While no longer commonly referred to as The Big Island, the Island of Hawaii is a bigger destination than ever. Not only is lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano, extending its land mass, the island’s agricultural diversity, hardwood forests, marine activities and other attributes are on the increase as well.
“We offer experiences that are unique and different even from those on the other Hawaiian Islands,” said Debbie Hogan, senior director of sales for the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau. “Nowhere else in the U.S. will you find an active volcano or as many of the world’s climate zones.”
Drawing a wide range of meetings business from large association groups to upscale corporate incentives, Hogan said the island’s peaceful atmosphere and astonishingly diverse landscape, which ranges from snow-capped mountains to black-sand beaches and tropical rainforest, make it ideal for groups seeking inspiration.
“You can settle in here very quickly and get in a frame of mind that allows you to focus on goals and education,” she said. “We have something the Hawaiians call mana, a kind of spiritual energy.”
Group business to the island reaches its peak during January through March, while summer is the busiest season for leisure travel, according to Hogan. When planners are searching for favorable dates and hotel rates, she noted that the best way to start the process is to contact the island bureau or Meet Hawaii, an organization that markets the state of Hawaii and offers a full menu of meeting resources, including a speaker’s bureau.
“If a planner comes to Meet Hawaii or the island chapter and is looking for August, we can check for holes in the calendar,” she said. “It might turn out that meeting in September will be a much better option if you have the flexibility.”
While most of Hawaii’s resort hotels are clustered along the sunny Kona-Kohala side of the island, Hilo on the lush east side is gaining momentum as a group destination, according to Hogan. Strengthening its appeal is the recent renovation of the 388-room Grand Naniloa Hotel, which recently became a DoubleTree property and accommodates up to 400 guests for a meeting. Daily flight service into Hilo from Los Angeles by United Airlines is scheduled to start in December.