28 Oct 2022: I am pleased to announce that Meeting of the Minds 2023 - “Second Wind Kicking In” the 2023 convention of Parrot Heads in Paradise will be held from October 25 - 29 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Although no location could ever replicate Key West, we believe that the city of Gulf Shores and neighboring Orange Beach are the best fit for Meeting of the Minds, and we have signed an agreement with the famous The Hangout in Gulf Shores to be the primary venue and host for 2023, hosting the “official” event from October 26-28.
We will soon be announcing more specifics including lodging options and discounts. We recommend that you wait for these details and discounts before making lodging arrangements. Announcements regarding lodging, the opening of registration and VIP opportunities will be made in coming weeks and months.
This decision was the product of extensive research, data analysis, consideration of our members’ priorities as reflected in your survey responses, and necessary site visits by a volunteer committee whose members are dedicated to the best interests of the event and the organization. On behalf of the PHIP Board, I extend my thanks to these volunteers for their thoughtfulness and thoroughness in approaching this important task.
Here are a few of the factors that led us to this decision.
1. A REAL Buffett connection. This is an area close to where Jimmy grew up. It’s an area that he cares about and that his sister Lucy owns a prominent restaurant and gift shop. It’s definitely part of Parrot Head History.
2. Water and Weather. It’s a great ocean beach! And although it’s not Key West, the average temperature in late October is still pretty comfortable. It’s a nice vacation spot, so attendees will potentially extend their trips for some additional beach vacation time.
3. Affordable lodging. This was a top priority of our members, and this is an area where we can happily say, Gulf Shores is NOT Key West! We think our members will be pleased with the costs in the area.
4. Accessibility. With much of our membership concentrated in the Southeast and Texas, a good percentage of our members will find it easier to travel to Gulf Shores than to Key West, including even some in Florida! Although the venue is about a 45 minute drive from a major airport, we expect more people will drive to the event, and we are working on alternatives for those who would like to fly (to either Pensacola or Mobile) but who would like to avoid renting a car. AND we hope to attract first time attendees based on the new location.
5. We want to be wanted. Often undervalued when choosing a host city for an event is the degree of welcome from the community. This community, local leaders and our business partner The Hangout are stoked to be our host. And that enthusiasm makes a difference!
You may have noticed that the dates do not line up with the traditional MOTM Week. That’s no accident. Our members did not want to change the general time of year of the event, but we mades the call to hold the event a week earlier next year. The reasons:
(1) It’s a little warmer on average;
(2) there is another big event in the area the first weekend in November, which would make lodging harder to find and more expensive; and
(3) it preserves the following week for travel to Key West for those owning time share weeks or just wanting to maintain that week for Key West travel. In addition, there’s another attractive choice for the many of us who appreciate the art of songwriting. The two weekends that follow Meeting of the Minds 2023 are the Frank Brown Songwriter Festival in Gulf Shores, which has been operating for about four decades and attracts hundreds of songwriters from all over the country. If you stay in town, you might discover even more great talent.
Many of us have strong connections to and affection for Key West, our host city for more than two decades, and we extend our thanks to our longtime partner the Casa Marina Resort for more than two decades of going the extra mile to provide great service and facilities for us.
Because of our history in Key West, we asked the committee to aim to keep the event in Key West if practical. Although there has been some inaccurate and poorly sourced reporting on this process, the Committee did consider and research alternative sites in Key West and determined that the event, at least in its current form, could not be held in Key West in 2023, and that there would be insufficient time and many obstacles to overhaul the event itself to fit the resources and venues available in the city.
The committee also concluded that the surge in lodging costs in Key West is a game changer, noting that other major events in Key West were experiencing declining interest among would-be visitors because of lodging costs. We know that this is disappointing to many, and we could never take issue with the argument that there’s no place like Key West. And while we feel we didn’t really choose to leave, we do choose to see the many positive sides to the change and the opportunities that the change presents.
Thank you for your patience and your input through this process. We look forward to seeing you this coming week in Key West and next October in the 2023 home of Meeting of the Minds - Gulf Shores, Alabama!
We are about to break the partial silence on MOTM 22, and we are giving you this heads up: There was a reason for the silence. As we were going full steam ahead in December, we learned just before Christmas that Hilton was likely going to do a renovation of the Casa Marina Resort that would make MOTM22 impossible at that location. Final decisions had not been made and were not expected to be made until well into the spring. At the risk of stating the obvious, this froze all planning for the event, except to the extent we were researching alternative sites. With all the uncertainty about venue, we could not project revenue and thus were in no position to even extend an offer to an artist or solicit a sponsor.
Last week, we received a commitment from the Casa to delay the start of major renovation until after MOTM22, and so we are forging ahead and expediting our efforts to stay on or close to schedule for our planned opening of registration on 2-22-22. We hope to be making some exciting announcements soon.
Great news, right? Yes, but... By Hilton’s agreeing to accommodate MOTM22 by delaying the construction, there is zero chance that MOTM23 can be held at Casa Marina. In addition, while our relationship and partnership with the Casa has been and continues to be extraordinary and mutually beneficial, there can be no reasonable expectation on our part that, even if Hilton wants to resume hosting MOTM in 2024, that the block room rates our members count on will be available at the Casa (or anywhere in Key West), especially after a major renovation and modernization of the property. Given that Key West has for years been an expensive place to stay, eat and drink, the evolving economics of tourism there, in which ordinary hotel rooms can approach or exceed $1000 per night, combined with the major upgrade to the hotel, make the future of MOTM at the Casa and in Key West, uncertain at best.
Faced with the uncertainties of the last month, we have discussed and explored alternate plans for MOTM in the future, and now that we are free to discuss this with our members, we look forward to input and feedback from the rank and file as to what the future of MOTM should look like. If you’re on Facebook, be sure and join the MOTM group to participate in the discussion. At this point, we expect that MOTM23 might be a transitional year in which we do what might prove to be a one-time special event while we evaluate other potential permanent homes for the annual convention from 2024 forward. We have not closed the door on Key West or the Casa Marina, but we are approaching this event with the practical reality that it may be the final MOTM in Key West. If you or your members have MOTM Key West on your bucket list, this may be the last chance to cross it off. If MOTM has been a regular and important part of your lives, this will be a can’t-miss.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we navigate our way through these challenges and unexpected opportunities. Although we will continue the discussion about the future, one thing is for sure. The 30th MOTM at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West is going to be like no other - Get ready! Phins Up!
Rob Hill, Jed Johnson - MOTM 2022 Co-Chairs