Spotlight on Hawaii

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It must be in the Hawaiian DNA, that welcoming sense of hospitality that hoteliers everywhere would like to emulate. And when it comes to natural beauty, Hawaii’s brimming with it. It’s the kind of ancient, raw beauty that makes one see the world anew. Perhaps that’s why an event held anywhere in Hawaii feels both rewarding and renewing—and why attendance at Hawaiian-based events runs predictably high.

For all the timeless beauty and aloha spirit, there’s also a real timeliness about hosting an event in the Hawaiian Islands today.

For starters, a noteworthy farm-to-table movement and authentic cultural encounters, both prized by today’s meeting and incentive travelers, elevate Hawaii to a short list of must-have destinations. Next, the increasingly global makeup of events makes Hawaii’s mid-Pacific location a convenient midway point for groups needing to accommodate delegates from North America and Asia. Airlines are doing their part to help by increasing their airlift to the islands. Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism expect a 9.2 percent jump in seats from the mainland in Q1 2015 over the same time last year. And then there’s the cutting-edge infrastructure, beginning with the high-tech, green-minded convention center on Oahu, just a short walk from Waikiki Beach.

Perhaps some of the most welcome news to meeting planners comes as a result of the rebounding economy. According to Pacific Business News, Hawaii has seen a record-number of hotel acquisitions in the past two years—by owners willing to make capital investments. Even hotels that have not seen a change in ownership are forging ahead with property-wide improvements that will surely enhance group experiences. Pacific Business News reported that some $2.5 billion worth of hotel renovations are currently in the works or were very recently completed. Notables on the renewal list include Kauai’s Princeville; Oahu’s Turtle Bay and JW Marriott Ihilani at Ko Olina (reopening after renovations as a Four Seasons Resort); The Westin Maui; and The Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

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Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach

The story is much the same at Hawaii’s four Marriott Convention & Resort Network properties. A November 2014 site visit of the four hotels (on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, and Kauai) gave insight into their capital improvements.

On Oahu, the 1,310-room Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa will unveil comprehensive renovations to its public spaces in 2016. The extensive project will provide an all-new arrival experience, a relocation of the breakfast restaurant to the second floor, new shops, an updated tour-desk and loading area, and enhancements of the meeting facilities, including more soundproofing and new walls and carpets.

Similarly, Hawaii Island’s 555-room Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, located just 25 minutes from Kailua-Kona airport, received a soft-goods renewal and technology enhancements in guest rooms in 2013 and 2014, with smaller projects to come this year. On Maui, where Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa boasts the area’s only oceanfront event space, renovation plans will be announced in the upcoming months for projects in  2015 and beyond. The 356-room Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach is investing in its spa, which will debut by year’s end.

The well-organized Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau team is yet another asset. Along with island expertise, they can provide research, visitor satisfaction surveys, and a great deal of constructive assistance for your timely event in Hawaii. For more information, visit www.meethawaii.com.

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The aloha arm of Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network includes properties on Oahu, Hawaii Island (aka: the Big Island), Maui, and Kauai. Here’s a glimpse of the tour and its takeaways:

Waikiki_Marriott_1Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
No. of Guest Rooms: 1,310
Meeting Space: 55,000 square feet (indoor and outdoor)
Location: Directly across the street from the beach, on the “quiet” side of Waikiki near the zoo, Kapiolani Park, and the island’s iconic power spot, Diamond Head.

What Groups Can Expect: A prized setting on land once occupied by Queen Liliuokalani. Today, the buzz of city life, nightlife, and beach life all around, with views of the crescent shoreline to one side and Diamond Head to the other. Plus, a new spa (opened in February 2014) and state-of-the-art fitness center with 24-hour access; two saltwater pools; urban sensibility in the rooms; and, coming in 2016, remodeled, updated public and meeting spaces, new shops, and a new beach grill on the second-floor.

Personal Favorites: Towering sunrise and sunset views as SUPers and surfers hit the water; delicious sushi on-site at Sansei; Segway tours operated right from the hotel with patient instruction for beginners; and signature Hawaiian lomilomi massage at the Royal Kaila Spa, overlooking Waikiki Beach.

Value Dates: April-May, October-November
Website: www.marriott.com/hnlmc
Contact: Pattie Herman, DOSM
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Waikoloa_Marriott _2Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
No. of Guest Rooms: 555
Meeting Space: 128,000 square feet (indoor and outdoor)
Location: On 15 oceanfront acres in Waikoloa, about 18 miles north of the Kona Airport, past ancient lava fields that still render the landscape both desolate and exotic.

What Groups Can Expect: Authentic Hawaiian hospitality that feels tranquil, unhurried and unpretentious; spectacular views, a white-sand beach and a nightclub in the coconut grove; one of the few island properties with an exemption to serve cocktails on the beach; a Mandara spa; generous swimming pools for both kids and adults; and, a quick walk away, several great restaurants for a convenient evening off-site.

Personal Favorites: Executive Chef Jayson Kanekoa’s relationship with local farmers, which translates to an abundance of fresh, local ingredients in such dishes as WOW Farms’ tomato gazpacho; and an outdoor pool open 24 hours for late-night swims under a canopy of stars.

Value Dates: September – mid-December
Website: www.waikoloabeachmarriott.com
Contact: John Dominguez, DOSM
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Marriot_Wailia_2Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
No. of Guest Rooms: 541
Meeting Space: 70,000 square feet (indoor & outdoor)
Location: On the beach along Maui’s sunny leeward coast, within the Wailea Resort community

What Groups Can Expect: Warm, by-the-sea hospitality with enough urban sensibility to keep demanding groups entertained; a walking/jogging path along the beach for fitness buffs; an on-site luau, a choice of ballrooms, plus a scenic rooftop terrace for view-filled events outdoors; and to-be-unveiled renovation plans that will enhance the experience for guests.

Personal Favorites: The choice of 2 golden-sand beaches for swimming and snorkeling, plus an infinity pool with spectacular sunset views over the ocean. A choice of moods and menus for dining, including beachside smoothies, fruit, and baked goods at Whale’s Tale and Asian fusion cuisine at Migrant, headed by 2013 Top Chef: Seattle fan favorite Chef Sheldon Simeon.

Value Dates: October–December
Website: www.waileamarriott.com
Contact Name: Alvin Wong, DOSM
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Kauii_Marriott_2Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach
No. of Guest Rooms: 356
Meeting Space: 80,000 square feet (indoor & outdoor)
Location: In a world of its own on Kalapaki Beach, a mere three minutes from Lihue Airport.

What Groups Can Expect: A full 85 acres, with exquisite gardens adorned with a mix of Greek and Asian artifacts and ample open-air venues from which to enjoy them. A quiet bay, ideal for fledgling stand-up paddleboarders (and on-site rentals to make it possible); opportunities for private dining overlooking the pools; comfy accommodations; the largest ballroom on the island (at 17,280 square feet); options for outdoor (and delicious) cooking demonstrations; and Kauai’s longest stretch of oceanfront golf, designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Personal Favorites: Hawaii’s largest—and quite possibly prettiest—outdoor swimming pool, which serves as a focal point for gatherings, with the swimmable beach just steps away; koi-filled ponds; and the pervasive feeling that you’ve just entered Eden.

Value Dates: Jan. 5–15; May 1–June 15; August 21–December 15 (excluding Thanksgiving)
Website: www.kauaimarriott.com
Contact: Sally Halm, Director of Sales

Susan Campbell

Susan Campbell

Susan Campbell is the Editor of Elite Meetings magazine. During her 20-plus years in publishing, she’s written extensively on destinations and luxury hospitality experiences for leisure travelers and the meetings industry alike.

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