To hear Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau vice president Michael Murray tell it, meetings, conventions and incentives (MCI) are hard-pressed to find a better gathering place than Oahu. For that, credit goes to the island’s vast — and often unmatched — resources.
“One of Oahu’s strongest selling points is its diversity of accommodations and meeting facilities,” said Murray. “Half of Hawaii’s hotel rooms are on Oahu. Having so many choices helps groups stay within budget without sacrificing the quality of the experience, which means that Oahu has a larger net to capture new business.”
Additional points go to Oahu’s ease of access by air and one-of-a-kind attractions.
Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel’s Coconut Club is the spot for sunset cocktail parties and motivational meetings. // (C) 2010 Aston Hotels & Resorts
“Honolulu receives more direct flights from domestic and international cities than all the other islands combined,” said Murray. “And, it’s home to some iconic sites such as the USS Arizona Memorial, Iolani Palace and Diamond Head crater.”
Standing ready to help groups meet in the middle of the Pacific are destination management companies like Honolulu-based MC&A.
“Ever since Waikiki completed several renovation projects, we have seen a significant increase in interest in bringing corporate groups to Oahu,” said MC&A president Chris Resich. “Participants can enjoy all aspects of the Hawaii experience, such as ocean sports and beautiful scenery while, at the same time, learning about history by visiting Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace and the Polynesian Cultural Center.”
Add to that a large variety of tours, shopping options and evening entertainment and you’ve got an MCI dream come true, Resich added.
Multiple Choices for Meetings
Where do all these visitors do their business? For starters, there’s the Hawaii Convention Center, which recently earned kudos from the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). The organization rebooked the Honolulu facility for its 2018 meeting with statewide spending revenue projected at more than $14.1 million and hotel partners benefitting with 24,000 booked rooms.
“The positive response that AAPD had here at its 2009 meeting was definitely a reason why it chose Oahu again for its 2018 meeting,” said convention center general manager Joe Davis.
Then there are Oahu’s many hotels, which continually upgrade their meeting facilities to stay competitive. A case in point is the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which has remodeled its Alii and Mahele suites with high-level executives in mind. In February 2009, it launched a new luau and, in May, it opened the Tropics Bar and Grill.
As part of its $200 million renovation, Sheraton Waikiki overhauled its 45,000 square feet of indoor meeting facilities, including the 26,000-square-foot Hawaii Ballroom. It added a full-service business center to the ballroom level so conventioneers can be more productive, and back-of-house upgrades lifted the overall group experience to new heights.
For smaller conferences or special events, Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel’s new 500-square-foot Lokahi meeting room might be just the ticket. Another option is the hotel’s 2,300-square-foot Coconut Club on the 21st floor, catering to motivational meetings and sunset cocktail parties.
Meanwhile, Outrigger Reef on the Beach took the wraps off two 350-square-foot oceanfront boardrooms with fixed seating for up to 10 people. For larger gatherings, its new Voyager Conference Room seats 20 people and holds up to 60 people in banquet format.
Outside of Waikiki
Beyond the city, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa unveiled its Hokulani Ballroom, holding up to 1,100 guests for banquets and 2,000 guests for theater-style presentations.
Turtle Bay Resort, the only meetings hotel on Oahu’s North Shore, is calling to groups with its Pacific Rim Conference Center, a 31,000-square-foot venue with room for 600 attendees. Its new incentive plan provides a long list of customized programs, services and amenities.
Groups can look forward to new MCI options at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa at Ko Olina. Scheduled to open in 2011, it will offer 63,000 square feet of event space including a 14,000-square-foot conference center and plenty of outdoor function space.
As Murray discussed Oahu’s MCI attributes, he noted that business travelers often bring their spouse or family with them and extend their stay.
“We encourage attendees to take advantage of the islands,” said Murray. “Oahu is a dream destination, providing a rejuvenating, invigorating experience that helps increase productivity when returning to the job.”