What could possibly be the downside of having the reputation of being the “fun center of the world”? According to a small group of medical education and communication company planners who gathered recently in New York City to discuss Monaco as a destination for their pharmaceutical company events, what used to be a highlight can sometimes now be a liability because of increased corporate scrutiny and regulation.
While all agreed that it's an easy sell for small, high-end, “flashier” meetings such as board, investigator, and sales and marketing meetings, and, of course, incentives, people still don't recognize that the Principality also can be a good fit for larger events, conventions, and other, more business-oriented meetings. As one participant said, “You don't have to convince me that Monaco is an excellent destination for pharmaceutical meetings. You need to let people know that they can ‘do’ Monaco for the same money as Paris or other European cities — maybe even for less. Planners sometimes are afraid to even bring up Monaco as a destination because of its reputation as being the fun center of the world.”
Federico Toja, deputy development director for the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco's four-year-old, state-of-the-art convention center, acknowledged that particularly with today's exchange rates, affordability can be an issue. But Monaco's hotels are usually willing to work with planners to lock in a guaranteed U.S. dollar rate, and the pricing is in fact comparable with other high-end European cities. As for being business-focused, the Grimaldi Forum — which will host the Meeting Professionals International PEC Europe in April 2005 — doubled the Principality's meeting capacity with the 10,000-square-foot Esplanade, a lobby area that can accommodate up to 2,000, the 1,800-seat Salle des Princes and two smaller meeting spaces, and the 44,995-square-foot Espace Ravel exhibition hall. All but one of the major hotels are within a 10-minute walk of the Forum.
And many companies already have taken advantage of the Forum, said Toja. One large pharmaceutical company held its internal reorganization meeting there, bringing in 200 U.S. participants and another 500 from Europe and the Middle East. A pharmaceutical-supported conference on schizophrenia held at the Forum also drew a wide cross-section of physicians. In addition to its well-known cardio center, in 2006 Monaco will have a sports medicine center that also should serve as a draw for more.
One participant added that Monaco also could have an edge for investigator meetings that one pharma company now wants held near airports. While it is 14 miles from the Nice Côte d'Azur airport, the Principality's 2,200 guest rooms in 16 hotels are just a seven-minute helicopter ride from the airport.