Destination Hawaii (Motivational Strategies Magazine)
By Bob Andelman
Anyone who wonders whether Hawaii could succeed as an incentive destination has obviously never seen Hawaii.
Extraordinary, luxurious tropical resorts, pristine white sandy beaches and lush green mountains… all available for incentive events year-round. And with more than 70,000 hotel accommodations, Hawaii’s lodging industry can work with any budget.
“Hawaii is extremely unique,” says Michael Murray, director of sales for corporate meetings and incentives at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Center. “We’re a very rewarding destination. The appeal that we have helps build attendance. It motivates salespeople to win packages to come here. We have always been among the top incentive destinations in the world.”
Randall Tanaka, sales and marketing director of the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, says there is a lot of revitalized resort product to be seen, particularly in Oahu. “JW Marriott acquired the Ko Olina development from Japan Airlines and they’re doing well there,” he says. “There has also been revitalization of vacation timeshares and the harbor has been redeveloped. On the North Shore of Oahu, Benchmark Hotels plowed a lot of money into the Turtle Bay Resort. They’re also the host of a PGA event that is revitalizing the destination.”
When is a 5-day incentive trip actually a 7- or 9-day incentive trip? When the destination is a place like Hawaii. “If the company is paying for the whole trip, we know we have unbeatable pre- and post-trip options,” Murray says. Because of the length of time it can take to fly to Hawaii and back, it’s a natural opportunity for participants to extend their stays.
Hawaii is part of the United States, of course, but its location in the Pacific gives it a truly international flair. Many planners are more comfortable running an event here than going abroad because it offers global encounters in both Hawaiian and Asian ethnicity, dining and culture – without language or currency issues.
Hawaii Airlines recently added direct flights to Sidney, Australia. “We had tremendous business out of that region even before the direct flights,” Murray says. “Mainland China isn’t there yet, but we are getting more business travelers. Korea and Taiwan are strong markets for us. We sit in the middle of two-thirds of the world’s buying power, between the Pacific Rim and American countries. The time zone is advantageous to doing business everywhere.
Honolulu is the 13th largest city in the US with 800,000 people. It has a varied arts culture, including many live theaters and more than 100 museums. “We are truly a multi-cultural cosmopolitan destination,” Murray says.
Sports of All Sorts
The NFL Pro Bowl has been played in Hawaii for the last 20 years (with six more to come), which is fine for fans, but did you know it is the league’s No. 1 incentive program? “We know that says a lot,” Murray says. It’s a motivator for league sponsors, but especially for players and their families. “You qualify by being a great player,” he says. “The NFL takes care of you and your whole family. They play a game, but players look forward to it.”
The PGA starts its season in Hawaii every January with the Mercedes Championships at The Plantation Course in Kapalua and the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. The many PGA events held throughout the year here offer excellent incentive opportunities such as golf clinics with top pros and VIP seating. For non-aligned incentive programs, the state has a total of 85 golf courses.
Virtually all major resort hotels in Hawaii offer golf and spa facilities.
Oahu: Kahala Mandarin Oriental, Hawaii; JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa; Halekulani; The Royal Hawaiian Hotel; Turtle Bay Resort; Sheraton Moana Surfrider
Maui: Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa; The Four Seasons Maui; Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa; Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
Molokai: Lodge & Beach Villa at Molokai Ranch
Lanai: Manele Bay Hotel; The Lodge at Koele is 1,600 feet up the side of a mountain; “… very cool because of the elevation; guests can leave to go to off property and visit the beach via its sister resort, Manele Bay Hotel.”
Big Island: Fairmont Orchid; Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows; Four Seasons Resort Hualalai – “… the property is built around a crystal clear, natural lagoon and has swim-up bars.”
Kauai: Sheraton Kauai Resort; Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa
Events They’ll Remember
Kauai: Kilohana is a former plantation home now used for restaurants, banquets and special events from luaus to MASH parties; Na `Aina Kai Botanical Garden has 100-plus acres on the ocean and is a beautiful setting with exotic flowers and a hard wood forest; more adventurous groups might be inspired by the airborne Backcountry Zipline Adventure which takes riders down a mountainside.
Oahu: The Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor may seem an unlikely place for incentive events. But it is an extremely popular draw for both history buffs and the curious. The declaration to end World War II was signed at the bow and it is also the site of the memorial for the Arizona. “We have had VIP board meetings in the captain’s deck of 20 people, or groups of up to 4,000 taking over the entire ship,” Murray says. “The typical event is a 1940s swing dance party. It’s a lot of history. We can have people who were at the bombing who will walk you through the ship.”
Younger groups often run incentives and teambuilding events at Oahu’s Hawaiian Waters Adventures Park.
The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa hosted the MONY Group in March 2004. To accommodate this large group, MONY bought out the hotel and the hotel built the new open-air, covered Pavilion at Ihilani to accommodate the group's needs. The group's final night event, the Jacob W. Shoul Award evening, was held in the Pavilion at Ihilani and incorporated silk dancers hung from the high ceilings and dancing above guests’ heads.
Waikiki: Waikiki Aquarium can be a unique setting for elegant dinners and watching a thrilling sunset.
Maui: Charter whale watching or sunset cruises on larger boats or sailboats that accommodate 20 to 40 people. The Maui Ocean Center can be taken over in the evening and handles more than 1,000 people. For something more active, try a downhill bicycle tour starting from the top of a 10,000-foot inactive volcano, Haleakala. It’s a meandering, snaking road that takes four hours to negotiate with a tour leader. “A truly out-of-the-box experience,” Murray says.
Need more stimulation? The Haleakala Zipline Adventure goes over the rainforest along the volcano.
Big Island: Parker Ranch is the largest private ranch in the US. It epitomizes the native term “haw paniolo” – Hawaiian cowboy. Nestled in the side of a mountain, groups can sponsor theme events such as cowboy functions with Hawaiian flair, horseback riding, herding cattle, and native storytelling.
Long Live the King and Queen!
Iolani Palace in downtown Oahu is the only home to monarchy on American soil. The four-story palace once housed King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani from 1882 to 1893 of Hawaii and is an incredibly picturesque treasure. Few people have ever seen it; the palace only recently opened for group events. Capable of handling10 to 600 attendees, it is its own theme.
Eat Here! Eat Here!
Kauai: Tidepools Restaurant; Duke’s Kauai
Oahu: Hoku's; Chef Mavro; Chai's Island Bistro; La Mer; Alan Wong's; L'Uraku; Indigo Eurasian Cuisine
Maui: Haliimaile General Store; Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante
Big Island: Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong
It takes a minimum of several hours by air to visit the Hawaiian islands so Michael Murray offers incentive planners some simple advice for events: plan ahead. And use a native DMC. “They can plan for attractions, events and dine-arounds,” he says. “They have connections exclusives because they do a lot of volume.”
When To Go?
Not many places can claim to be a more year-round resort paradise than Hawaii, so don’t expect to book a trip in the “off” season. There isn’t one. The peak time is February through Easter and spring break. July and August are extremely busy with family travel. Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times, from November 20 to 30, and December 20 to 31. “The whole state sells out,” Murray warns. “Everything in-between is when groups come.”
Gotta Work and Play?
The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu recently received a No. 1 overall ranking as the most attractive convention center and a No. 3 ranking for quality of food served among 40 major convention centers in North America according to a Metropoll X study by Gerard Murphy & Associates. There are 30,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Center and it is just a 20-minute ride from Honolulu International Airport.
“The meetings business we’ve gotten from the corporate market is a hybrid,” says Randall Tanaka, director of sales and marketing for the Center. “Japanese corporations are conservative in terms of letting funds out in salary increases and bonuses. They’re gravitating to incentive travel. What the Japanese do here is a banquet function and they pump it up. In the first half of 2003, 40 percent of our business was from Japan – in a down market. When the destination is tougher to get to, its value rises. So for the companies using travel as an incentive, Hawaii is a desirable destination. Travel as a motivating tool seems to have a stronger pull here.”