Americans are taking shorter vacations closer to home because of ease of access and "time poverty," Peter C. Yesawich, president and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine and Brown (which monitors travel statistics), told the National Outlook Forum of the Travel Industry Association of America recently. At the same time, he said, they are increasingly interested in new experiences.

That message has already reached planners of meetings and incentive trips, who find American groups increasingly appreciative of corporate trips to far away places that include history and culture, not just sun and fun or road rallies and golf games.Fittingly, Finland's new Finland At Your Fingertips manual introduces travel along the country's historic, restored King's Road, the ancient link between the Scandinavian capitals and St. Petersburg, Russia through charming seaside towns along Finland's southeastern coast. Start in 750-year-old Turku, Finland's first capital, and go on to Naantali, a virtual living museum, founded in 1443. Here the group can board a Silja Line ship for a luxurious cruise through the Finnish Archipelago to Mariehamn, in the Aland Islands, which has fortress ruins, a preserved four-masted ship, and a Stone Age village, then go on to Stockholm. Or, head toward the Arctic Circle for state-of-the-art congress facilities and rugged landscape in Kuusamo. Starting from Helsinki, the King's Road takes travelers to Porvoo, Kotka, and Hamina, across the Russian border to Vyborg, and on to St. Petersburg. Finland's manual also includes traditional Helsinki programs, as well as theme parties for winter and summer. Call (212) 885-9737.

Note that Stockholm will be the Cultural Capital of Europe for 1998, with major cultural offerings on many stages; international exhibitions; guest performances in drama, dance, and music; and world-renowned national theater troupes from all over Europe, as well as an international opera festival at the Royal Opera House.

Salzburg, Austria has introduced a clever little program, Salzburg Plus, in conjunction with Swatch. It is an all-inclusive credit card and/or Swatch wristwatch that carries chips identifying the services to which your recipients are entitled. Any services (dinearound, concert, etc.) can be included in these customized programs. Ask Kathleen Duda, who represents Salzburg in New York, (212) 229-1768.

Groupless For those who "don't do" group events and are adventure hungry, Bergen Line's "casual atmosphere" Norwegian Coastal Voyages on 11 ships, accommodating only 144 to 490 passengers each, operate year-round, and some feature speakers such as prominent research biologists. Their Spitzbergen cruise travels through majestic fjords and offers opportunities to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Other packages explore Molde, the "City of Roses," surrounded by 87 snowcapped peaks; Trondheim, with its Ringve Museum of Music History; and Tromso, with its "ice cathedral," and the North Cape plateau, Europe's northernmost point, where thousands of reindeer graze during the summer months. Reach Bergen Line at (800) 323-7436.

Good Sports You can bet that there are still plenty of groups that want their corporate events wrapped around sports, sports, and sports. A new member of the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives is Sports Tour Classics in Scottsdale, AZ, (800) 777-6925, which has eight years of experience with such services and will customize trips to everything from Final Four to Derby, to Indy 500, to French Open, to every bowl you can think of. They'll put together trips for individuals, as well.

Grande Journeys of Winter Park, FL, (800) 475-4680, is offering a deluxe Ryder Cup Spectacular tour September 22 to 28, 1997 that combines the culture of Spain with one of golf's premier events, being held in mainland Europe for the first time. The package includes luxury accommodations in Gibraltar and Marbella and access to practice rounds and the Ryder Cup, to be held at the Valderrama Club in Sotogrande, Spain.

Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, Americans are now Spain's number-one market, while Spain is the fourth most popular destination for us in Europe, concentrated mostly on the Golden Triangle formed by Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. And the Costa del Sol still shines with 24 magnificently maintained beaches, good sea-bathing climate almost all year, casino gambling, water parks, parasailing and windsurfing, and non-stop nightlife. Andalusia, to the south, is luxuriously reachable by the Al Andalus Express, a train that rolls smoothly across historic southern Spain; its 1920s rail carriages are meticulously restored in belle-epoque style with art-deco crystal and brasses, Lalique crystal, and velvet-brocade lounge chairs. Richly paneled sleeping cars have air-conditioning, television, and cellular phones. A seven-day, six-night program starts at the Hotel Ritz in Madrid, visits the Great Mosque and the Jewish/Moorish quarters in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada, and goes on to Ronda, Marbella, and Seville with a visit to Jerez, the local sherry cellars, and the Royal Spanish Riding School. (Cleverly, they rush you back to Madrid on the high-speed line--the AVE--on day number seven.) Info? (800) 223-1356.

Hot Hotel News Every batch of releases announces another Westin acquisition, from the former Hyatt Regency St. John and the adjacent condominiums in the U.S. Virgin Islands, now to be called the Great Cruz Bay Resort Hotel; to the former Washington Vista Hotel, now the Westin Washington D.C. City Center (Westin's second hotel in town); to the opening of the Westin Resort Guam (the 19th Westin hotel in the Asia-Pacific region); to the renaming of the Doral Beach in Miami Beach, FL as the Westin Resort Miami Beach. An extensive, big-bucks "revitalization," according to the press release, will recapture the original grandeur of the 417-room resort.

Despite the City of Miami's governmental problems, the area is still just as hot for visitors as we said it was last month. A new coffee-table book, Miami City of Dreams, would make a heck of a pre- or post-trip gift with gujjus pictures of the whole area from Little Havana to the Art Deco area by photographer Alan S. Maltz and accompanying commentary by best-selling author Les Standiford. It's $60 at bookstores, but you could probably make a deal for quantities with publishers Light Flight Publications, (800) 329-7297.

Residents of Dallas may think of The Mansion At Turtle Creek as their private club, but we know it's a Rosewood Hotel, one without "banquet rooms," just a five-star, five-diamond restaurant, a private boardroom, a conservatory, a wine cellar, and a ballroom in a pavilion. There are only 140 rooms, but for meetings, those in the know book certain suites, and The Mansion has now committed two large rooms--and a person in the catering department--to meetings and incentives, rather than letting them be snapped up for local social events.

Get This In Colorado, the Lodge at Vail, an Orient-Express property, has added a 30-suite extension that created space beneath it for a large conference facility. In Cape Town, South Africa, OE Hotels has added 72 suites at the Mount Nelson.

At Evergreen Conference Center in Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, the 16-court tennis center built for the Olympics will be available to groups for tournaments and Pro Am events, at a charge. The conference center's two tennis courts will still be available on a complimentary basis as always.

Two teeny hotels for exclusive meetings that we heard about recently are The Guanahani in St. Barts (French West Indies)-76 rooms, 13 one-bedroom pool suites, and two beaches, one on a tranquil lagoon, the other edged by a coconut grove on the Atlantic--and L'Albereta, a 19th-century, 24-room, Italian villa in Lombardy (close to Milan) with a three-star Michelin chef and its own award-winning vineyard, meeting facilities for up to 200, and a spa. Call (030) 77-60-550, and make your restaurant reservations at the same time.

In Colorado, Vail and Beaver Creek Resort now have an in-flight concierge on American Airlines flights from Newark to Vail/Eagle County Airport, with brochures, restaurant guides, trail maps, and authority to make reservations for many activities, with confirmations during the flight or by the next morning. . . . Beaver Creek's Hyatt Regency offers skiers a "rescue spa treatment," a skin therapy and massage designed to revitalize skin and body after a rigorous day of snow, sun, and wind. . . . Guests at the Four Seasons Resort Bali can order a gourmet take-along meal from the hotel for their flight home. . . . Holiday

Inn Worldwide is adding E-spaces to some of its hotels, like the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Heathrow in London, where guests can purchase increments of time on the Internet at Cafe Connection, accessing a wide variety of computer games. In Albuquerque, at the Holiday Inn Mountainview, they can play rounds of golf on two golf simulators.