Patagonia: Journey to the World's End Literally translated as "the end of the world," Finis Terrae is a land of mountains and volcanoes, windswept golden pampas, forests of gnarled trees, blue-white glaciers, turquoise lakes, and massive penguin colonies. The adventure begins on a Lan Chile flight from Santiago, Chile, to Punta Arenas, and then moves aboard the M/V Terra Australis, which cruises farther south on a one-week "soft adventure" into an extraordinary glacier region.
Each glacier has it own personality: Some groan and crack when huge chunks break off while others melt slowly, creating their own internal lakes and rivers. Some are iridescent blue, others brilliant white. Guests board motorized rafts called zodiacs to get close to the glaciers and may also hike onto one with the use of crampons, or boot cleats. Each hike ends with a drink of Scotch, served over 20,000-year-old ice, or hot chocolate. A variety of side trips is also available, including hikes through the lush sphagnum peat bogs, visits to beaver dams, excursions to Torres del Paine Park, and a plane ride over Cape Horn at sunset.
M/V Terra Australis is a floating four-star hotel with comfortable cabins and all the amenities, including excellent food and service. It boasts two lounges, two small boardrooms, and a dining room used for one seating. The ship lends itself to incentive group charter, accommodating 110 guests for four to seven days.
Ecologically aware, Chile does not allow other ships to navigate this area ensuring its untouched beauty. --Jim Skiba
South Africa: Diamond in the Rough South Africa's abundance of diverse natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage quickly cast their spell on American travelers.
Groups often meet in the place where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together: the safe, cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. Here, majestic Table Mountain serves as the backdrop to many world-class hotels, including the five-star Table Bay Hotel, where Victorian elegance mixes with contemporary charm and a superb staff caters to guests. A luxury spa offers jet-lag recovery massages as part of its service menu. The hotel has 329 sleeping rooms, including suites, and conference facilities that can accommodate up to 300 theater-style.
Just a short flight from Johannesburg lies the mythical Sun City. The palace, an architectural wonder dubbed "Africa's Kingdom of Pleasure," offers every imaginable amenity: championship golf courses, a wave pool, beaches, a lake for water sports, casinos, shopping, and theater. The resort has 1,303 rooms; meeting space includes a subdivisible ballroom accommodating up to 1,500 and an exhibit hall and superbowl that can hold up to 6,000.
A short flight away, Land Rovers tour the African bush at the private game reserves of Kruger National Park. To experience the raw excitement of the bush, stay in one of 20 chalets or a safari suite in Nagla, which has a conference room that can accommodate up to 40 people. For a bush experience in a sophisticated setting, Londolozi has five luxurious camps with 36 sleeping suites and chalets. It also offers African native theater,activities, and a swimming pool. World-famous Mala Mala encompasses three camps totaling 55 twin air-conditioned sleeping rooms and has two swimming pools and all modern amenities. Sabi Sabi's three lodges will have a total of 43 suites by October.
The key features of these camps is that visitors can get within touching range of a buffalo herd, or a few feet away from 2-month-old baby cubs or a lion. If you miss any animals at the camp, extremely friendly and hospitable guides and trackers go to any length on safari to show you the "big five" (elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalo, and leopards).
After the safari, the African sunset sets a romantic stage for a hearty dinner of kudu, buffalo, or ostrich, among other exotic game served with mouthwatering local and international dishes. --Harith Wickrema
China: Where the Past Meets the Future The Wall Street of Asia? That's what Shanghai locals say they are aiming for in the not-too-distant future. Construction proceeds at a furious pace in the Pudong New Area, in the eastern part of the city. Under development only in the past decade, Pudong has a futuristic look, its symbol the glitzy Oriental Pearl TV Tower, resembling a space ship poised for takeoff. Extensive construction is planned: The government of Shanghai will eventually relocate to Pudong. Phase I of Shanghai Pudong International Airport opened in September 1999.
Here you will find China's tallest building, the pagoda-shaped, 88-story Jin Mao Tower (the Chinese consider the number "eight" to be especially lucky). The 555-room Grand Hyatt Shanghai, opened in August 1999, is on the 54th to 88th floors and claims the world's highest hotel lobby, tallest atrium, and highest fitness center (great views from the treadmill!). Meeting space includes a 400-seat auditorium, exhibition hall, two ballrooms accommodating 800 and 1,200 people for receptions, and 10 function rooms.
Across the Huangpo River from Pudong is the famed Bund (embankment), now a crowded public promenade lined with imposing banks and government buildings constructed in Western architectural styles from the 1920s and 1930s.
Other points of interest in Shanghai include the YuYuan Garden, which is a 16th-century government official's estate, its buildings with typical upturned roof lines set among rock gardens, lakes, and bridges; and the Shanghai Museum, with an exceptional collection of ceramics, jade, and scroll paintings.
The Chinese government promised "business as usual" in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, and so far, that's holding. U.S. visitors still do not require a visa, as they do for the rest of China. Hong Kong's flag still flies, albeit alongside China's.
For change-of-pace sightseeing, consider the "feng shui" tour. As participants see the sights on Hong Kong Island, they learn the principles that guide many Chinese not only in architecture and interior design, but also in their choice of colors to wear each day and in the most auspicious times to schedule events.
The Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, Hyatt International's flagship property, renovated its 572 guest rooms in early 1999. The spacious lobby remains elegantly art deco, with highly polished black marble floors and columns and two grand staircases. The hotel's 20 function rooms include a grand ballroom accommodating 950 theater-style.
Lufthansa Airlines offers regular service to Shanghai and Hong Kong via Frankfurt, Germany. The European layover somehow seems to moderate jet lag, which can be a concern for some people when traveling to Asia. -Rayna Skolnik
Rio de Janeiro: The Best of Both Worlds In the middle of the city sophistication of Rio de Janeiro lies Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world, and famed Sugarloaf Mountain. The result is a balance of urban pleasures and natural delights that makes this a compelling destination. For the outdoors person, Jeeptours of the Tijuca Forest seat 10 to a car, with a maximum of 10 cars. Cable car rides to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain are a must for cocktails at sunset. And for those who want to explore the city's culture, there's plenty to choose from. Check out the Modern Art Museum, the Edison Carneiro's Folklore Museum, or the mansion of Rui Barbosa, built in 1849 and housing vintage automobiles, including a 1913 Benz, as well as decorative and personal objects.
Rio's impressive roster of world-class hotels includes The Copacabana Palace, a landmark building dating to 1923 that is now owned by Orient Express Hotels and that was recently renovated to the tune of $40 million. A stay in one of the hotel's 226 rooms, including suites, offers access to a private, semi-Olympic-sized pool, rooftop tennis courts, and health club. Ten function rooms are fully equipped for banquets, seminars, and exhibitions for up to 2,500 people. The Caesar Park Hotel has 221 apartments and suites, including the 4,800 square foot Imperial Suite on the 21st floor, and four conference rooms. Rooftop pool, sauna, and massage are all available. At the Hotel Sofitel Rio Palace, amenities include two swimming pools, a fitness center with sauna and steam room, and massage facilities, as well as child care. The Sofitel offers meeting space and ballrooms that can accommodate up to 2,500 guests.
Other hotels include The Hotel Nacional, which has added a convention center with an enlarged capacity of up to 5,000 people; The Rio InterContinental, which offers a ballroom, a club lounge, and five presidential suites; and the 228-room Carlton Rio Atlantica Hotel, a member of the Summit International Hotel chain, which offers three levels of meetings and convention center facilities. --Compiled by Alisa Wolf, managing editor, CMI
London: The Millennium City Once again, London is remaking itself. The self-deemed Millennium City is undergoing a huge development boom, fueled in part by projects such as the Millennium Dome and the Millennium Wheel. Hotel construction includes the expansion of the Hilton Metropole, formerly the Stakis Hotel. (Hilton International is spending millions in acquisitions to become the largest hotel operator in the U.K.) By October, the hotel will be the largest convention hotel in Europe, featuring 1,073 guest rooms and 37 meeting rooms, with a theater-style capacity of 1,900 in the largest.
Other new hotels in 1999 included the Four Season Hotel Canary Wharf, Ian Schrager's 204-room St. Martin's Lane, and the 390-room Marriott Heathrow. The 200-room London Marriott Hotel, County Hall, opened in 1998 on the city's South Bank by Westminster Bridge. Featuring outstanding views across the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the hotel was the home of the former Greater London Council.
About 4,500 hotel rooms are under construction within the city, and 12,944 are in the planning stages.
There's no shortage of new and unusual special event venues, especially on the lively South Bank, where the newly restored Shakespeare Globe Theatre (with private function rooms for small groups), the new wing of the Tate Gallery, and Vinopolis, an elegant museum of wine, have taken up residence. The latter can accommodate up to 650 people for banquets and 1,300 for receptions.
Virgin Atlantic flies into and out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Virgin's new Upper Class service includes drive-through check-in at Heathrow and Gatwick. The clubhouses at these airports feature massage, haircuts, and manicures. Upper Class cabin redesign includes a sleek sit-down bar; a cuisine and wine service with cooked-to-order meals, and aboard massage. With treatment like this, passengers may not want to disembark. --Regina Mcgee
France: Beyond Paris Say "incentive in France" and the immediate association is "Paris." Yet many resort options throughout the country are worth exploring.
Northwest of Paris, in the Normandy region, is Deauville, a seaside resort with many rustic buildings. Conveniently grouped together are two incentive-quality hotels--the 280-room Normandy and the 250-room Royal--the Deauville Casino, and the Deauville International Convention Center (CID). Each hotel has several breakout rooms. The casino has a 350-seat theater and a 600-seat auditorium; the convention center's partitionable auditorium seats up to 1,500 people.
From Deauville, groups can take an excursion to the Normandy beaches, the Caen Memorial museum, and the American military cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Or there's the nearby town of Giverny, with the home and colorful gardens of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet and the Museum of American Art.
Southwest of Paris, in the Rhone-Alpes region, is the Domaine du Royal Club Evian, a resort located on the shore of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) at the foot of the Alps. The 42-acre complex includes two hotels, the luxurious, 154-room Hotel Royal and the somewhat rustic--though hardly Spartan--91-room L'Ermitage. At the Royal, dedicated meeting space on the sixth floor includes 10 meeting rooms for up to 72 people; L'Ermitage has 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in its conference center. Recreation at the Domaine includes an 18-hole golf course, squash, tennis, indoor and outdoor pools, and health clubs and spas at both properties.
Air France recently increased its service from the United States to France, adding a second daily round-trip flight from Cincinnati to Paris/Charles de Gaulle and round-trip flights from Philadelphia to Paris/Charles de Gaulle daily except Thursday. Eleven major carriers departing from 16 U.S. gateways offer 12,000 France-bound seats daily. -Rayna Skolnik
Copenhagen: Modern and Energetic If you have been to Copenhagen, you surely stopped at one of the city's most famous spots: the bronze statue of the Little Mermaid. Well, the mermaid has been overshadowed as the city symbol by a monument equally as graceful but with a rather larger impact: the new, $3 billion, five-mile Oresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen with the city of Malmo, Sweden. The road and rail bridge, which opened in July, has influenced building projects at both its ends, including spurring new hotel plans by Marriott and Hilton International in Copenhagen.
Other developments under way include an expansion of the Copenhagen International Airport.
Denmark's capital, Copenhagen is an energetic city in which modern shops and galleries coexist with such historical creations as Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park/botanical garden dating from 1843 and tailor-made for dine-arounds and other group excursions.
Directly across from Tivoli is the city's most striking new venue: the Copenhagen City Conference Centre. Owner Rasmus Bojesen has completely restored several floors of Axelborg, built in 1920 as the largest office building in Denmark. Guests enter through carved bronze doors. Remarkable spaces include a former bank lobby in the center of the building, whose oak-paneled walls reach up to a glass ceiling and which will seat 400 for a banquet; and the former basement Safe Department, whose thick doors have been left as a monument and which will hold about 400 guests for an exhibition or coffee break. On the first floor of the building, six meeting rooms accommodate up to 380 guests theater-style. The venue is ideal for high-end corporate meetings and events, says Bojesen.
Among the other unique hotels and venues in and around the city:
*Hotel D'Angleterre, the 250-year-old, five-star grand dame of Copenhagen hotels, offers 130 rooms. Rose and green marble, a carved ceiling, and gold brocade curtains are part of the breathtaking renovation of the Palm Court Ballroom, which holds 320 people.
*The 212-room Hotel Phoenix, dating from 1680, was meticulously restored in 1991 and accommodates meetings of up to 130 people.
*The Radisson SAS Scandinavia and Radisson SAS Royal Hotel: The 542-room Scandinavia features a lively casino and meeting space accommodating up to 1,600 guests; the 265-room Royal Hotel has meeting space for up to 300 attendees.
*The Royal Stock Exchange (The Borsen), built in 1639, offers several rooms for meetings or functions, including the old Stock Exchange Hall, with its beautiful dark, carved wood, oil paintings, and stained-glass windows, accommodating 400 for a banquet.
*Ledreborg Palace, in Lejre, was built by Count Johan Ludvig Holstein in the 18th century and has been the home of the Holstein-Ledreberg family for more than 250 years. Groups can take private tours of the palace, and the family hall is available for banquets. --Alison Hall
Melbourne: Australia's Other Big News Anyone who thinks all the action is in Sydney during this Olympic year simply isn't paying attention. Cranes and construction crews are everywhere in Melbourne.
The nine-acre Federation Square development in the city center is scheduled for completion in 2001. Ultramodern structures will house shops, restaurants, a cinema center, and a "destination" bookstore, plus dedicated, multipurpose function space accommodating 400 people at banquets indoors or on the adjacent riverfront terrace.
Venues for meetings include the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Center, which bills itself as having the largest uninterrupted exhibition space-- 322,800 square feet--in Australia, and has just launched its newest high-tech feature: Web broadcasting. In contrast, the Victorian-era Royal Exhibition Building was recently restored and offers nearly 130,000 square feet of exhibition and event space.
Under construction just behind the REB is the Melbourne Museum, opening in October. Its entrance foyer and galleria will accommodate 1,000 people for banquets in a dramatic setting: the REB visible through glass walls on one side, and on the other, the glass-enclosed Forest Gallery, filled with trees and a variety of fish and birds. Other function space at the museum includes a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater with all-weather cover.
One of the newest hotels in Melbourne is the upscale 240-room Park Hyatt. Meeting facilities include a circular ballroom that seats 450 banquet-style, plus five other rooms for 10 to 150. The Trilogy Garden, the hotel's landscaped courtyard, can be used for outdoor functions. Features of the hotel's spa include an edgeless lap pool, fitness center, steam room, and sauna.
Qantas airlines provides nonstop service from Los Angeles to Melbourne five times per week. Inflight service is exceptional: There's even a dedicated customer service manager on board. -Rayna Skolnik
KOREA: Emerging in Asia Why Korea? Because it offers not only a rich cultural heritage but is also among the region's most technologically advanced nations.
Seoul, the capital of South Korea and the world's third-largest city, kicked off a three-year series of commemorative events in 2000 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. Up next: "Visit Korea Year" in 2001, and in 2002, Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup Soccer--the first of the world's largest soccer events to be jointly hosted.
Seoul has 17,283 rooms in 98 hotels. Luxury options include the Shilla, Lotte, Seoul Hilton, Westin Chosun, Grand Hyatt Seoul, Radisson Seoul Plaza, Renaissance Seoul Hotel, Sheraton Walker Hill, and Ritz-Carlton. The latest news: the 497-room JW Marriott Hotel, which opened in April with a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, eight meeting rooms, and two boardrooms; and the COEX International Convention and Exhibition Center, an expansion of the former Koex Convention Center, which opened this year with 2,131,000 square feet of meeting space. COEX is at the center of a newly expanded 50-acre trade plaza that includes two trade towers of 55 and 41 floors, respectively: the 600-room Grand Intercontinental, and the new 630-room Convention Hotel Inter-Continental, which together offer meeting space in 34 conference facilities for up to 1,000 people.
Just south of Seoul lies Korea's second-largest city, Pusan, on the East Sea, the world's fifth-largest container ship port. The city of 4 million has 1,500 rooms within a two-mile radius, including the Westin Chosun, Hotel Lotte Pusan, and Pusan Marriott. The soft opening of the Pusan Exhibition and Convention Center is scheduled for next year, and a new convention hotel will add an additional 500 rooms by 2004.
Kyongju, an hour's drive west of Pusan, is known for such cultural treasures as the world-famous Sokkuram Grotto, one of Asia's finest Buddha shrines; Pulguksa Temple, with its huge golden Buddha from A.D. 535; Tumuli Park, with its collection of 20 ancient royal Shilla tombs; Chomsundae Observatory, the world's oldest such structure; and the Kyongju National Museum. Here, KNTO built a lakeside resort district with six deluxe and 10 first-class hotels, the largest of which is the Hyundai Hotel, with a capacity of 2,000.
In the South Sea, 1.5 hours by air from Seoul, lies Cheju Island, home of the Chungmun Resort, an "undiscovered" treasure with 4,802 rooms in 37 properties. The island's newest hotel is the Lotte Palace of Dreams, opened in March. Leisure and beauty combine in such attractions as the Yomiji Botanical Garden, Chong Bang Waterfall, Cheju Folk, and Manjang-gul Cave, as well as golf, which make the Chungmun Resort district a natural for incentive groups. --Harriet Modler