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by Josh Lieberman | September 20, 2016
Destination Hawaii, a Northstar Meetings Group event bringing together suppliers and buyers in a one-on-one meeting format, took place last week (Sept. 13-16) at the the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, on Maui. In attendance were 36 buyers and 38 suppliers, which included Hawaii hotels, convention and visitor bureaus, destination management companies, and more.

The event kicked off last Tuesday with a custom fitting of Maui Jim Sunglasses. Unfortunately, with rain descending on Maui, those shiny new sunglasses had to remain in planners' pockets during the first day. But the downpour did little to dampen the upbeat mood of the opening reception, which was held in the Ritz-Carlton's large Aloha Garden Pavilion. (The hotel offers 150,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.) Attendees dined on salmon sashimi, mix-your-own ramen dishes, and -- this being Hawaii -- spam musubi.
    
Wednesday morning began with a breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton sponsored by Meet Hawaii. Kainoa Daines, director of sales for the Oahu Visitors Bureau, treated the group to a humorous presentation on Hawaiian pronunciation and the "Aloha Spirit" -- an actual Hawaiian legal statute which states that "each person must think and emote good feelings to others." This was followed by the day's education session in which Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, spoke about the state of the meetings industry. Dominguez discussed trends he sees today and those around the bend; the emergence of "nontraditional" groups competing for meeting space; the difficulty of negotiating with hotels on F&B prices, and more.

Following a morning of one-on-one appointments between buyers and suppliers, the group decamped to the the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka'anapali, for a site inspection. Lunch took place in the 14,000-square-foot Aloha Pavilion, beautifully situated among the property's waterfalls, and included tomato gazpacho, jalapeño and cilantro lemonade, and create-your-own salads with creative ingredients like forbidden rice.

As any good meeting planner can appreciate, sometimes things happen. In the case of this year's Destination Hawaii, that thing was rainfall so heavy it led to road flooding. The evening's trip to Wailea, on the other side of the island, had to be scuttled in favor of a more manageable trip to nearby Lahaina, a charming and walkable town of lively restaurants, bars, and ice cream shops. No one complained.

The next day brought sunnier skies and a breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton sponsored by the Maui Visitors Bureau. The morning's education session was conducted by Eric Saperston, courtesy of the Goodman Speakers Bureau. Over the course of a highly entertaining hour, Saperston spoke of a road trip he once took across America, during which he sat down with folks ranging from late author Ken Kesey to former president Jimmy Carter to find out what advice the older generation has for the younger. Saperston shared the knowledge he learned during his journey and how these lessons can be translated into personal and professional success.  

After a final round of one-one-one appointments, attendees did a site inspection of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, which has over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Lunch was served at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa; the ahi poke nachos were a big hit, as were the Nutella malasadas, a Portuguese doughnut popular in Hawaii. The Hyatt offers 100,000 feet of indoor and outdoor space -- and, delightfully, penguins -- and will unveil a new ballroom, several revamped meeting rooms and a new outdoor event space in the coming weeks.
      
The final evening's cocktail reception took place during a stunning sunset at the Fairmont Kea Lani's beautiful Lobby Mezzanine. (The hotel has over 36,000 feet of indoor and outdoor space.) The group then headed to Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar, where attendees were given a gift card to use at the Tommy Bahama store. After two days of intense one-on-one appointments and networking, everyone agreed that a shopping spree was the perfect reward.