Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: April/May 2009
BM&T's Island Guide
By: Michael Bennett

BM&T'S ISLAND GUIDE
Your Cost-Effective Alternative
Fora Memorable Meeting Experience

Exotic, romantic, relaxing, charming - I don't know about you but after a winter of snow and ice it's time for the warm weather and gentle breezes of my favorite island paradise. These small slivers of paradise are often marketed as carefree vacation hotspots depicting bikini clad women and men with six-pack abs splashing in the azure waters of the Caribbean or Mexico sipping some exotic drink. When people think of island destination most look offshore. I asked a handful of friends "what is your favorite island destinations?" Here are their answers: Jamaica, Hawaii, Fiji, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda to name a few.

Great locales all, but what about islands in the lower 48? In our zeal to seek out the exotic or the different we often overlook the treasures in our own backyard. Within our borders we have such high-octane destinations as Miami Beach or the slower pace Kiawah Island (KEE-a-wah) off the coast of South Carolina.

And if you absolutely must leave the continental U.S., try Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both are U.S. territories that don't require passports or currency exchange and all offer the luxurious accommodations and exotic feel we seek.

Before anyone thinks I'm trying to downplay the island destinations of our many friends around the world, I assure you that is not the case. I am simply trying to point out the obvious in the hopes that visiting U.S.-based destinations will spur travel to islands all over the world when the economy recovers. For those who have the means to head overseas, we strongly encourage you to go now and enjoy - the current bargains are too good to pass up.

For meeting planners, today's tough economic climate has forced many to find less expensive playgrounds closer to home. America's island destinations make excellent venues for meetings, conventions and incentive travel and they are often overlooked.

Located off South Carolina's southeast coast, Hilton Head Island conjures up images of world-class golf courses complimented by a host of distinctive hotels and resorts. But Hilton Head offers so much more, with over 250 restaurants, tennis courts, cruises and other outdoors water activities, health spas, beaches, historic tours and shopping all served by an airport with direct flights from many U.S. destinations.

Warmed by the nearby Gulf Stream current, Hilton Head's average daytime temperature is a mild 70 degrees.

More than half-a-dozen resorts with 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space call the shores of Hilton Head home. In total, 22 properties offer some form of meeting and convention facilities. Island accommodations include over 3,000 hotel/motel rooms, 6,000 villas, and 1,000 timeshare units.

Some of the most recognizable brand names in our industry are located on Hilton Head from the Crowne Plaza Hilton Island Beach Resort to the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa to the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa.

Hilton Head's state-of-the-art conference facilities can handle groups as large as 2,000 people in 40,000 sq. ft. of board or meeting space. To learn more about Hilton Head go to http://www.hiltonheadisland.org/meetings-groups/meetings-and-events/.

Kiawah Island is another South Carolina treasure with golf, tennis, fine dining, wildlife and 10 miles of pristine beach. This luxury resort and residential community is just minutes from Charleston in the low country.

The island features the Kiawah Island Golf Resort with five award winning courses. This resort will play host to the 2012 PGA Championships. The numerous ballrooms at The Sanctuary Hotel range in size from 1,300 to just over 6,000 sq. ft. with the finest in hi-tech amenities. This property features 255 rooms and suites.

The East Beach Conference Center's Governor's Hall is over 6,900 sq. ft. and can be arranged in five different configurations capable of holding up to 800 people.

Keep in mind, when planning meetings here, this is a combination residential and resort living so courtesy to the locals is a must. To learn more go to http://www.kiawah.com/ and click on the Kiawah Island Golf Resort link.

One more stop in South Carolina before we head south is another one of those barrier islands, Fripp Island with over three miles of uncrowded, unspoiled beaches. The Fripp Island Golf and Beach Resort is about an hour from Savannah airport and just north of Hilton Head.

This resort can handle small gatherings up to 300 people. It's a great place for social gatherings such as weddings or your group can take part in the many outdoor team-building activities. For information log on to http://www.frippislandresort.com/.

Heading south, on interstate 95 is Georgia's Golden Islands. This group of barrier islands is one of those American treasurers that might not be familiar to many outside the South. World economic leaders got a first hand look back in 2004 as host of the G8 Summit. Part of the Golden Islands is a chain known as the Sea Islands. The Sea Islands include: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island and Little St. Simons Island.

Several Sea Island resorts are capable of holding conferences and conventions. Here are a few to consider. On Jekyll Island is the Villas By The Sea Resort, Condominium, Hotel and Conference Center. The freestanding Georgia Conference Center has over 5,800 sq. ft. designed for the ultimate in flexibility. The property features 150 villas just steps from the ocean.


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