The first Destination Bahamas MICE Exchange was held June 2-6, 2019 in Nassau. Ten Canadians and 20 U.S. MICE planners/buyers received a warm welcome from Janet Cuffie, Director Group Sales – North America, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, and conference partner suppliers who were excited to show their guests what’s on offer for incentive travel, meetings and events in this paradise setting.
After a short, comfortable Air Canada flight for those travelling from Toronto, all 30 participants met to enjoy a scrumptious reception at the host hotel, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. A magnificent property, Baha Mar offers a variety of restaurants, nightlife options, luxurious accommodations, exquisitely landscaped pools, and one of the most pristine beaches in The Bahamas. Golf at Royal Blue Golf Course, tennis at The Baha Mar Racquet Club, pure indulgence at ESPA SPA, indoor/outdoor fitness programs, unique shopping options from iconic international brands to one-of-a-kind island finds, and, ah yes—guests can get up close to sea turtles, stingrays, nurse sharks, native birds, and more in The Sanctuary, the heart of Baha Mar’s commitment to environmental conservation and education.
Nancy MacDonald, director of group sales, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, was delighted to introduce us to two baby flamingos that interrupted our conference to meet the visitors from far away. With non-stop oohs and aahs and a million camera flashes, we all gathered around these incredible creatures to get a better look. Not the least daunted by noise or movement, the flamingos left the room as gracefully as they arrived. How relevant was their visit to this gathering as the topic discussed throughout the conference that day was experiential travel. I had never been that close to a flamingo—and to see two youngsters was indeed something I have spoken about since coming home. We discussed the experiences that leave a lasting impression, the way you feel about the experience, how you are transformed by a travel experience.
I was asked to moderate a panel of highly-respected Bahamian industry experts that included Tyrone Sawyer, senior director, Airlift, Bahama Ministry of Tourism & Aviation; Nancy MacDonald; Shawn M. Sawyer, president and creative director, Cacique International Ltd., and Sonia Bowe-Adderley, president of the Tour Operation Association. This session was followed by an entertaining and informative presentation by Mrs. Arlene Nash Ferguson titled “The Culture of the Bahamas.”
Throughout the sessions, we heard ideas about visiting local pineapple farms, rum tasting at the John Watling’s Distillery (founded in 1789), parasailing, jet boats, conch cooking classes and handicraft markets. We were delighted to sample some of these local handicrafts at the pop-up Market Place set up at the conference. It featured beautiful soaps, teas, jams, books, jewellery, figurines made from shells or glass, wood carvings, straw bags, paintings and more, all from dedicated and talented Bahamian artisans.
Hotel inspections were kept to a minimum, but all were not to be missed. Starting with Baha Mar, we inspected SLS, Rosewood and Grand Hyatt. We enjoyed world-class dinners at The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort and the Meliá Nassau Beach. True luxury with incentive travel quality in accommodations, facilities and cuisine, these properties are outstanding. And after a delicious lunch at Atlantis Paradise Island, we were given a grand tour of that exceptional property.
The last night of the conference was billed as “An Evening under the Stars,” with dinner at Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant. With a motorcycle police escort (great fun!) we travelled to the centre of Nassau’s downtown area and arrived at the entrance of Graycliff Hotel. A side street had been transformed into an exciting and most welcoming venue. Upside-down rainbow-coloured umbrellas were strung so high they seemed to hang from the sky. We had the best ever huge coconut shrimps and tasty tropical drinks served in what seemed an endless supply. We watched fire eaters and limbo dancers and were entertained by a local band that got us all movin! The entertainment was topped off with a spectacular junkanoo parade and we left for dinner in high spirits, thanking our hosts for an exciting evening and bonding with each other as new connections and friendships formed.
After a tour and sampling at the Graycliff Chocolate Factory and a tour of their incredible world-renowned wine cellar, we sat down for a dinner surrounded by the grace and elegance of a time gone by. It was a memorable end to a memorable few days in Nassau.
The Exchange also included a one-day Outer Island FAM trip to the beautiful islands of Bimini and Exuma.
Partner Hotels & Airline
- Grand Hyatt Baha Mar | Nancy MacDonald (email@example.com)
- SLS at Baha Mar | Derrick Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Melia Nassau Beach | Nashelly Tabia (email@example.com)
- Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant | Roberta Garzaroll (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort | Natasha Solivan (email@example.com)
- Air Canada | Kathryn Mollenhauer (Kathryn.Mollenhauer@aircanada.ca)