“The most difficult thing about holding our annual conference at the coast this summer was not being able to get in the beautiful water,” said Jon Hand, executive director of the Electric Cities of Alabama, a coalition of the state’s municipally owned electric utilities.
“We had 350 people at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, and we found beautiful beaches, excellent food and outstanding service,” he said. “In fact, we had great attendance, as I think our members were interested in seeing for themselves how the area was affected by the Gulf oil spill.”
Although Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were initially affected by the spill, Janet McCain, planner for the School Superintendents of Alabama, found little evidence of it in June.
“We’ve met at the Perdido Beach Resort for years, and our 175 members were pleasantly surprised with how unchanged the area was when we returned,” she said.
Both groups plan to return to the area, which Beth Gendler, director of sales for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism and Sports Commission, says is the best way to help the region recover.
“We are encouraging groups to come on down and hold a meeting, shop, golf and have fun,” she said. “We want to assure them that the water and air quality are being tested constantly, the beaches are cleaned nightly and the waters are open for swimming. People can see for themselves by viewing the daily video update link on our website.”
Popular with sports tournaments, corporations and associations throughout the Southeast, the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area can accommodate groups of up to 600. The largest convention property is the 350-room Perdido Beach Resort, with 40,000 square feet of meeting space.
Other facilities include the Beach Club, with 15,000 square feet of meeting space and 300 to 400 condominiums for rent on a nightly basis, and the Caribe Resort, with 15,000 square feet of meeting space and 200 to 300 condominiums for rent.
“Our newest property is the Hampton Inn and Suites in Orange Beach, which will open next spring with 160 rooms and 3,700 square feet of meeting space,” said Gendler.
The Wharf, a multiuse resort property in Orange Beach, opened a 22,000-square-foot conference center last year. On a marina, the Wharf has an entertainment and retail complex, 60 to 70 condominiums, 15 restaurants and a 10,000-seat amphitheater.
The new Gulf State Park Pavilion has function space for 450 with water views and the longest fishing pier on the Gulf.
“We can also help groups do everything from beach Olympics to golf tournaments to chartering a cruise for a reception or fishing expedition,” Gendler said. “In fact, the red-snapper fishing season has been extended until Nov. 22.
“Everyone has been concerned about the impact of the oil spill, but the worst is over, and we are ready to receive visitors,”said Gendler.