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Beach Meetings: The Call of the Coast

Meeting attendees may grow tired of gatherings staged in crowded, busy cities where everyone rushes to get to and engage in their meetings. That’s why many planners are taking a break from big city or bland meeting destinations by taking everyone back to the beach.

These beach communities offer all the amenities delegates may need to do business as well as providing a beautiful setting for after-hours enjoyment.

Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston Island boasts not one but two convention centers, and both are located at resorts. Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis Resort is located on legendary Seawall Boulevard. It has a column-free exhibition hall, a grand ballroom, various breakout rooms and impressive pre-function space. The resort features 700 guest rooms.

Moody Gardens Convention Center has 103,000 square feet of combined meeting space. Telescopic seating is available for up to 5,000 people. There is a covered garage on the property and 418 guest rooms for meeting attendees. There are numerous other hotels with meeting spaces in the area and some other unusual venues as well.

After work is wrapped up, visitors can enjoy the 32 miles of beaches at Galveston. They also explore the excellent restaurants, downtown shops, antique stores, art galleries and other types of entertainment. In addition, Galveston has so much interesting history that it is hard to decide where to start exploring.

The local convention and visitors bureau recommends what are known as the Broadway Beauties. They are 1895 Moody Mansion, 1892 Bishop’s Palace and 1859 Ashton Villa. All are examples of the lives of Galveston’s posh society members from the mid-19th century to the early-20th century. One of the best historic theaters in the nation can be found here in the Grand 1894 Opera House.

The Port of Galveston’s ties to shipping are portrayed at the Texas Seaport Museum and on the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa. The infamous 1900 hurricane that killed 6,000 residents is explored in the showing of the documentary “The Great Storm.” Visitors often take tours of the harbor. There are also museums dedicated to offshore drilling and railroads.

South Walton, Florida

When you meet at South Walton, Florida, located along the state’s panhandle and the Gulf of Mexico, you have access to great meeting facilities, and your attendees get to enjoy 26 miles of sugar-white beaches spread among 16 distinct beach communities. South Walton is simply an ecological wonder. More than 40 percent of the area is preserved state land.

South Walton offers full-service resorts, hotels or beach cottages as sites for meetings. The venues cater to groups as large as 1,600. Events, banquets, board meetings, classroom-type training sessions can be handled. Not only is the service highly professional, but the natural beauty of the area is sure to inspire meeting attendees to greater heights.

The largest block of conference and meeting venues in South Walton can be found in Sandestin, where the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort offers 65,000 square feet of meeting facilities. Also nearby and ideal for meetings are LeCiel, Baytowne Conference Center and Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa, to name just a few of the choices. Other communities in the area have slightly smaller facilities but can likewise meet any planner’s needs.

The region has two convenient airports that serve it: Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

When the day’s work is done, meeting delegates can enjoy the beach life, do some shopping, play a round of challenging golf, savor awardwinning dining, wander around numerous art galleries or do a little “ecosploring.”

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.