Marvelous beaches, great weather, and ocean breezes are a given on Curacao, but what endears the 38-square-mile Dutch Caribbean island to incentive groups is its eclectic mix of cultures and venues.
Just 35 miles from Venezuela, Curacao has an exotic feel to it, with Dutch, Spanish, English, and Papiamento all spoken. A Spanish navigator discovered the island in 1499, and its Dutch influence, dating back to 1634, is abundantly evident in the architectural style of the homes in Willemstad, capital of the Netherlands Antilles.
While in Willemstad, take a walking tour of Ottrabunda's colorful alley homes and sample island specialties at E GAI. Or visit Punda's Temple Mikve Israel Emanuel, which was erected by Sephardic Jews who settled in Curacao in the 17th century, and is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. Groups will love shopping in town and watching the Queen Emma floating bridge swing open for ships visiting the busy port.
A short drive from Willemstad and within walking distance of the 150,000-square-foot World Trade Center Curacao is the 248-room Sonesta Beach Resort & Casino Curacao. It is a destination unto itself, where groups can snorkle right off Sonesta's beach, visit the resort's Emerald Casino, or sample the island's rich cuisine, music, and cultural offerings at an intimate welcome dinner and folk show outdoors on the beach. The resort's Palm Cafe and pool area are ideal for larger receptions and parties.
For a memorable day trip from the Sonesta, explore the Sea Aquarium and the Curacao Liqueur Distillery, followed by a sailing cruise on The Bounty. The waters from Willemstad to Port Marie can be a bit choppy, but the beach is remote and peaceful and the snorkeling is among the best on the island.
Or visit Curacao's Ostrich Farm, one of the largest breeding farms outside Africa and unique in the Caribbean, and Hato Caves, with its centuries-old geological formations. A must-see is the wildlife preserve in Christoffel Park in the western part of the island. Top off your stay in Curacao with a farewell dinner at historic Fort Nassau. Meandering through the fort is a blast, and the food is exquisite.
For More Information For a complete guide to convention bureaus, centers, and hotels, visit Insurance Conference Planners' World Wide Web site at www.meetingsnet.com.
Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Office David Fernandez, director of tourism * (212) 541-4117; Fax: (212) 757-1607 www.interknowledge.com/antigua-barbuda/
Aruba Convention Bureau Adriaan Arends, director of conventions and business development * (954) 767-3395, ext. 10 Fax: (954) 767-0714 www.interknowledge.com/aruba/
Bermuda Department of Tourism Dianne Carlson,manager, group and incentive sales * (212) 818-9800, ext. 213, (800) 223-6106 Fax: (212) 983-5289 www.bermuda-online.com/
British Virgin Islands Tourist Board Monica Allen, sales manager * (212) 696-0400 www.bviwelcome.com
Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau Patricia Fisch * (800) 833-5254 Fax: (202) 265-5930
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism Ana Doble, manager, special markets * (305) 266-2300; Fax: (305) 267-2930 www.caymans.com/
Curacao Convention Bureau Miriam Inesia Martin, representative * (212) 683-7660, (800) 270-3350 Fax: (212) 683-9337 www.interknowledge.com/curacao/
Dominican Republic Tourism Promotion Council Aridio Genao, ubdirector of tourism * (305) 444-4592
Jamaica Tourist Board Marcia E. Bullock, manager, groups and conventions * (305) 665-0557, (800) 29-GROUPS Fax: (305) 666-5536
San Juan-Puerto Rico Convention Bureau Felix Laboy, v. p., sales and marketing * (202) 457-9262, (800) 875-4765 Fax: (202) 331-0824
Puerto Rico Tourism Company Lucy Camacho, director of groups and interline sales for U.S. and Canada * (212) 599-6262, ext. 502 or 503, (800) 223-6530; Fax: (212) 818-1866 www.discoverpuertorico.com
Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Esther Cohen, director of marketing * (201) 869-0060, (800) 748-4224 Fax: (201) 869-7628 www.stkittsnevis.net/
USVI Department of Tourism Val Kuffel, deputy commissioner (809) 774-8784; Fax (809) 774-4390 www.usvi.net/