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New Florida Keys offerings are perfect for meetings and incentive groups

Located less than a two-hour drive from Miami, the subtropical island chain of the Florida Keys & Key West is easily accessible for meetings and groups. In 2020, a range of new offerings are available that are perfect for smaller meetings and incentive groups.

Events throughout the 125-mile-long island chain can be creatively customised to include experiential, immersive, innovative and unconventional activities that merge work with play.

Jack Meier, destination sales manager for the Keys’ Monroe County Tourist Development Council, commented, “We're finding that smaller meetings and incentive groups, typically ranging from about 35 to 80 attendees, are eager to experience our all-new properties throughout the Keys. Planners can be assured that what's new down here blends seamlessly with established offerings and the Keys’ old-island flavour. Where else can small meetings or groups experience such a wide array of eco-activities, offshore island fishing, sustainable seafood and fascinating history and culture?”

Highlights of offerings for corporate and group travellers include:

KEYS TRANSPORTATION 

Twin-centre Key West…

Key West International Airport, already serving visitors travelling to the Keys from 13 U.S. cities including Miami and Dallas, is implementing $28 million in upgrades, among them a runway length and taxiway extension. In addition, a new weekly American Airlines flight route from Boston is to start on 15 February. The airport’s expansion and numerous domestic routes increase its utility for international business travellers visiting other U.S. cities who want to reach Key West for a twin-centre trip. Visit eyw.com.

Flying private…

For clients arriving in the Keys by private jet, the new 3,000-square-foot, two-story Marathon Jet Center, located at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, is scheduled to open by summer 2020 as a full-service fixed-base operator. The facility will include a 5,808-foot-long runway to accommodate most private jets including a Gulfstream G650, passenger and pilot lounges and a flight planning area. The Marathon airport is a general aviation facility with no commercial passenger service. Visit Marathonjetcenter.com.

  

KEYS ACCOMMODATION

In recent years, the Florida Keys have seen major enhancements to their accommodation portfolio with a number of properties opening or extensively renovating. New hotels include Bungalows Key Largo, Isla Bella Beach Resort and The Perry Hotel Key West, while Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is reopening shortly and The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton is among those that have benefited from significant refurbishments.

For business and group travellers, the following properties offer state-of-the-art accommodation and a wide range of activities that help guests to explore the Florida Keys.

For luxury all-inclusive, choose…

Bungalows Key Largo: This 12-acre, 135-unit luxury inclusive, adults-only property is the Keys’ only all-inclusive resort. Available for guests age 21 and over, it is available for group buyouts for activities such as retreats and can accommodate groups of up to 30 people. Bungalows average 900 square feet and each feature a bougainvillea-draped veranda, oversized alfresco soaking tub and garden shower. Other facilities include three restaurants, two on-site bars, two six-seat floating Tiki boats and a full-service Zen Garden Spa. All-inclusive rates include lodging, 24-hour golf cart pickup and drop-off, food, premium beverages and activities such as morning yoga and cooking classes. Visit BungalowsKeyLargo.com.

For sustainable eats, choose…

Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton: The property has unveiled a ‘Dock to Dish’ tour to showcase its local seafood initiative. Guests can take a voyage with Sea Monkey Charters with options to explore deep water, backcountry or night-time lobster netting to pursue the most abundant and sustainable catch of the day. A resort chef then guides guests through cooking methods used and includes fresh herbs handpicked from the resort’s rooftop garden. Visit bakerscay.com/activities.

For an eco-accredited stay, choose…

The Islander Resort: A GreenHotels.com partner, the 24-acre, 138-room Islamorada property is an ideal choice for planners looking for an earth-friendly property. With 1,948 solar panels recently installed on 15 of its buildings as part of a wider green thinking operations strategy, energy consumption is being reduced by 44 per cent. Its onsite state-of-the-art conference centre overlooks the ocean and events can be styled to include dining under the stars and flow from the beach onto the Tarpon Terrace and into the ballroom. Visit islanderfloridakeys.com.

For tropical luxury, choose…

Cheeca Lodge & Spa: The 214-room, 27-acre oceanfront resort in Islamorada has undergone a significant refurbishment. Enhancements include the addition of a third pool and second open-air Tiki bar. Set amidst lush tropical gardens, the resort boasts more than 4,600 total square feet of versatile space and a Tahitian-style Spa Island with six outdoor venues. The Bougainvillea Ballroom, the property’s largest meeting space, can accommodate up to 150 attendees. Groups can also enjoy a sunrise breakfast on a 39-foot motor catamaran or a custom event on nearby Indian Key. Visit cheeca.com.

For larger groups, choose…

Hawks Cay Resort: The 60-acre resort on Duck Key incorporates 20,000 square feet of waterfront meeting space with two ballrooms including its Dolphin Ballroom which can host up to 480 guests. In addition, 28,000 square feet of open-air venues are dotted throughout the property. Team-building activities include welcome receptions, sunrise yoga, sunset cruises and fishing excursions. The Preferred Hotel Group Lifestyle Collection and AAA Four Diamond Award–rated resort offers 177 hotel guest rooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom villas. Dining venues include Angler and Ale, the waterfront marina restaurant, Sixty-One Prime and the new Hawks Cay Marketplace. Visit hawkscayresort.com.

Isla Bella Beach Resort: This luxurious property is Marathon’s newest offering. Set over 24-acres, the AAA Four Diamond property has 199 units, a 4,000-square-foot spa and eateries including upscale dining venue Il Postino, an oceanfront Neapolitan-style Italian restaurant. The resort offers 24,000 square feet of event space including the 4,000-square-foot Hibiscus Center that can accommodate up to 300 guests. Complimentary bicycles, watersports and guided fishing expeditions are available on-site. Visit islabellabeachresort.com.

For private island ultraluxury, choose…

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, part of the Noble House Hotels & Resorts collection, is located just off Little Torch Key in the Lower Keys. The 5.5-acre property, open to guests age 18 and older, underwent a complete rebuild and is scheduled to reopen on 1 March 2020. Its 15 redesigned thatched-roof bungalows house a total of 30 suites, some with outdoor copper soaking tubs and private outdoor showers. The resort also offers 2,480 square feet of flexible meeting and event space with ocean views for hosting small, incentive or corporate executive retreats. The Dining Room is to offer full moon dinners and wine maker events. A fully restored Monkey Hut lounge and Palapa Bar also will be unveiled. Private cabanas have been added to the oceanfront pool area. Visit littlepalmisland.com.

For a taste of Old Key West, choose

Kimpton Key West collection: Scheduled to be unveiled in February, this Old Town Key West collection will include five boutique heritage properties, all located near the famed Duval Street. Composed of 219 rooms with contemporary and colourful island décor, Kimpton Key West will feature outdoor venues for welcome receptions, intimate dinner parties and farewell brunches. Team-building activities such as private sunset cruises and brewery tours can also be organised. Each property is within walking distance of the city’s nightlife, dining, shopping and museums. Visit ihg.com/kimptonhotels/content/us/en/stay/boutique-hotels-in-key-west.

For marina waterfront views, choose…

The Perry Hotel Key West: Located on Stock Island to the north of Key West, this chic harbour-view property opened in 2017 and continues to enhance its offerings. New for 2020 is an event space for groups of 50 to 500. Covering 10,000 square feet, facilities include an event lawn with a raised stage, a second waterfront pool and a rum distillery. The property’s third food and beverage outlet, The Barrel House, features a VIP Terrace and opened in December 2019. At the adjacent Stock Island Marina Village, an additional 40 new boat slips bring the total to 264. Visit perrykeywest.com/meetings-and-events.

Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina: Also situated on Stock Island, the property opened its doors in January 2017 and has recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation. Featuring 175 suites and rooms, each offering waterfront balconies and ranging from 382 to 575 square feet, Oceans Edge offers outdoor event space overlooking the on-site marina, with 111 wet and 52 dry slips, which can be utilised for meal functions, receptions and weddings. The Yellowfin Bar and Grill, with dock-to-dish dining and state-of-the-art retractable walls, also has group space. Visit oceansedgekeywest.com.

For a ballroom to boast about, choose…

Marriott Key West Beachside: The 216-room hotel offers Key West’s largest ballroom at 5,673 square feet, and a new outdoor event patio for 140. With nearly 10,000 square feet of meeting space, the property incorporates seven breakout rooms and accommodates in-house audio-visual requirements. A 16-slip dock and pier accommodate boats for fishing and excursions. Visit keywestmarriott.com.

For a creative workshop with a difference, choose…

The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton: Key West’s first Curio Collection resort can accommodate up to 300 people for events with over 4,000 square feet of indoor space and an additional 18,000 square feet of outdoor event space including a gazebo over the Atlantic Ocean. The 150-room resort features an Escape Room Experience in partnership with Key West Room Escape plus a new Four Marlins Restaurant with waterfront views. Sand sculptor Marianne van den Broek offers workshops for groups, transforming the beach into an art gallery, while Barefoot Billy’s runs coral reef exploration tours. Visit reachresort.com.

 

KEYS ATTRACTIONS AND EXPERIENCES

As the Florida Keys continue to promote their ‘Connect & Protect’ sustainability initiative to encourage low-impact, responsible travel, a variety of eco-activities are available to group and business travellers. These are complemented by a selection of culinary focused activities.

To give back to nature, choose…

Up the Keys Eco Tours: Two new tours, a ‘volun-tour’ and a yoga tour, enable groups to experience the Keys’ unique environment for a day. The operator has teamed up with the nonprofit volunteer ‘Conch Republic Marine Army’ and Big Pine Kayak Adventures for a guided tour and kayak excursion during which visitors can learn about the Lower Keys’ history, culture, ecology and Key deer, plant mangrove seedlings and pick up debris. Guided tours leave Key West with door-to-door service in air-conditioned 15-passenger vans. Up The Keys also has added a Yoga Excursion featuring instruction at an off-the-beaten-path location with a certified yoga instructor, hotel pickup and yoga mat for a minimum of six guests. Visit upthekeys.com/voluntourism or upthekeys.com/yoga.

To learn about coral reef restoration, choose…

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration (IC2R3): Customised group tours and coral restoration activities are available for divers alongside complimentary public tours which help to explain the science behind coral restoration. These run 10-11 a.m. each Tuesday and reservations are encouraged. Mote’s new ‘Reef Revival’ programme also enables both novice and expert divers to experience hands-on reef restoration in partnership with Captain Hook’s Marina and Dive Center which has locations in Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West. Mote has planted over 75,000 coral fragments along about 130 acres of Florida’s coral reef. It is also identifying, growing and restoring coral genetic varieties resilient to disease and climate change impact threats. Visit mote.org.

For an up-close-and-personal nature experience, choose…

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory: Known as the USA’s only butterfly facility housing flamingos, the conservatory offers evening ‘Twilight Tours’ for groups. ‘Flamingle’ experiences with resident flamingos Rhett and Scarlett, an 8-year-old male and female breeding pair, also are available for groups of up to six at 4:45 p.m. daily. Visit keywestbutterfly.com.

To channel Ernest Hemingway, choose…

The Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery: Able to host private groups of up to 275 people, the Key West distillery plans to unveil a new 2,400-square-foot event centre this spring. The 8,200-square-foot attraction is also set to begin evening ‘Papa’s Cocktail Classes’ in February with a distillery tour, tasting, class and glass on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Once a tobacco warehouse, the venue houses the Papa’s Pilar Rum production facility, experience centre, tasting room and trading post. Thirty-minute tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Visit papaspilar.com.

The Hemingway Experience: New from Key West Food Tours, the 3.5-hour tour for groups of eight to 30 covers a mile of walking and retraces author Ernest Hemingway’s steps around Old Town with two food tastings, two cocktails (including a Papa Doble daiquiri), and a Papa’s Pilar rum sampling. The tour includes guided entrance into the legendary author’s former home, now the Hemingway Home & Museum, Hemingway Rum Co. distillery to sample Papa’s Pilar Rum, El Meson de Pepe restaurant to sample Cuban food, Old Town Bakery to sample Key lime pie, and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Hemingway lived and wrote in Key West during the 1930s. Visit keywestfoodtours.com.

For a thirst-quenching excursion, choose…

Cruisin’ Tikis Key West: Why bar hop in Key West when you can hop on a bar with your group? The company offers Tiki bar–style cruises run by Coast Guard–trained captains on six-passenger boats with a cruising speed of 4-6 mph. Guests can bring their own beverages (an ice-filled cooler with sodas and bottled water is provided). Tours depart from locations in both Key West and Stock Island. Visit cruisintikiskeywest.com.

Key West First Legal Rum Distillery: A popular Key West attraction, the distillery offers complimentary mojito-making classes with private room rentals available for groups of five to 20. The classes are led by owner Paul Menta who teaches guests the secrets of an authentic mojito, billed as “the best mojito north of Havana, Cuba.” With reservations, friends and groups can also blend and label a celebratory bottle of rum. Locally crafted treats include rum Key lime and rum coconut Key lime pies. Soon to be launched are three new rum-champagne spirits: Rum Key West Sparking, Key West Mermaid Spirit and Key West Mermaid Ratafia. Visit keywestlegalrum.com.

 

For Florida Keys meetings and convention information: www.fla-keys.com/meeting-planners

For more information on the Florida Keys & Key West: www.fla-keys.co.uk

 

Credit Andy Newman

Credit Andy Newman

Bungalows Key Largo - Credit Bungalows

Bungalows Key Largo - Credit Bungalows

Isla Bella Lobby Rendering - Credit Florida News Bureau

Isla Bella Lobby Rendering - Credit Florida News Bureau

The Perry - Credit Beth Higham

The Perry - Credit Beth Higham

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