Destinations of contrast
Many of the world’s leading business event destinations are victims of their own success. Visit Paris and you’ll expect to experience a view from the Eiffel Tower, a ride on the Seine, and a walk around Notre Dame. Visit Dubai and you can replace the Eiffel Tower with the Burj Khalifa, the Seine for the sand dunes and Notre Dame for the Dubai Mall. Intrigue and surprise often fall victim to an itinerary built around Blue Riband experience.
However, some destinations are working hard to challenge perceptions and re-instil that sense of wonder to the delegate experience. Here, Arcimedia director Antony Reeve-Crook looks at event destinations offering contrasting experiences for event organisers.
Oslo gets its groove back
It may surprise you to know that while the capital Oslo sits on the northern shore of the Oslofjord, the channel has for years been relatively inaccessible to the city's inhabitants.
But the times they are-a-changing. Thanks to the Fjord City Project, a campaign nearing maturity that aims to reignite this aspect of the city's identity, miles of promenade space now exists where residential apartments once stood. Venues such as a new Opera House, museum dedicated to the work of Scream artist Edvard Münch and Thief spa hotel, flanked by new dining experiences and plenty more meeting space are all new additions to the waterfront, allowing for incentive opportunities with a view.
But this paints only half of the picture; not all water in Oslo is liquid. There can't be many capitals such as Oslo that can offer the opportunity to take a sunny boat trip on the fjord in the same day as a run on the ski slopes. Teambuilding takes place in the serene Holmenkollen area, a snow-sports hub and home to the Norwegian fairy tale hotel Scandic Holmenkollen Park. Delegates can play or work here and head to the Fjord to debrief and unwind as never before.
A royal encounter near Thai party capital Pattaya
Almost 150 miles south of the capital Bangkok is the province of Chon Buri, home to the hedonism hotspot and TCEB-designated MICE city Pattaya. A key commercial centre, Pattaya provides a heady, vibrant experience for business events – but some may wish to offset their experience with somewhere altogether more bucolic.
Good news then that a new two-hour ferry connection enables delegates to escape the heat, the hustle and the bustle for Hua Hin, a royal residence with a cool climate and royal roots dating back to the 1920s.King Rama VI sought his summer residences here, and much stock in Hua Hin is attributed to its calming, clean living appeal, as attested by venues such as the sustainability centre Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Park Sam Phraya. This agricultural centre and learning facility is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, as set in place by royal initiatives.
Known brands can be found here too, in the form of venues such as the Dusit Thani Hua Hin and Marriott Resort & Spa, which present luxury hotel experience with a variety of venue spaces and full planning service while still immersed in Hua Hin's cool countryside.
It is also home to 13 golf courses, for those who wish to continue their work on the fairways (or escape it altogether).
Letting off steam in Mexico
Now that the new trading partnership has been agreed between Mexico and the US, it may be time for their respective captains of industry to unwind. So business visitors may be thankful to know that Mexico is leading the way when it comes to thermal tourism in North America.
This particular brand of tourism has experienced considerable expansion in Mexico since 2007, which has doubled the number of spas to 3,000 across the country, rising to more than 575 thermal baths. The country received around 20 million visitors at its various health and wellness destinations in 2017 – a figure almost double that of five years previous.
Mexico is evidently quick to appreciate the significance of the thermal spa marketplace to delegates. Alejandro Rubin – director of the global thermal tourism event Termatalia – says the country represents 50 per cent of thermal tourism revenues in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Rubin. “If we take a look at spas, it is a country in full expansion, which doubled the number of spas and spa centres between 2007 and 2018.”
For anyone who wants a good place to start, Coahuila is a good place to start. There are mineral-medicinal waters in at least 21 of its 32 federal entities, but 1,142 mineromedicinal springs in the State of Coahuila alone.
From betting tables to league tables
The Las Vegas Strip, long known as America's mecca for gambling and hedonism, now makes (anecdotally) around a third of its revenue from gambling, a figure that was reversed only 25 years ago.
Visitors are clearly spending their time elsewhere. And while much of the spend is on shows and restaurants, the city is now developing its brand to include sports and outdoor pursuits in a big way.
A relaxation of gambling laws has paved the way for new teams to base themselves in the city, including National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) Awards and National Football League teams. Sin is making way for sport across the board (the Luxor hotel has even become North America's largest e-sports (online gaming) venue) and more will follow.
Business events organisers are able to capitalise on sporting trends with new venues such as Topgolf Las Vegas, a four-level hi-tech golf entertainment venue with 107 climate-controlled bays, concert venue, bars, pools and private event space. Leaping off the Stratosphere Tower, 350 metres above the Strip in a jumpsuit will also get hearts pounding quicker than twisting on 19 at the blackjack table.
Perhaps most interestingly, the city is increasingly pitching its value to business event organisers away from the neon lights. There are more business group excursions than ever to the many areas of outstanding natural beauty that surround Las Vegas, including hikes in the Valley of Fire, kayaking on the Colorado River and half-mile ziplines on Bootleg Canyon. And of course there's the Grand Canyon.
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