Memories of a chilly winter in Melbourne disappeared when the Hawaiians came to town this last week to lure PCOs, meeting planners and MICE practitioners across the Pacific to the warmth of the Aloha spirit.

Hawaii Tourism Oceania, which represents the six-islands comprising America’s 50th state, organised the event with Hawaiian Airlines, Starwood Hotels & Resort with Maui Jim Sunglasses.

It was held at the new Sheraton Melbourne and attracted a strong crowd. Eating Hawaii-inspired canapes – pupus to the native Hawaiians – and colourful tropical cocktails, the evening was strong on networking and short on speeches.

Holly Ballard of the Sydney-based Hawaii Tourism Oceania explained the points of difference between the six islands and their appeal to meetings and incentive marketers, whether they want to fill the 1.1 million square foot Hawaii Convention Centre in Waikiki or escape to a high-end venue as reward for achievement.

Starwood’s Nick Berry explained the many options offered by his group for events around the islands and also alluded to new hotel announcements in the next weeks here in Australia; Lawrence Sattrukalsinghe, of Hawaiian Airlines surprised many in the audience with his announcement of the airline’s generous luggage allowance from Australia (2 x standard size 32 Kg bags per economy passenger) plus the ability to upgrade to an “extra comfort” seat for USD100 per person from any fare; while Nick Maynard of Maui Jim explained the role of his company’s corporate gift program to fit out delegates with the latest in sunglasses suited to the tropical clime.

The traditional business card draw did not result in any rewards for your correspondent…maybe they knew I had already booked (and paid) to make another of our regular family pilgrimages to Maui next month. But I did learn of some new and interesting things to experience, even after 35 years of visiting, so it was a worthwhile event.

The lucky winner of the major prize was Anne Gowlett from Insignia Management who won two return economy class tickets to Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines, three nights at the Royal Hawaiian and three nights at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa. In addition there were several lucky winners who walked away with a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.

By Graeme Kemlo