Big Island Business

Groups are discovering the benefits of the Big Island as a meeting destination, and resorts on the island are responding with creative programs and beyond-the-call service to attract this lucrative market segment.

By: Marty Wentzel

Groups are discovering the benefits of the Big Island as a meeting destination, and resorts on the island are responding with creative programs and beyond-the-call service to attract this lucrative market segment.

Meetings, conventions and incentive groups comprise more than 10% of the Big Island’s total market, according to George Applegate, director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau.

“We are putting more emphasis on attracting this segment with additional sales staff that focus only on MCIs,” he said. “And we have a new meetings Web site under development.”

The steady increase in direct air service from the West Coast to The Big Island is making the meeting planner’s job easier, he added.

Big Island resorts appeal to groups by offering elegant, sophisticated facilities separated from each other by hundreds of open acres, Applegate said. “You never get the feeling of being crowded here.” Following are four examples of how Big Island resorts are satisfying group needs:

" Hilton Waikoloa Village. Craig Pagadauan, director of catering, meetings and conventions, said the 1,240-room resort goes the extra mile to meet every group’s culinary desires.

“We’ll ask the meeting planner beforehand about any special dietary needs,” Pagadauan said. “That way we can anticipate meal requests and eliminate delays. If the planner isn’t aware of dietary requirements, our kitchen will prepare a certain number of vegetarian meals just in case, making sure that the taste and presentation are as spectacular as the regular meals being served.”

" Mauna Kea Resort. Cynthia Mayer, catering and conference services director, said her property’s two hotels Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel specialize in customized events.

“If the client wants to do a full-on 1970s disco night or an outdoor paniolo steak fry complete with bull rides and country-western music, we can do it,” she said. “We’ve produced a huge luau for more than 600 people, with fire dancers, a roasted pig and buffets so huge we had hula girls dancing around the food. This kind of event makes our clients look good and their meetings unforgettable.”

" Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows. Kalson Pang, catering and conference services director, said the hotel’s 350 guest rooms allows his team to give its full attention to a group in-house.

“We’ve had the group’s VIP make a signature arrival in a kayak, even though the surf was up,” Pang said. “We’ve arranged for a luau show with fire dancers for an intimate group of 10. We’ve provided instant translation for a group of 300 that included 10 different languages. And, in two hours, we turned a meeting room for 200 into an enchanted garden island for a gala dinner.”

" Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Danny Breatchel, marketing director, said his property customizes a wide range of group programs, such as a stargazing party, a hukilau (a casual Hawaiian party by the sea), a luau, a paniolo barbeque and an evening of orchids banquet. Each group member gets top-of-the-line treatment, Breatchel said.

“Given our small size of 243 rooms, we usually host only one or two groups at a time,” he said.

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