women in travel
Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Apr 01, 2019
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Love aspirational meetings: Florida style


There’s a key encounter of the extraordinary kind that awaits at one islet in the fabled Florida Keys.

Known as the only resort destination in the region with nearly every activity above and below the water right on property, groups staying at the Hawks Cay Resort (https://www.hawkscay.com/) in secluded Duck Key take off for the ultimate dolphin connection. Led by a trainer and a pod of friendly bottlenose dolphins whose main mission is to get you out of your comfort zone doing wild feedings, massages and learning about marine conservation, the water program ideally prepares MICE groups to mix n’ mingle with purpose.

As one Florida travel insider describes it, the Sunshine State boasts a wave of rich meeting opportunities to aid meeting planners in creating special events and incentive travel moments to ultimately generate higher productivity and to spawn memories. “Hawks Cay Resort’s unique location in the Florida Keys is ideal for groups who need a little inspiration,” says Kim Thompson, the resort’s Director of Sales & Catering and adds the resort’s natural awe-inspiring backdrops are enough to freshen the mind. The family-friendly resort which underwent a $50-million renovation offers ample activities to enhance the creative process from fishing and charter boat excursions to Sunrise Yoga.

Lino Maldonado, the new chair of 2018-2019 VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, adds that hospitality of the state is built in their DNA. “Florida has over 13 million square feet of meeting space not just in Miami and Orlando but spread across the state for all types of meetings, big corporate events, family reunions, and retreats,” he relays earlier at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa (https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/florida/hyatt-regency-coconut-point-resort-and-spa/naprn), the hub host hotel for the latest Florida Encounter.

For meetings and conferences, it’s easy to tack on an extra day or two to explore natural wonders that exist in four corners of the state.

Here’s a Florida meetings menu worth the inspiration:

Southwestern Florida
Head to the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel for local authentic experiences. This sun hub is accessible via the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers and serves as a transportation gateway for major Canadian and US airlines. Three of the area’s most popular meeting sites (Captiva Island, Sanibel and Fort Myers) are reachable in a one-hour drive or under.

Think Miami is the only city in Florida that bolsters creativity by beautiful coastal designs? This often overlooked quaint locale near Fort Myers dons an art gallery shopping emporium of 45 home furnishing stores under one roof that emits pizzazz and cachet. Miromar Design Center, a boite of show rooms like designer Ralph Lauren, opens its doors for elegant stylish special event rentals. Guests can be in the thick of a creative fix beneath the chichi art pieces and custom-made interiors. The Main Atrium holds 350 PAX for dining, while the massive 9,500-sq.-ft Suite 390 is suitable for theatre-style seating, as well as 600 PAX cocktail receptions.

Estero and Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau https://www.leevcb.com/.
Miromar Design Center https://www.miromardesigncenter.com/.

Sanibel Island
Home to the largest pickleball court in the area, don’t be surprised by spotting these little ball chasers in between the sea shell combing at the Sundial Resort. Meeting attendees hanging out at this barrier island resort in the “Sea Shell Capital of the World” are rewarded by some of the nicest meeting spaces around. The largest space (3,000-sq.-ft. ballroom with a terrace) affords sea views, as well as the staple Tiki hut poolside. Get ready for inspiration and island groove.

Sanibel Island https://sanibel-captiva.org/sanibel-island-visitor-center/.
Sundial Resort www.sundialresort.com.

The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel

Captiva Island
Known for dazzling sunsets and dolphin watching, Captiva Island’s other claim to fame: sailing cruises and private charters. Regarded as America’s number one sailing school around for 55 years, Offshore Sailing offers two to five-day sailing programs to the Gulf, a.k.a. “the greatest classroom in the world.” Warren Thring, branch manager of Offshore Sailing, says these private sail programs can offer team building experiences that boost confidence and endurance among group members. “I see big transformation with them,” he says on the pre- and post-team building experience.

Captiva Island https://sanibel-captiva.org/sanibel-island-visitor-center/.
Offshore Sailing https://www.offshoresailing.com/.

Naples, Florida
Under a one-hour drive south from the Southwest Florida International Airport lies this tony upscale Southwest Gulf Coast town. Known for a burgeoning culinary and arts scene, there’s a myriad of boutiques and restaurants on Fifth Avenue or Third Street South, the birthplace of Naples. In addition, the Gulf of Mexico provides the coastal antidote for meetings on the water. Local boat operator, Naples Princess Cruises, provides various scenic cruise experiences such as private charters, dining, and ship rentals for special events. A sail on board this elegant luxury yacht captures the natural beauty of Naples Bay and Port Royal. Cruise guests sail past the poshest seaside mansions owned by the rich and famous.

Naples and Paradise Coast https://www.paradisecoast.com/.
Naples Princess Cruises https://www.naplesprincesscruises.com/.

Miami, Florida
Miami sets the stage hosting some of the hottest events in the USA from the arts-rich Art Basel Miami to the mega yacht-worthy Miami International Boat Show. This southeastern coastal sun hub also knows how to inspire creative event planners too. Besides the newly reimagined Miami Beach Convention Center that underwent a $620-million renovation, Miami is home to a cluster of other innovative meeting spaces.

Throughout the city find a rich hotel scene that includes luxe properties like Loews Miami Beach Hotel on iconic Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach’s vibrant Art Deco District or the bustling lineup of arts venues that now play a prominent role for meeting planners interested in out-of-the-box locales.

For instance, in the South Beach section footsteps from the revived Lincoln Road, find the New World Center. Home of the New World Symphony–this is a unique musical laboratory for kick- starting creativity. Comprised of six main meeting areas as well as additional spaces for larger events and breakout rooms, the architectural gem is the brainchild of Canadian-born starchitect Frank Gehry. See his signature curves and cascading geometric shapes undulate the interior. At the Rooftop Garden, event goers can enjoy magnificent outdoor views worth their own inspiration.

Loews Miami Beach Hotel https://www.loewshotels.com/miami-beach.
Miami Beach Convention Center http://www.miamibeachconvention.com/.
New World Center https://www.nws.edu.
Greater Miami and the Beaches https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/.

For more VISIT FLORIDA meetings and convention information, see https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/florida-meeting-planners.html.