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August 24, 2016
Meetings & Conventions' parent company, Northstar Travel Group, will hold next year's Destination Caribbean event at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa in Grand Cayman. The announcement was made on the third day of this year's Destination Caribbean, held Aug. 21 - 24 at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba.

Tom Ludington, general manager, USA, at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, which sponsored the breakfast on Aug. 23, outlined the Cayman Islands' wealth of offerings for groups, including paddle boarding, sailing and the popular stingray-filled sandbar,  Stingray City. Ludington was followed by Marti Trieschmann, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Grand Cayman, who described the $50 million redesign the property currently is undergoing to the dozens of meeting planners and suppliers in attendance. The redesign includes updates to guest rooms, outdoor event spaces and other areas of the property. Those attending Destination Caribbean 2017 will the first group to experience the property after renovations are completed.

Following the announcement of next year's Destination Caribbean, it was time to return to the current Destination Caribbean. The day's main speaker, DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn, discussed the opportunities presented by live engagement marketing. Coburn described how planners could use technology for their live events to "combine the best aspects of real life and digital." Coburn outlined four main ways to do this:

• Assisted serendipity: using tools such as chat-bots to get the right messages to the right people at the right moment at an event;
• New business models: shifting from flashy booths or signage to targeted digital messaging;
• Completing the missing data puzzle: gathering data on attendee behavior during an event to better understand preferences, and
• Influencing business outcomes: using technology to help drive sales or other conversions.

While the morning discussion offered a vision of how planners could leverage technology in their events, the next part of the day was decidedly old fashioned: 15-minute one-on-one meetings between planners and suppliers to discuss striking up new business.

Following one-on-one meetings, the group headed to the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino. Planners toured the property -- exploring its guest rooms, more than 9,000 square feet of function space and striking beach areas -- before heading to a courtyard deck to join the suppliers in attendance for a family-style lunch (complete with an appearance by the Hyatt Aruba's executive chef, Vincent Pellegrini). After the meal, the group walked a few steps to the beach, where they posed for a group video taken by a drone.

Attendees then went off to afternoon excursions: a snorkeling outing on a catamaran boat, hosted by Red Sail Sports DMC; a jeep tour of the island hosted by De Palm Tours; or nine holes of golf, hosted by ECO Destination Management Services Aruba.

Destination Caribbean drew to a close that evening at the final dinner, sponsored by the Renaissance Aruba Resort. Planners headed to the property early, touring the recently renovated public spaces and guest rooms, and peeking into the property's luxury shopping mall and pool areas. As the site inspection wrapped up, the planners were surprised by the arrival of a small marching band and troupe of dancers (provided by the Aruba Convention Bureau and Eco DMS), who escorted them to a water taxi that took them to Renaissance Island.

Featuring a spa, tennis courts and Aruba's only private beaches, Renaissance Island offered Destination Caribbean attendees an array of action stations serving up dishes such as chipotle-marinated scallops and pepper-encrusted lamb chops. Following comments and thank-yous from Northstar Meetings Group, the event's ever-present photographer, Julien De Bats of One Happy Photographer, debuted his video of the event's highlights.

Before the applause had quieted, a live band began to perform, and a group of dancers, dressed in elaborate Carnivale-inspired costumes, took to the dance floor, performing and pulling in attendees to join them. The dancing and celebrating provided an energetic capper to a successful few days of business-building and Caribbean recreation, with many in the group saying how much they were looking forward to Destination Caribbean 2017.