In their need to make an impact and get their message across, companies are not only receptive to but are actively seeking out less-travelled destinations for their offsite events and incentive trips. Mix looks into four hot-spot destinations for 2013.
Strahan, Tasmania, Australia
Located on the west coast of Tasmania, the picturesque town of Strahan sits beside the tranquil bay of Macquarie Harbour and is surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. As such, it will appeal to smaller groups looking to escape the usual city venues and crowds.
Nature is the focus here – even the town’s main venue, the Henty Room, is flooded with natural light and has an outdoor deck overlooking the harbour for breaks or a gourmet lunch barbecue. The venue seats 80 theatre-style and its technology offerings are in line with those found at larger venues, from fast internet access to modern audio facilities.
Tasmania’s pristine environmental conditions make it home to some of the best produce in Australia, so a highlight of group dining in Strahan is the locally caught seafood (lobster, salmon and trout) that can be paired with Tasmanian wines and craft beers. Combining the food with the scenery is also an option, for example with a sunset cocktail party in a marquee on the hillside overlooking the harbour, at a sunrise breakfast on Ocean Beach, or lunch aboard the Lady Jane Franklin II.
Once the meetings are done there is a wide selection of incentive activities to take part in, such as the easy walk to nearby Hogarth Falls with its majestic gum trees and native plants, or an indulgent picnic lunch on the way to the Cape Sorell lighthouse. Only a short boat ride away is Bonnet Island, a tiny island that is home to Little Penguins, the smallest penguin species, and short-tailed shearwaters. There is also the opportunity to hire a seaplane or helicopter to take groups to otherwise inaccessible terrain and remote, majestic beaches. Those wanting something with a little more pace can go whitewater rafting or jet-boating, or head to Henty Dunes for a spot of sand-boarding. Or you could simply head to the nine-hole golf course.
Full-day excursions include a cruise down the Gordon River, taking in the passing scenery while indulging in local wine and cheese tasting, or a tapas and beer pairing; or you could hop on board the West Coast Wilderness Railway as it travels to Queenstown, where groups can explore an underground copper mine and other sites, with dinner served on the station platform, a unique experience. Groups of less than 10 can also charter a fishing boat and have the catch cooked by a professional chef at one of the town’s best restaurants, View 42.
Given the “far away from it all” ambience of Strahan, groups will not only have taken care of business surrounded by nature, but are likely to return feeling as refreshed and relaxed as if they had been on holiday.
INFORMATION AND CONTACTS
Business Events Tasmania
Email Claire Harrington: email@example.com
Suzanne Hart Events
A Unesco World Heritage site, the walled city of Dubrovnik is situated on Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coastline. Combining historic monuments and other sites of interest with a modern city, it is attracting more and more groups wanting something a little different in a European destination.
While the majority of meetings are held in one of the city’s leading hotels, many of which sport breathtaking vistas and capacity for up to 750 attendees theatre-style, one of the more unusual meeting venues for smaller groups is on board a boat. Once the meeting is over attendees can go diving or swimming and operators can also arrange onboard cocktail parties or sit-down dinners. Sailing is also an option for a unique team-building event with all attendees having a role to play, or alternatively sit back and relax as the professional crew takes care of the hard work. Lunch can also be arranged with the boat stopping at one of many nearby small islands, which are also home to restaurants with a focus on Mediterranean cuisine and local seafood. Another hands-on activity is mandarin harvesting in the Neretva River Valley.
Combining meetings and dining is also possible at Konavoski Dvori, a restaurant situated in the Konvale Valley, 45km from the city. The restaurant is surrounded by ancient trees and a pristine stream and is housed in a former mill. It serves Konvale cuisine with speciality dishes including lamb and veal baked under an iron bell. Another popular spot for a group dinner or drinks is Gil’s, located in the city’s historic centre. Comprising an outdoor lounge and bar and high-end restaurant serving French fusion cuisine, it is favoured by the city’s wealthy and those looking to soak up the ambience of the sea views and the centuries-old building. The most unique table is housed in a former gun cubby.
For something a little different the Ethnographic Museum, built in 1590 and once the storage facility for grain reserves, can host groups of up to 150 for wine tastings, cocktails and buffet dinners. Groups can also choose from a vast array of sightseeing activities, many with significant cultural links to the city’s past, for example taking a walk along the medieval city walls or strolling through Dubrovnik old town. Alternatively visit the Dubrovnik Museum in the Duke’s Palace, which houses over 15,500 exhibits in its cultural and historical department, including a collection of furniture from the 17th century, plus a display of aristocratic garments.
Other options include a cable car to the top of Mt Srdj for panoramic views of the city, or taking part in a Segway tour of notable attractions, an easy and fun way for groups to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Day trips include visits to the nearby Elafite Islands, the Mljet National Park or the island of Kor?ula, touted by some historians as the birthplace of Marco Polo.
INFORMATION AND CONTACT
Panoramic Travel Group
Dubrovnik Tourist Board
St Petersburg, Russia
Grand Menshikov Palace
Often described as a fairytale city, St Petersburg features winding canals, numerous palaces, The Hermitage – one of the largest art museums in the world – and the impressive White Nights, a time when the night seems like day. The city is ideal for groups wanting to combine the old and new faces of Russia in their itineraries. Due to language barriers, employing a DMC is the preferred option for most groups.
After DMCs pick groups up from the airport they often get things started with a glass of Russian sparkling wine or vodka and a Bread & Salt Ceremony – the presentation of bread and salt is a traditional sign of hospitality. This is followed by dinner and a Russian Cossack show or performance by folklore musicians.
Meetings are generally held in one of the city’s grand hotels, which have event rooms for up to 250 people theatre-style. Yet it is not the meetings side of things that attracts groups – it is what can be seen and experienced beyond the confines of their hotel. DMC-recommended options include a visit to the Peter & Paul Fortress, St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Grand Palace in Peterhof, and of course The Hermitage museum.
One novel group activity is the painting of matryoshka, the Russian wooden dolls that have progressively smaller dolls inside each other. Others include a trip to the ballet – or for a bit of stress relief a visit to a nearby firing range is possible. Alternatively, an operatic musical evening can be arranged at the Menshikov Palace that includes a sparkling wine and caviar cocktail reception.
Gala dinners can also be arranged inside one of the city’s many palaces, for example at the Yuspov Palace by the banks of the Moika River. This palace is most famous for being the place where mystic Grigori Rasputin was assassinated. These gala dinners (for up to 150 persons) can include violinists playing on the grand staircase, a 30-minute ballet performance, with dinner held in one of the ballrooms with an orchestra playing classical and traditional Russian tunes.
The Russian Museum of Ethnography, which features a ceiling made of glass bearing the coat of arms of the House of Romanov, also hosts groups. Options include a cocktail reception followed by a private tour of the museum, before entering the Marble Hall to be entertained by singing and dancing performances followed by a buffet dinner of regional specialities. This large venue can accommodate groups of up to 450 people.
Or for an evening of folklore, the Shuvalov Palace is often suggested. The palace is known for its mix of interior design styles: gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical, with an over-the-top use of gold. Entertainment can include Cossack dancing and performances by Russian folklore groups. Up to 200 guests can be accommodated.
INFORMATION AND CONTACT
São Paulo, Brazil
Bosque da Leitura, Museum of Art Sao Paulo
With one of the largest and most culturally diverse populations in Brazil, combined with an equally varied range of cultural attractions, São Paulo is a current hot pick for groups looking for multifarious programmes. Like the preceding two destinations most groups opt to hold meetings in one of the city’s high-end hotels, with a wide range to choose from and the ability to host groups of all sizes.
Perhaps the most often recommended cultural attraction for groups is the Art Museum of São Paulo with its permanent collections of Botticelli, Monet and Degas, plus a comprehensive collection of contemporary art including works by leading Brazilian artists. Other stops include the Municipal Theatre, the State Art Gallery and the Portuguese Language Museum.
To unwind after a hectic day locals and visitors alike head to Ibirapuera Park, which is often likened to New York’s Central Park in terms of importance to the city. For a fun group activity, hire a bike and cycle around the two square kilometres of green space. Visitors to the park may also happen upon a free outdoor concert. It is also home to the Modern Art Museum, a planetarium, a stunning lake and the Bosque da Leitura, a section of the park that on Sundays turns into an open-air library that allows visitors to browse books for the afternoon.
The suburb of Embu ads Artes provides an interesting alternative to the hustle and bustle and is described by some local DMCs as the real Brazil. It is home to a blend of local arts and crafts stores, artists’ and sculptors’ workshops, furniture-makers and antique dealers, and a host of options for trying the local cuisine.
Nature-loving groups are also catered for with majestic beaches and coastline only 70km away, with the most popular located in the municipality of São Sebastião. Alternatively, there is the island of Ilhabela, which the locals get to by taking a raft, providing a unique experience for groups. Apparently, it only takes a few minutes to reach. Another option is to head to the charming city of Campos do Jordão situated in the mountains; at 1,639 metres above sea level it is the highest city in Brazil. Interestingly, the architecture here is German, Swiss and Italian inspired and many of the restaurants serve German and Swiss cuisine. It is also a great place to go horseback riding, hiking and exploring the treetops via a series of canopy walks.
Other interesting group options include helicopter tours, balloon flights, jeep tours, a tour of the city zoo at night, and samba classes. São Paulo is also home to over 12,500 restaurants, from the uber-modern to the more rustic. While this may seem a little overwhelming, working with a local DMC will enable groups to pinpoint perfect choices depending on the group’s interests. One popular choice begins with a class in learning how to make a caipirinhas, the country’s national cocktail at the Casa da Fazenda do Morumbi, famed for being the site of the first colonial tea farm in Brazil. After mastering and sampling a few of these refreshing cocktails in one of the restored halls, a dinner featuring sophisticated regional dishes follows.
INFORMATION AND CONTACTS
Events by TLC