Dana Point, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is attracting association and specialty groups looking for an experience that’s “a little bit different.” So says Sean Keliiholokai, the inaugural executive director of Visit Dana Point, a DMO formed last summer to attract more meetings to the coastal destination.
Previously serving as director of sales and marketing for the Greater Ontario (California) CVB, Keliiholokai has already locked in national associations for future business. The city played host to groups such as National Fire Sprinkler Association, American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry and NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation in 2016.
Dana Point’s appeal starts with the harbor the area is built around. The picturesque setting has four resort hotels, which immediately spring to mind leisure travel or corporate events. But the properties, with a combined 1,370 guest rooms and 250,000 square feet of meeting space, are dedicated to working together to attract meetings of all kinds. Their meetings-to-leisure ratio is already about 1-to-1, notes Keliiholokai.
Dana Point Hotels
The general managers of DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Doheny Beach – Dana Point, Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, Monarch Beach Resort (formerly a St. Regis) and The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel comprise Visit Dana Point’s board of directors. Keliiholokai says the hotels are able to pool resources for mini-citywides to accommodate large groups. The DoubleTree and Marriott are best for groups working on a budget but committed to a Pacific Ocean retreat or organizational board meeting.
Outside the hotels, conference participants can get in touch with nature with long hikes or walking meetings. Whale watching is a popular excursion, in part because the calm seas practically ensure good views of marine life. Fishing is another relaxing and popular activity. Ocean Institute, an education facility dedicated to the seas, includes meeting space and can be rented for events. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are about an hour’s drive away.
Closer in, the city of Dana Point is doing its part to keep attendees entertained. Festivals, usually related to water, whales or boats, are a regular occurrence. Meanwhile, work continues on improving Dana Point Lantern District along Del Prado Avenue, a mini-downtown hosting shopping, fitness activities, restaurants and events. “We have plenty of options,” says Keliiholokai, whose No. 1 priority is educating planners about the new DMO.