Aruba hosts GaMPI SEA 2008 learning conference

Rob Smith with Pam, Dana and GaMPI attendee
Rob Smith with Pam, Dana and GaMPI attendee

Judging by the attendance at Thursday night’s welcome reception, the Summer Educational Alliance 2008, orchestrated by the GaMPI, the Georgia Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, is one of the highest attended MPI Summer Conferences in history.

“That is a major accomplishment,” says Rob Smith, President and CEO of AHATA, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association who helped bring the conference to Aruba, “considering the soaring costs of airfare and increasing budget cuts, having more than 200 attendees on the island, proves that Aruba is definitely on the planners’ list of ‘hot’ places.”

According to the registration report, the conference attracted attendees from GaMPI, The Carolinas, the Gulf States and the Potomac chapters of MPI, also members of HSMAI: Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International; GSAE: Georgia Society of Association Executives; ISES: International Special Events Society and PCMA: Professional Convention Management Assoc.

In past years the SEA Summer Conference enjoyed the hospitality of Cancun Mexico, Grand Bahama Island, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, all major vacation destinations and the choice of Aruba for 2008 was spearheaded by AHATA’s Pamela Shepherd, Regional Director of Sales, Aruba Convention Bureau and supported by David Wahba and Dana Bloom, who share the Sale & Marketing responsibilities for Westin Aruba Resort.

“We started talking about the summer conference in Aruba in 2003,” explains Shepherd, “we approached the board about considering a joint conference here . . .   The premise was broader education about the destination to a bigger number of professional meeting planners.”   “The event has grown in size and content, since its inception more than eleven years ago” she adds, “and it now includes many major players in the field; SEA 2008 is recognized as a world-class opportunity to form relationships, nurture them and get business from attending and networking. It is an honor for Aruba and the Westin to be the hosts for such a recognized event,” she concludes.

In his welcome address Smith gave conference attendees a warm “Bon Bini & welcome y’all,” referring to his southern hospitality roots. He described Aruba as a small-island setting, in possession of a professional meeting and event environment. Smith stated that after upgrading the island’s assets to the tune of US$500 million in accommodations and meeting spaces in the last three years, Aruba successfully created a product which is modern and familiar yet retains the elements of a tropical island experience.

Smith was pleased to see the record attendance and shared that Delta’s second daily flight out of Atlanta starting in December will allow the island to roll out the welcome mat to regional visitors from the south with greater ease. Easy access, direct flights, top of the line meeting facilities, and technological capabilities combined with friendly, well-trained associates and picture perfect settings, add to successful collaborations with the Meeting and Incentive Market from the US and from all over the globe.

Pictured here the icebreaking cocktail reception and seated dinner and entertainment welcoming delegates on behalf of GaMPI, the Westin Aruba Resort & the Aruba Convention Bureau of North America