Hong Kong: Exciting, Exotic . . .Affordable Last year it was the handover (from British rule to Chinese), this year it's the Asian economic crisis. Hong Kong, facing challenges of late, needs to assure travelers that things are stable. "Last year we had 10.4 million visitors, this year it's about 10 million," says Douglas Gautier, deputy executive director, Hong Kong Tourist Association. "That still puts us as the number-one destination in Asia by a country mile."
Investment in infrastructure, like the new airport that opened in July, is critical to maintaining that position, Gautier says. Other investment has created a cruise center, theme parks, performance centers, and expanded access to the harbor front.
The Asian economic crisis and the slowdown in Asian travel has triggered some serious price-chopping in Hong Kong. "Pricing needed to be reevaluated," Gautier says. "That's been a healthy development. Hoteliers and airlines are really sharpening their pencils.
"The incentive market is a good market for us," he adds. "In the past 12 months there's been disenchantment with Asia. But things have settled down. We're open for business and the price is right."
Wyndham Targets Incentives Wyndham has expanded its resort portfolio with the former Williams Hospitality properties in Puerto Rico (Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Country Club and Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino) and the Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., among others. And Wyndham's new luxury brand, Grand Bay, is expanding as well, including the former Carefree Resorts. What that means for you: lots of choices.
"We now have the product to take to the insurance market on many levels," says Mike O'Connor, national director of sales, who is based in New York and handles insurance accounts. "Wyndham is focused on the insurance industry as a key market," he adds.
Mack Koonce, executive vice president,and strategic planning for Wyndham, says Grand Bay will compete for "the true luxury customer" while the urban Wyndham hotels will be "closer to the Marriott model."
An Airport Hotel with Style? Mais, Oui! With its rooms renovated and its disco turned into a meeting room, the Hyatt Regency Paris-Charles de Gaulle at Charles de Gaulle International Airport is doing a brisk business in quick meetings. Especially for companies going, this property provides convenience along with gourmet food and an elegant atmosphere--not your typical airport hotel.
"If you're going to Europe, it's a great stopover," says Richard White, director of sales, North America, for Hyatt International. "Now is a good time to be going overseas. There's more value for your meeting dollar there than in some major U.S. cities."
The 388-room hotel is 20 minutes from the city center and five minutes from the Paris-nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre. Its ballroom seats 420 for a banquet, and there is a full-service business center plus a Regency Club floor.
Orient-Express in Africa: Have a Little Elegance with Your Adventure The newest Orient-Express property in Africa, The Westcliff, is a gracious resort in the Johannesburg suburbs. For U.S. groups, the property offers a nearby first stop (25 minutes from the airport) to start the incentive experience immediately. Orient-Express renovated The Westcliff, formerly residential villas, into 120 rooms in four buildings.
Meanwhile, the Mount Nelson Hotel, the grande dame of Cape Town, South Africa, celebrates its 100th birthday in 1999. In an effort to increase its group business, the 226-room hotel recently redid all function rooms, including its ballroom, which seats 280 people. "Cape Town stands alone as an incentive or combines well with game lodges," says Brenda James, director of sales, Orient-Express Hotels African Collection. South Africa is optimistic about next year's election, when Nelson Mandela steps down, she adds. "Three thousand hotel rooms opened in Cape Town in the past year, which indicates a certain level of confidence."
Bahamas Behemoth Hong Kong-based Harbour Plaza Hotels & Resorts took over three hotel properties on Grand Bahama Island, imploding one, to make way for the The Lucayan, a 1,600-room, $250 million world-class resort to feature 7.5 acres of beach, two golf courses, and a 50,000-square-foot convention center. Phase one opens in February with 550 rooms.