Chamber hopes planners' summit means more business travelers

gsmith@islandpacket.comDecember 13, 2012 

About $1 million in economic activity could be generated on Hilton Head Island following a summit this week that attracted a record number of meeting planners, organizers say.

More than 80 planners from across the country, each representing multiple companies, attended the summit put on by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and others.

Chamber officials hope those planners they will persuade their clients to book meetings, workshops and other business-related events on the island.

Leisure travelers comprise the biggest group of visitors to Hilton Head each year -- about 80 percent of all visitors.

The planners checked out meeting spaces available for clients and also toured the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport to get a better idea of access to the area.

"Hilton Head is often thought of as a place that's difficult to get in and out of, and it's not," said Charlie Clark, chamber vice president of communications. "They go to the airport themselves and see."

Event planner Kristen Reitz of Cleveland, who attended the summit, said she will definitely recommend the island to some of her clients, which include organizers of a large annual robotics competition.

"I was impressed with Hilton Head. It would be a different experience for our members," Reitz said. "The beach is right there. The resorts have golf courses and other activities. There's a lot to do."

While Hilton Head's small size means it cannot compete against larger towns and cities that boast convention centers for large meetings, it's an ideal location for smaller and medium-sized groups, Clark said.

The Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa is the island's largest space with 513 rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting/event space, according to the chamber.

The island's "sweet spot" for meetings is groups of 50 to 200, according to Jack Reed, the chamber's director of sales.

"A lot of business travelers want an intimate experience," Clark said.

Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.

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