Austria Center Vienna took home top honors in the third annual Digital Infrastructure Awards, which recognizes meeting venues for the quality of their digital infrastructure and services. The awards program is run by INCON, a partnership organization of conference, event, and association management companies around the world, and the awards were presented during during IMEX Frankfurt in April. INCON also honored Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and Australia’s Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre as 2016 runners up, and gave an honorable mention shout-out to the Croke Park meetings and events venues in Dublin, Ireland.
The top Digital Infrastructure Award in 2015 went to Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and in the program’s inaugural year in 2014 the winner was darmstadium in Darmstadt, Germany.
Germany’s just-opened Bonn Marriott World Conference Hotel has little group space of its own—just seven meeting rooms, the largest of which seats 40 guests—but the hotel takes its name from its direct access through the lobby to the World Conference Center Bonn, an expansive, modern convention facility with space for events of up to 5,000 delegates. The new 17-floor, 336-room Marriott on the banks of Rhine features a rooftop restaurant, indoor pool, and 5,000-square-foot spa.
Picturesque hills and medieval towns make Tuscany a perennial travel favorite, and incentive groups will soon have a new, 120-room hotel to consider about an hour’s drive southwest of Florence: Il Castelfalti, part of the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. The architecture of the new-build property, opening in March 2017, melds with the older buildings on the 2,700-acre estate, including a restored castle that can accommodate private events of up to 200; a 30-room hotel, La Tabaccaia, with two meeting rooms; and a winery with small private event spaces. The resort also features 27 holes of golf.
Source: Annual rankings from the International Meetings Statistics Report by the Brussels-based Union of International Associations. Meetings included are those organized and/or sponsored by the international organizations appearing in UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations and in its International Congress Calendar, i.e., the sittings of their principal organs, congresses, conventions, and symposia, as well as some national meetings with international participation organized by national branches of international associations. Pictured: the Singapore skyline
The walnut-paneled halls of the UN Ballroom—site of the inaugural reception of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946—will be hosting dinners of up to 150 people when the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square opens later this year near the Tower of London. The 100-room luxury property, a restoration of the grand 1922 building that originally served as headquarters of the Port of London Authority, also has a second ballroom, the circular Merchants Hall, accommodating up to 70 guests, as well as three smaller meeting rooms. This will be Four Seasons’ third hotel in England: Four Seasons London at Park Lane is in the Mayfair area on the east edge of Hyde Park, and Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire is in the country, about 30 miles west of Heathrow Airport.
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks … London was a natural spot for the birth of the Hard Rock Café chain back in 1971. Now, 45 years later, the brand’s hotel extension is finally making its way to England. Hard Rock International, in collaboration with glh Hotels, plans to open the 900-room Hard Rock Hotel London in summer 2018 at the entrance to Hyde Park at the intersection of Oxford Street and Park Lane. Among other Hard Rock Hotels in development are the 445-room Hard Rock Hotel New York opening in spring 2019 and the 372-room Hard Rock Hotel Berlin Checkpoint Charlie opening in 2020.
New facilities at two London arts institutions are giving event planners contemporary options that contrast nicely with the historic city. The Tate Modern, Britain’s national gallery of modern art, opened an extension in mid-June called the Switch House (pictured). Among the new spaces for special events is a huge underground industrial space called “The Tanks,” dedicated to performance art, which can accommodate up to 600 guests for a special event.
At the same time the Tate expansion was opening, London’s Design Museum was closing in anticipation of its move to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, West London, this fall. The new building will have more than 10,000 square feet of event space, including an auditorium.
Singapore’s Amara Sanctuary Resort, Sentosa, recently announced that it has been named the permanent base for Asia-Pacific training operations for Big Four accounting firm Deloitte. After a six-month refresh of the resort’s lobby, guest rooms, networking infrastructure, and meeting facilities, Deloitte University Asia Pacific launched in late June, based on the Deloitte University Leadership Center in Westlake, Texas. The 140-room resort also improved on its downtime areas, expanding the Tier Bar and renovating the rooftop infinity pool.
The Global Business Travel Association's 2017 Global Travel Price Outlook report projects the change in per-attendee costs in 2017 compared to 2016:
North America +3%–5%
Asia Pacific +3%
Latin America -10%
The Incentive Conference & Event Society Asia Pacific, which launched in 2014 to provide networking and education for corporate planners, third parties, suppliers, and students, recently took the next step in its growth as an industry association by joining the Joint Meetings Industry Council, a “communications link” among international meetings industry associations. Nigel Gaunt, vice president of global business for BI Worldwide, is the inaugural president of ICESAP.
ICC Sydney is on track to open in December on Cockle Bay in Darling Harbour. Eye-catching contemporary architecture; more than 375,000 square feet of exhibition space; three tiered theaters, seating 8,000, 2,500, and 1,000 delegates; a grand ballroom for up to 2,000 guests, and 53,000-square-foot event deck are just some of the features that will be drawing groups down under in 2017.
Not to be outdone, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre announced its expansion plans in May. The addition, expected to open in early 2018, will add 215,000 square feet to the venue, bringing the total to more than 753,000 square feet.
And north in Brisbane they’ve got something to crow about as well. In July, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Center beat out 15 finalists to take home the award for “Highest Client Rating Received by a Convention Center” at the annual conference AIPC, the International Association of Convention Centres, not IACC.
Shanghai Disney Resort, the $5.5 billion mainland China theme park, officially opened its gates June 16, with the biggest, tallest castle of any of the Disney parks. The resort’s two hotels are the art nouveau–style, 420-room Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the 800-room Toy Story Hotel.
Groups headed to Shanghai who aren’t looking for a theme park experience can look forward to two Starwood properties opening in early 2017: the 383-room W Shanghai The Bund and the 480-room St. Regis Shanghai Jingan.
After dates in March and June 2016 were dropped, August 22 has been flagged for the grand opening of the second Wynn property in Macau, the $4.2 billion Wynn Palace Cotai. Among other amenities, the floral-themed, 1,700-room resort will include air-conditioned “skycabs” for aerial rides around an eight-acre lake.
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