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Almost everyone from the Mainland loves to go to Hawaii. That includes most credit union people, many of whom chose which credit union meetings to attend at CU expense based almost entirely on three criteria. location, location, and location. Of course they will always deny that fact. Holding a meeting in Hawaii, with all the attractions Hawaii offers, would seem to be a slam dunk formula for generating record numbers of attendees. But is it? There are lots of pros for holding a meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but there are actually a number of cons as well. Just ask CUNA meeting planners as that group’s Annual Future Forum gets underway this week. Some of the pros: Hawaii is beautiful and lives up to its nickname of paradise. The year-round temperature is never far from being just about perfect. Gorgeous beaches are everywhere and are clean and teeming with water-related activities. Hotels are plentiful, convenient, first class, and feature numerous Hawaii style amenities like fancy drinks and luaus. Although no longer the bargain they once were, most convention type hotels are still competitively priced. Some of the country’s great restaurants are located in Hawaii with views that take one’s breath away. Meeting facilities are first rate, even for very large groups. Airlines run a lot of nonstops to several of the Hawaiian Islands from numerous Mainland cities. Speakers will often agree to speak free just to get a paid trip to Hawaii. But one of the best reasons for holding a conference in Hawaii is the Hawaiian people themselves. They are genuinely warm, friendly, and love to welcome visitors to the island paradise they call home. Credit union folks in Hawaii never seem to tire of serving as the most gracious hosts for their colleagues and friends from all over the Mainland. The Aloha spirit lives year round. When credit union groups hold planning sessions to determine future meeting sites, and Hawaii is suggested as a possibility, there are few dissenters. There is always someone in the room who will say something like this: “Since everyone dreams of going to Hawaii and we can give them that opportunity on someone else’s nickel, we should draw a record attendance.” This leads to some of the cons: Although CUNA is claiming a record attendance, the numbers are probably not what they initially hoped for even though the program format in recent years has shown marked improvement, not that it really matters to many conference goers. And the mix of attendees will undoubtedly be heavy with volunteers as it usually is with Hawaii meetings. In general, more and more credit union CEOs tend to shy away from the larger, more generalized meetings preferring instead smaller or even outside-the-industry gatherings. CUNA’s annual event appeals to an older crowd. But for some seniors, a trip to Hawaii is just too long and grueling. It’s not just the time change but the distance and climate adjustment. So many take a pass and choose instead other favorite credit union meeting destinations that are more easily accessible like Las Vegas, Disney World, and Southern California. Both the long distance and who attends also results in a con regarding vendors. Many feel too many who would pass by their booths in the expo hall would be more interested in trinkets and have little buying influence. Thus the cost of shipping a large display booth to Hawaii becomes to them exorbitant. Also, they don’t want to tie up their booths with several more credit union exhibitions following closely on the heels of the Future Forum. Another Hawaii con is the cost of getting all those CUNA staffers to and from Hawaii. And CUNA is notorious for overstaffing its meetings. They’ll all be dressed alike. Just count them and multiply that number toward the cost of airfares, meals, and hotel rooms. It is easy to get caught up in the mindset that a Hawaii meeting location will automatically guarantee big numbers. From personal experience, we once scheduled a meeting in Maui for the Presidents Association, a group for CU CEOs managing credit unions of at least $100 million in assets. Turned out to be one of the group’s lowest attendances. When asked, CEOs who chose not to go said they couldn’t afford all the extra time it requires to take in a meeting in the Aloha State. One of the more obvious cons is of course also one of the pros. Hawaii has so many things to do and see that there just might not be enough time to attend the educational sessions, or to visit the vendors in the exposition hall. For those at the Future Forum, just look around as the crowd in the meetings gets smaller and the beaches, etc. get more crowed. Ditto the expo hall. Vendors having few people to talk to other than each other does not make for a happy exhibitor. Many years ago, one of the large national banking groups held its annual meeting in Honolulu. Despite the large numbers registered (unlike the sparse turnouts that group generates today), the sponsoring association had difficulty getting a quorum for its annual business meeting. Worse, reporters from the CBS 60 Minutes TV news program roamed the beaches seeking interviews with the executives playing hooky. Some of these ambush interviews subsequently aired on national television with less than flattering commentary. So is the point to never hold any credit union meetings in Hawaii? Not at all. Think about the Hawaiian credit union leaders who almost always have to go to the mainland to attend the major meetings. In fairness, some meetings should be held in their backyard. And besides most CU volunteers deserve a nice perk once in awhile. The real answer is to not really worry about it and accept the fact that any credit union meeting in Hawaii has probably an equal number of pros as cons. Aloha! Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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