous growth of appeal for the islands, especially in the corporate market," she says.

Nonstop airlift, especially to neighboring islands, is also on track to set a record this year, making it even easier for groups to meet.

The islands are also seeing a number of new developments and renovations. Later this year, the former JW Marriott Ihilani will reopen as the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina following a 10-month renovation. It will be Four Seasons' first property on Oahu, and its fifth in Hawaii. And as of press time, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort was nearing completion of its five-month, $21-million renovation of the 17-story, 380-room Diamond Head Tower. The Kauai Marriott Resort recently completed a $50-million renovation that includes upgrades to its Kauai Ballroom, the largest on the island. Grand Wailea on Maui is also embarking on a refreshment of its 78 Napua guest rooms and 650 standard rooms.

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This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Successful Meetings.