Planner Pick: The Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Fairmont Southampton pool

When Allison Mitchell began planning the Pennsylvania Automotive Association’s 2011 Fall Conference, the group hadn’t held a big meeting in two years.

For the 140-pax, 5-day event, the planning pro chose Bermuda, a quick 2-hour hop from Philadelphia, famed for excellent golf and fervent cricket, high finance and high tea. One of the world’s wealthiest islands (actually, 180 islands total), Bermuda is second home to folks like NYC Mayor Bloomberg, Silvio Berlusconi and Ross Perot, but its real wealth is its beauty.

“Because of the economy, the association decided to take some time off, and our comeback had to be just right,” explains Mitchell. “From the start, I was happy just to be in Bermuda. Bermuda, period.”

She decided to return to the 593-room Fairmont Southampton, the largest property on the island, where the group has met previously for the same event. Set on miles of pink sand beaches on the gorgeous south shore, the 100-acre resort offers six restaurants, 18-hole golf, a 20-room spa and Bermuda’s largest hotel convention facilities (1,500 pax).

“Literally from the site visit until the end of the conference, I felt like royalty,” says Mitchell. “Kim Terceira was our conference service manager from Discover Bermuda, Fairmont’s in-house DMC. She and the staff greeted us at the door with room keys in hand, so it was like going home…. It started at the top and carried through to the valets.”

Mitchell needed two meeting spaces for two days, with separate rooms for continental breakfast and breakouts. Kim helped her choose from 18 meeting rooms and a half-dozen dazzling outdoor sites. Three evening events were open to all: a welcome reception and dinner on the dramatic Great Sound Lawn, a light cocktail/hors d’oeuvres reception, and a grand finale dinner and dance. In between, a very special executive committee/chairman’s dinner required an exclusive locale.

“We had 50 former chairmen, executive committee members and spouses for a dinner celebration at the 200-pax Waterlot Inn, and I’d have to say it was the premiere venue,” says Mitchell. A signature of the property, the Waterlot has served Bermudian fare for 340 years under mahogany-beamed ceilings, winning acclaim from around the globe. “We fell for the water views, and the feeling that it’s steeped in history.”

Discover Bermuda was on top of everything.

“I’ll tell you a little story—the work ethic we found at the Southampton seemed to extend through the island,” says Mitchell. “Discover Bermuda recommended entertainment, florists, the linens and the transport, all terrific…. It was a great finale, everyone dancing and having a good time.”

Offsite activities included tours of St. George’s, a UNESCO site, and the historic fortified Royal Docklands.

Mitchell says, “For my first Fall Conference, it was an awesome success. Some long-timers said it was back to what it had been 20 years ago.”