Ilima Garden, at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, is a popular choice for intimate events. // © 2010 Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
When companies hold a corporate meeting or incentive (CMI) event on Kauai, they can bypass the traditional boardroom in favor of brainstorming under banyan trees. They can forgo the windowless private dining room and, instead, savor a beachside dinner set to the sounds of Hawaiian music. As the group’s activities and accommodations harmonize with the island’s one-of-a-kind natural environment, they can discover just how easy it is to combine business with pleasure, Garden Isle-style.
“On Kauai, the great outdoors is a major draw for the CMI market,” said Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho. “During down time, groups can enjoy the island’s incredible scenery through outings such as boating along the Na Pali Coast or kayaking the Wailua River. It’s a fantastic way for companies to reward their employees for their past year’s performance or motivate them for new challenges.”
Kauai’s rich history and culture add extra allure to a CMI trip, Kanoho said. As groups learn about the destination’s unique traditions, their visit to the island takes on new meaning.
“Any time a specialist is brought in to talk with groups about the Hawaiian culture, it’s memorable,” she said. “One time, our director of sales gave a presentation about how hard our people work to make island salt and, then, she gave each participant a little packet of that salt. It was a real goose-bumps moment.
“In the same way, hula — which is such a big part of who we are as an island — should always be shared with any group that comes here,” said Kanoho. “And when locals with deep ties to the culture offer their stories, it can have a huge impact on attendees.”
Hotels With a Sense of Place
For Kauai’s CMI guests, even the most familiar of hotel brands marches to the island’s singular beat. At Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach, for instance, groups can mingle in the 50,000-square-foot Garden of Kalapaki, surrounded by ponds, waterfalls and indigenous flora; or the 5,000-square-foot Luau Gardens, with ocean views and an imu (underground oven).
At Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, where guests stay in restored plantation homes built in the early 1900s, an expansive oceanfront lawn embraced by graceful coconut trees accommodates a wide assortment of events, many of which utilize live entertainment.
Sheraton Kauai Resort beckons the CMI market with function rooms opening up to lush gardens and water features, and its al fresco venues are ideal for soirees under the stars. For off-property bonding, attendees can make a difference in the community with the hotel’s Events With Aloha program, where groups volunteer their time and services to support local causes.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa also urges CMI clients to give back to the island through volunteer projects. The south shore hotel stands ready to further enhance the group experience with customized fitness classes and island-inspired body treatments at its 45,000-square-foot Anara Spa.
St. Regis Princeville Resort, catering primarily to well-traveled and discriminating incentive groups, presents an aura of indoor elegance in the midst of extraordinary natural surroundings. VIPs can stay in suites with butler services, then venture into the rural reaches of Kauai’s north shore with its waterfalls, mountains and cliff-lined shores.
Kauai Beach Resort — with a self-proclaimed goal of becoming the most Kauaian hotel — encourages meeting planners to tap into its extensive partnership with Hawaiian entertainers, performers and practitioners who can add a cultural twist to a group’s agenda.
Come to Work, Return to Play
Thanks to its good looks, great activities and distinctive accommodations, Kauai has a knack for transforming current CMI travelers into future leisure visitors. Here’s a good example: Mark Davis, president of the Inner Circle of Advocates, was so impressed by the St. Regis Princeville’s handling of his company’s event that he and his wife decided to schedule their daughter’s wedding at the same property.
Grand Hyatt Kauai spokesperson Diann Hartman has noticed a similar trend at her resort.
“Sometimes, CMI travelers come for their meeting and extend their stay when their family joins them,” said Hartman. “But many of them, after visiting, realize what a wonderful time they would have if they returned here for a purely leisure vacation with their loved ones.”
The influence of CMI travel on leisure bookings shouldn’t be overlooked, not only on Kauai but around the islands, said Michael Murray, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s CMI sales and marketing vice president.
“When I attend meetings events in Hawaii or talk with people who have recently done business in the islands, one message I hear over and over again is, ‘I can’t wait to come back,’” said Murray. “And I’m convinced they usually do come back, accentuating the value of the meetings market to Hawaii’s visitor industry.”