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PLANNER: MARIA C. FERRER
New York, NY
The 593-room Fairmont Southampton is attired in the softest of pale pinks, but the grand lady of Bermuda exudes airs more befitting a queen ruling from a velvet throne. Regally poised atop the highest point of the 22-mile long island chain, she casts appraising eyes over 100 acres of lush foliage and an 18-hole golf course that stretches the expanse of her sandy shore.
This is Bermuda’s largest hotel, fresh off a $50 million facelift, with a group/transient split around 50/50, meeting space for 1,500 both indoors and out, and a 31,000-sf Willow Stream Spa.
For the Institutional Investor’s annual 3-day hedge fund conference, it’s more than size that matters.
“We’ve been coming to Bermuda for 16 years, and for the last 15 at this hotel,” says Maria C. Ferrer, logistics manager for the conference division. “It has the best of everything that the island has.” She mentions the ample exhibition space, multiple breakouts, onsite Mid-Ocean Amphitheater (seats 450), six international restaurants, “and a DMC who plans the activities and transportation so I can relax and concentrate on other areas.”
Institutional Investor is a 45 year-old multimedia company that hosts financial services meetings. “We picked Bermuda because it’s an offshore hedge fund jurisdiction and an easy flight from New York, where most of our 450 international delegates are based or fly into. It’s about a 2-hour direct flight, then a 40-minute shuttle or taxi ride from the airport.”
Ferrer and the inhouse DMC Discover Bermuda always offer extracurricular activities for early arrivals. “Tennis clinics, sailing trips and golf are the favorites,” she says. Professional-level golfers are escorted to the Port Royal Golf Course, a PGA layout about 15 minutes away that hosted The Grand Slam of Golf in 2009 and 2010. Snorkeling, jet skis and sunbathing are a 5-minute trolley ride to the property’s private beach.
The conference was formerly based at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, a sister resort in the capital of Hamilton just 20 minutes away by complimentary ferry, but Ferrer says they required more space. And while the large facilities are a primary requirement, it’s the staff’s creativity, the pampered service and the delicious cuisine that compels her to rebook every year.
“The banquet staff is very creative with their décor and turn each meal into something unique and memorable,” says Ferrer. For example, at the Sunday night pool party, the food station centerpieces were statues of native dancers in colorful costumes. “They even did a fish ice carving. No charge. So cute.”
Food stations offer international cuisine for Monday night’s beach party, but the group’s favorite was the Bermudian fare.
“Like Johnny fishcakes, which resemble crab cakes but are crawfish, and the palm-sized Saint David’s mussel pies.… And chicken cassava rolls served in thick slices. And yum, their famous fish chowder with cherry peppers and black rum.”
Your attendees aren’t hesitant sampling island delicacies?
“I’ve been to conferences where people don’t understand the food,” explains Ferrer, “but here the chef and banquet staff are active and interactive, right there, answering questions about the history of the island and the food.”
Ferrer appreciates that comfortable partnership she’s formed with the staff over the years, and how both sides know what each needs and what’s doable.
“Everything’s done on time and quickly. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year teaching them our program,” she enthuses. “We’ve been in Bermuda many years and we’ll just keep coming back.”