It’s not surprising to learn that companies in the insurance and financial industries hold company meetings and conferences on islands with white beaches and blue skies. Be it the Bahamas or Caribbean, these are the locations where attendees can escape to a tropical setting and where meaningful and memorable events await.
Jon Hersh, vice president of World of Travel, a meeting planning and tour company that arranges events throughout the Caribbean for financial companies, cites Aruba as one the hottest places for groups in 2023, but said planners can’t go wrong with any island.
Hersh said, “It’s a neat combination to marry fun and work, and how often do people get the chance to do that? Most of our groups will meet for three days, four-hours a day, and are able to network and interact at the destination the rest of their time. If you can meet with your colleagues and friends in a place like this, who is going to be against it?”
Planners say the sunny skies can create a new mindset, especially for C-suite attendees. These executives’ time is very valuable for them — both personal and professional — and a meeting destination like the Caribbean or the Bahamas provides an opportunity to leverage both.
“Our format leaves a fair amount of the day for attendees to unwind, even with our programing dinners,” one executive, who did not want to be identified, said. “There’s something about going over blue water that provides a mental separation for these executives. Their mindset is in a little different place.”
Fernando Luis, Hilton’s vice president and commercial director for the Caribbean and Latin America, said the brand has launched the More Means Más program in the Caribbean and Latin America. It aligns with the brand’s increased focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at meetings, as well as a focus on wellness and in-person connections.
“The program allows eligible groups to triple the impact of their event,” Luis said. “With this offer, the event hotel will offset the event’s carbon emissions and make donations in the group’s honor to a local community nonprofit. Event planners can also select one signature culinary, entertainment or wellness experience for their attendees. This new program invites our partners to help us create positive environmental and social impact across our communities.”
He added that Hilton hotels in the Caribbean have the perfect combination of meeting facilities with customer-driven service. For instance, the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is located on 15 tropical acres along a wide stretch of palm-fringed beaches — a favorite spot for business meetings.
“With more than 35,000 sf of flexible meeting space, indoors and out, this tropical haven on the Caribbean sands of Aruba’s Palm Beach is the ideal location for large or small events,” Luis said. “The 8,100 sf Grand Morris Lapidus Ballroom accommodates up to 900 attendees, and can be divided in three salon rooms. Five private meeting rooms can be converted and combined to suit your needs.”
The hotel offers a Las Vegas-style casino featuring blackjack, roulette, craps and poker games, plus more than 200 slot machines, video poker and a sports book. For an off-site must-see attraction, attendees can visit the Butterfly Farm, located less than a mile away, and enjoy some of the island’s most photogenic scenery.
Recently, Hilton opened Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort, the second Hilton resort on the island. The property is steps away from Eagle Beach, annually voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The property offers more than 9,400 sf of indoor and outdoor flexible event space.
Hilton Barbados Resort is the island’s largest resort with 355 rooms. The hotel offers more than 10,000 sf of flexible meeting space, including a ballroom with capacity for up to 500 people.
With 16 major islands, the Bahamas is an unmatched destination across 100,000 square miles of the world’s clearest ocean waters.
Geographically, Lynden Pindling International Airport, formerly known as Nassau International Airport, offers excellent direct airlift from major markets across the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. The warm tropical climate of the Bahamas offers year-round access to outdoor activities and dining.
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offers a convention center with more than 200,000 sf of flexible indoor- and outdoor-event space that incorporates the Bahamian culture throughout.
“Our diverse event culinary team has the ability to offer different types of cuisines to include Indian and Kosher meals, in addition to over 45 food and beverage offerings across the resort’s restaurants and lounges that feature culinary options from all over the world,” Kia Guilford, hotel senior marketing communications manager, said.
A few additional highlights that make Baha Mar ideal for conventions and meetings are complimentary basic Wi-Fi in meeting spaces, customized-budget menus and access to the hotel inventory for all catered events. There’s a designated event-planning manager to assist with any questions.
“Baha Mar was in many ways designed to deliver on the increasingly diverse wants and needs of group attendees,” Guilford said.
Once on property, there is an abundance of activities that appeal to a wide array of interests, including private flamingo wildlife encounters, yoga, the Jack Nicklaus Signature Royal Blue Golf Course and the Caribbean’s only Education Spa (ESPA), providing ongoing training, with more than 30,000 sf.
“On-property experiences create time and budget savings when compared to the need for transportation and outside vendors at most resorts,” explained Guilford. “There’s also several bars and lounges, including Skybar, Nassau’s only rooftop bar; Bond and Baha Mar’s club and Jazz Bar, offering nightly live music.”
Then there’s the Atlantis Bahamas, a luxury resort located on Paradise Island. It is a popular destination for attendees and offers a variety of activities. Some of the highlights of Atlantis Bahamas include:
Whether the focus is motivation, rewards or team building, Puerto Rico boasts an array of venues, properties and activities: pristine beaches, luxury accommodations, distinctive adventures, unique natural wonders, a vibrant culinary scene and a culture enriched by five centuries of history.
Puerto Rico offers meeting-goers a variety of indoor and outdoor venues. The tropical weather is prime for various outdoor activities, from golf to swimming, to tennis and more. Plus, travel can be easy because there are nonstop flights from many U.S. airports, and no passport is needed for U.S. residents.
Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, said the island’s remarkable venues offer all the modern technology and amenities needed for a successful event.
“From hotel meeting spaces in posh properties, to unique venues such as Hacienda Campo Rico, an open-air venue located on the grounds of a former, sugar cane plantation, or a smaller scale event at Casa Bacardí, the largest premium rum distillery in the world, Puerto Rico’s meeting spaces welcome and accommodate all with a splash of Boricua culture,” he said, referring to the term that has its roots in the indigenous Taíno language of the Caribbean, which has been adopted as a way for Puerto Ricans to assert their unique cultural identity.
For large-scale events, the Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC) has 600,000 sf of total space with 15 meeting rooms that can convert into 28 break-out rooms. It is the largest and most technologically advanced convention center in the region and also one of the greenest — 20,000 solar panels and other sustainable initiatives. The PRCC has the impressive Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star Facility Rating and is the only venue to earn this in the Caribbean. What’s more, Distrito T-Mobile is an ideal option for off-site events, conventions and performances offering a multi-sensory, audiovisual and technologically advanced experience.
“This unique five-acre experiential complex combines the best in global retail, destination dining, art, entertainment, music, technology and hospitality,” Dean said. “The facility also features the Coca Cola Music Hall, a mixed-use performance venue with space for 5,000-plus people, including a 900-capacity VIP section, and two outdoor bars, with a stage for performances.”
“Puerto Rico holds a unique value proposition for meetings and events with the appeal of an international, tropical destination full of rich, vibrant culture yet domestic to the U.S.,” Dean said. “The island makes for a great and easy destination for meeting planners with no passport needed for U.S. citizens, no currency exchange of the U.S. dollar and no roaming charges for domestic phone plans. Plus, all federal laws apply, and you have the convenience of household name pharmacies at the ready, like Walgreens and CVS.”
Today, the Taino, African and Spanish influences can be seen in various aspects of Caribbean culture, including music, dance, cuisine and language. The Caribbean region is known for its vibrant and diverse culture — a reflection of its complex history and the mixing of various ethnic and cultural groups.
“Given our near perfect weather year-round and wide variety of outdoor venues and group experiences, events are limitless in Puerto Rico,” Dean said. “For example, adventure seekers visiting Puerto Rico can enjoy the longest zip line in the Americas at Toro Verde Adventure Park or kayak in one of three bioluminescent bays, while nature lovers are encouraged to explore El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system and culture enthusiasts can take a historical tour of El Morro or learn the roots and rhythm of Bomba music.”
From major corporate conferences to tropical retreats, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort offers venues for meetings of most sizes. It has 48,000 sf of indoor event space in their dedicated conference center, while tropical outdoor areas offer bountiful options for team building, group activities and all types of island events.
“The center boasts one of the largest indoor ballrooms in the Caribbean along with smaller breakout rooms and board meeting rooms that can accommodate groups of any size,” said Evy Garcia, vice president of LionGrove, which acquired the resort last year. “With award-winning expertise from the on-site destination management company, the resort is a favorite among event planners.” While its meeting spaces are dedicated, modern and equipped to handle even the most complex of groups, the other areas of the resort are built for enjoyment and relaxation. Active attendees can enjoy the golf courses, tennis courts and even a water slide, while attendees looking to relax outside of the meetings can enjoy the spa, three pools and miles of pristine beaches.
“The events team is prepared to fully customize events to ensure attendees are engaged throughout and leave feeling satisfied and fulfilled,” Garcia said. “Attendees never need to leave the resort, but if they did, the hotel is one of the closest to El Yunque National Park, a top tourist attraction on the island.”
The resort is nestled on 500 acres along a two-mile-long section of golden beach adjacent to the El Yunque National Rainforest and the Mameyes River, while only being about 20 minutes away from San Juan.
“We also offer attendees plenty of dining experiences with our nine restaurants and bars and a variety of amenities including a 7,000 sf casino, two world-class golf courses, a spa and fitness center, multiple lounges and entertainment venues, tennis center and three beachfront pools,” Garcia said.
With 17 acres of tropical landscaping set on a secluded peninsula in San Juan, the iconic Caribe Hilton offers a vibrant meetings destination. The hotel has nearly 65,000 sf of versatile space, including four ballrooms, an auditorium, and 24 meeting rooms, including one of the largest exhibit spaces on the island.
“Leverage the surrounding natural beauty and expansive open-air lobby to add a refreshing spin to conventional meeting practices,” Luis said. “Entertain under swaying palm trees and warm ocean breezes, while dining on local flavors and sipping an original piña colada.”
For planners who are searching for Caribbean destinations for their event, they will find there are plenty more that tick all the right boxes in the most delightful way. I&FMM