Aquamarine waters and year-round tropical climate aren't Barbados's only temptations to international businesses. Extremely low tax rates have attracted hundreds of companies, especially those from the information technology and financial fields, to relocate to this Eastern Caribbean island. Meeting groups also find tax advantages here--U.S. groups can deduct their convention-related expenses.

The leading meeting facility in Barbados--and, indeed, in all the Eastern Caribbean--is the Sherbourne Conference Centre, two miles from the capital city of Bridgetown and a 15-minute drive from the international airport. Built in 1994, the U.S.$30 million facility overlooks St. George's Valley, and its five acres of landscaped grounds are located adjacent to the official residence of the Prime Minister.

ISDN on Its Way With its lush, tropical gardens, this center may sound like another fun-in-the-sun venue, but make no mistake, the Sherbourne facility means business. Recently it drew the attention of the world as the site of the U.S.-Caricom Summit between President Clinton and the Carib-bean community heads of government. The facility has also hosted other high-profile meetings, such as the United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Development for Small Island States and the Caribbean Tourism Conference.

Simultaneous translation facilities for up to six languages are available with private wireless audio controls, using one of two translation systems: the Philips ICS 400 and the Philips ICS 600. The latter includes a computer-controlled microphone system.

Although the center does not offer high-speed access at present, that service should be online by the end of the year. "Once all the hardware is in place, ISDN Internet access will be available on a facilitywide network that is separate from the Sherbourne Conference Centre's administration network," says Alison Applewhite, sales support for Barbados Conferences Services Ltd. Cable and Wireless Jamaica can arrange high-capacity telephone access. The building has Category 5 copper wiring.

Other high-tech offerings include a microwave videoconferencing link for both receiving and transmitting. The meeting rooms all have videoconferencing facilities, and by the end of the year, the center anticipates use of ISDN circuits for video conferencing. Onsite, the center has NTSC-format VCRs for video playback and can outsource PAL VCRs for European video playback.

The Sherbourne Conference Centre is located near the Caribbean Broadcast-ing Corp., which is equipped with satellite dishes allowing for convenient global broadcast access.

And They Cook, Too Groups with exhibits can use Sherbourne's 53,000-square-foot marble exhibition area, part of the total 164,000 square feet of available floor space. Eleven meeting rooms and six breakout rooms host groups of up to 1,200 people theater-style. The main hall offers 10,472 square feet, while the Frangipani room provides 7,800 square feet. For smaller meetings, the Bougainvillea and Poinsettia rooms can each accommodate 200 people.

Two dining rooms--The Sugar Mill and The Tiffany--provide seating for 150 and 300 people. Meals are prepared on-site, and menus for a range of dietary requirements are available.

Other facilities at the Sherbourne include a first-aid station, a secretarial suite with 24 workstations, and a press briefing room for up to 260 journalists. Services for banking and postal needs as well as a travel agency can be arranged on-site with a little advance warning. The facility is accessible to physically challenged attendees and has been designated entirely smoke-free.