Dana Point, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is situated to attract faith-based 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.
Keliiholokai knows of what he speaks. Previously serving as director of sales and marketing for the Greater Ontario (California) CVB, Keliiholokai built connections throughout the faith-based community. He’s also aware spiritual events are “exploding like gangbusters,” as he puts it.
His presence alone may be the biggest advantage Dana Point has with the religious meetings segment. “We’ll leverage my relationships to let [planners] know if they are looking for something a little bit different, we can assist them,” he says.
There’s that word again, different—and it 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.
Outside area 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. Family-based meetings can schedule outings for children to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, both about an hour’s drive away.