Once Again Open to Visitors, Hawaii Prepares for the Return of Meetings and Events
With the launch of its pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15, the State of Hawaii officially began welcoming visitors back to the islands. According to John Reyes, senior vice president and chief meetings, conventions and incentives (MCI) sales officer for Meet Hawaii, the reopening is positive news for groups looking to book meetings and events — even if, at the moment, allowable gatherings are still small.
Currently, Hawaii has limited social gatherings to 10 people inside and 10 people outside. In an attempt to increase that number, Reyes says the tourism industry is urging political decision makers to consider MCI groups separately because of the work being done to implement health and safety protocols specific to the market.
That includes a comprehensive health and safety program developed by venue and event management company ASM Global at Hawaii Convention Center. According to Teri Orton, general manager, HCC is available for meetings as long as they follow State of Hawaii Department of Health and CDC guidelines, which planners can find on the reopening protocols section of the center’s website.
To further aid planners, Meet Hawaii is aggregating the newly implemented protocols along with venue updates and supplier relationship assistance into what they are calling the New Hawaii MCI Blueprint, which will soon be available on the Meet Hawaii website and continually updated with the latest information.
While Meet Hawaii has received an uptick in meeting inquiries for 2021 — especially for smaller groups and hybrid gatherings — they are seeing greater interest for 2022 and beyond. “2022 has strong group bookings, and Meet Hawaii anticipates the return to pre-COVID group demand to Hawaii in 2024,” says Reyes.
Coupled with the introduction of a vaccine, Reyes sees the return of meetings dependent on the industry’s ability to respond to the evolving needs of planners. “The key for Hawaii and our industry is to offer meeting customers the technology that allows them to have on-site attendance and stream to attendees who choose to attend their meetings virtually,” says Reyes. He adds that they’re also seeing a demand for more flexible cancellation policies by meetings customers.
The positive news, says Reyes, is that Hawaii’s health and safety protocols have already created a strong level of confidence among visitors. To build upon those, Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association has launched the “We Are Ready” program outlining the measures implemented at Hawaii hotels. “As a hotel community, HTLA has been proactive in ensuring the health and safety of our hotel guests as well as our hotel employees,” says Reyes.
Hotels with meeting facilities that reopened Oct. 15 with measures in place include Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, which recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation and is offering a program that allows groups to buy out all or a portion of the 40-acre resort, and the two Four Seasons resorts on the island of Lanai. Scheduled to reopen in November are Prince Waikiki on Oahu, Mauna Kea Resort on Hawaii Island, and — for smaller groups — the 18-room Plantation Inn on Maui. Also on Maui, Ka’anapali Beach Hotel expects to reopen on Dec. 1 following a $75 million renovation.
Get more information on holding meetings and incentives in Hawaii here.