Here is feedback from some Australian professional conference organisers who took part in the Experience Aloha Business Exchange, hosted by Hawai’i Tourism Oceania and held on Oahu and Maui in early June 2018.
“The number of options [is] almost unlimited. The off-site menu of options almost makes it too hard to pick, because there are so many spectacular things to choose from. Dinner at the USS Missouri is something that is really special. To enable delegates to take a tour of the ship, and then have a dinner at the location, would be very memorable for a lot of people. I would suggest event organisers would need to allocate at least four nights on Oahu alone, and if the client had more time, it would give them the flexibility to do two islands, especially for a smaller-sized group.
Event Manager – Cornerstone Events
What’s your opinion on Hawaii’s event options?
“There’s definitely a lot more opportunities and a lot more available to clients and for partner programs in Hawaii than I had expected. I didn’t realise Hawaii was so strong for partner programs, and that it was so easy to manage lots of different activities.”
Did the event leave you inspired?
“Yes, definitely. Some have very big partner programs that they’ve already created. There is a lot you can also incorporate if your delegates take a day off in the middle of their program for optional touring, something that can be all-encompassing for all participants. Hawaii is a great opportunity for that. There’s so much here: there are lots of activities for the kids to do and to keep them entertained, whereas some places you go you are filling up the day with massages and high teas and other less exciting activities,” Fitzsimmons said.
Darren Crichton-Browne, Director at DCB Conferences and Events said a major draw-card for his conference groups considering Hawaii is the access. He suggests most of the Australian east seaboard could fly into Honolulu overnight and hit the ground running on day one.
“The benefit for clients is that delegates are not losing a day of travel straight away; people can spend an entire day in the office then fly out in the evening after work.”
Crichton-Browne said Hawaii event delegates fly out on a Monday evening, land in Hawaii on Monday morning (local time) and get straight into conferencing the same day.
“It’s a bit of a reverse to Asia, where flights are mostly through the day and delegates arrive in the evening and go straight to a hotel and bed … Hawaii has you landing in the morning. With the right hotel partners, you can really commence on day one, as soon as you land, and get rid of the jetlag.”
“The flip-side coming home is that delegates wake up after their gala/awards dinner on a Friday night, catch the Saturday mid-morning flight back to Australia and are home on a Sunday evening, ready to head back into the office on Monday.
“From a budgeting point of view, Hawaii really makes sense. For event organisers, Hawaii provides cost efficiencies and avoids having delegates sitting around all day waiting for an evening flight and paying for late check-out from a hotel. For first-time groups, the Waikiki/Honolulu area has so much to offer. For pre and post, organisers could look at a neighbouring island such as Maui as a definite option. But what we saw in Waikiki is phenomenal, from going up to Kualoa Ranch as an afternoon luncheon activity or team-building [exercise] right through to … the historic Iolani Palace for an awards dinner, through to a VIP dinner on a private estate with incredible views over Honolulu.”
Director – DCB Conferences and Events
“That’s what really surprised me. Having not been there for 20 years, in my headspace I thought groups would likely have to get out of Waikiki, but it has so much to offer. The hotel list is endless.”
Crichton-Browne said that while Waikiki beachfront hotels are highly sought after, locations such as Prince Waikiki becomes “quite cost-effective, with [its] larger rooms and far more attractive rates”.
“Another benefit is flying with Hawaiian Airlines; the journey and conference start from the moment you check in. The Hawaiian flavour and spirit are introduced to your delegates at the airport, which is really a great bonus.”
Gina Roustas-Gonnella, General Manager of Travel at Directions Travel says for her, Hawaii is a special location, offering something “so enchanting, feels like home, soothes my soul and my personal favourite by far”.
“This is the feeling you can give to your attendees, along with everything else they expect to receive when attending a conference or incentive trip in Hawaii.”
“Hawaii has the beautiful hotels and resorts we all know and love. It offers you the service we expect, and over and above, it gives you the dining and conference spaces, choose a spectacular location, create the theme, whether it is taking in nature at Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve, living it big at a unique luxurious private estate. The activities Hawaii has to offer are endless, from extreme adrenaline sports, to hit the reset button sipping on something cold while taking in all its nature beauty.”
“Getting out of Waikiki seeing the amazing coastline and pristine beaches, it is bliss, pick the pace. There is soo much to offer, you can get it “all” right, every component, flights, transfers, hotels, dinners, tours, events, you can make magic happen. Getting there is a breeze, direct flights with Qantas, Jetstar or Hawaiian, so moving big groups makes it easy.”
General Manager Travel – Directions Travel
Another event specialist attending the 2018 Experience Aloha Business Exchange was Jan Musgrave, Director of Business Development for Inspired Luxury. Musgrave said:
“Hawaii offers the dream destination and delivers on a diverse mix of exceptional hotel options. Hawaii’s off-site experiences capture the landscape and essence of Hawaii. It’s a brilliant destination that ticks all the boxes for groups of all sizes.”