How To Choose A Great
Hawai'i Meeting Destination -- Tips For Meeting Planners
With hundreds of groups booked annually, the
Hawaiian islands are one of the world's most popular group
destinations. But even the most experienced meeting planner can
benefit from "insider" tips about choosing the best
Hawaiian meeting destination. The sales, catering and conference
services staffs at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui reveal their
best advice for creating memorable Hawaiian meetings:
- A truly Hawaiian experience means
unspoiled coastline, palm trees, and a star-filled
tropical night sky unobscured by city lights. All outdoor
meeting spaces in Hawai'i should have pristine views:
planners should look up, around and over for unsightly
obstructions such as other buildings, dumpsters, power
- Meeting sites should have the minimum of
three distinct outdoor venues, preferably with ocean or
beachside availability. All beaches are public access in
Hawai'i so, for a degree of privacy, there should be
beachside function areas of 20,000-50,000 square feet,
with adequate indoor back-up space.
- Since Hawai'i is a popular destination for
golfers, the location should have a minimum of two golf
courses on property whose staff can arrange
"shotgun" tournaments for various size groups.
Ideally, the courses would host annual, world-renowned
tournaments, to add luster to the group's experience on
the same fairways.
- Unusual offsite locations abound in the
islands: deserted mountaintops with 360 degree views,
accessible only by helicopter; dramatic waterfalls,
canyons and volcanic craters; rainforest conservation
areas. The hotel's conference services staff should have
the contacts and offsite catering capability to make
these fantasy locations a reality.
- There should be out-of-the-ordinary
outdoor locations close by the hotel and the flexibility
to hold functions there - at deserted beaches, coconut
groves, private estate tropical gardens.
- Group value season in Hawai'i is June
through September, and the first two weeks of December.
Planners should take note of special events in Hawai'i
such as Aloha Festivals, the month-long state-wide
cultural celebration in September; tying group activities
to existing Hawaiian festivities is a low-cost way to
enhance the program.
- When there are two or more of the same
hotel chain in the islands, which easily share group
information, the way is paved for effective cross-serving
when multiple group trips are planned over the years. Pre
and post-trips to different islands are also made easier.
- Planners should familiarize themselves
with the special equipment needs for their group, plus
shipping costs, times and requirements that are unique to
Hawai'i. The hotel should have a secured room for
storage, so shipments don't sit on a loading dock, and
planners should double check the liability conditions
that exist prior to delivery to the hotel.
- The hotel staff should be seasoned
hospitality veterans with long service records at the
hotel and be knowledgeable about the Hawaiian environment
and culture. This ensures an authentic island experience.
An enthusiastic, informed staff member should be
available to give an island and culture orientation to
- Even if the hotel is in a secluded area,
there should be several high-caliber restaurants within
easy driving distance for dinearounds. An on-property
restaurant, which delivers a special Hawaiian experience
combining tropical atmosphere, great food and top-notch
service is a must.
- Another consideration is whether the group
is made up of first-time or repeat visitors to the
islands. First timers would love a Polynesian Review at a
lu au, complete with colorful costumes and fire dancers,
whereas returning visitors might appreciate a more
authentic feast with ancient forms of hula and Hawaiian
- Hawai'i regional cuisine is a vibrant
culinary movement utilizing local seafood, meats and
produce. Planners can take advantage of this advantage of
this delicious trend by requesting innovative menus with
locally-produced ingredients, rather than settling for
mainland meals "Hawaiianized" with a morsel of
pineapple or coconut.
The More, The Merrier:
- Hawai'i provides opportunities for many
creative spouse programs, e.g. hands-on workshops with
local artists with circle-island town car tours stopping
at artist's studios; culinary field trips to gather
locally grown ingredients followed by cooking classes
using the foods; spa treatments utilizing Hawaiian
healing massage. Visitors are curious about the culture
and will appreciate the chance to learn about it in
- Members of the group and their spouses may
decide to remain a few days on-property after the meeting
and the Hawaiian islands are one of the most romantic
spots on the globe. A memorable Hawaiian experience can
be created by anticipating their mood: is there a small
chapel or classically scenic Hawaiian location on the
property where couples can renew their vows? Can the
hotel arrange private dinners for two in secluded areas?
- The children's program should be flexible
to conform to the group's needs. Does the hotel offer the
same cookie-cutter program for children that is offered
on the mainland? Or does it seek to give the smaller
guests a distinctively Hawaiian type of fun, outdoor,
cultural experience they'll remember the rest of their
- A thoughtful amenity can be locally
commissioned artwork; it will last forever and bring back
memories of a special Hawaiian trip. The artist can be
invited to sign art at a welcome reception or final
- Pre-arrival teasers can build anticipation
for the upcoming trip to come: chocolate covered
macadamia nuts, Kona coffee, fresh tropical flowers, and
kukui nut leis. Or, "sun," "sand,"
and "aloha spirit" can be "packaged"
in company-logo containers, for a creative series of
- Wine, cheese or snacks are always
appropriate welcome amenities, but Hawaiian wine, jams
and jellies from locally grown exotic fruits, tropical
fruit displays, chocolate specialties produced on the
islands, and other one-of-kind items are available at the
same cost. Or the chef can create delicious Hawaiian
The 550-room Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is located
amidst a pineapple plantation on Maui's lush northwest shore. For
reservations or more information, please call a travel
professional or Central Reservations at 800-241-3333.